How to Identify the Ethnic Origins of Cuisine

In multicultural regions and cities culinary trends often reflect the many different races and cultures that inhabit that location. Because different cultures are constantly being introduced into the mainstream, a blending of traditional cuisine occurs. New dishes are being served to a broadening clientele base. Sometimes it becomes hard to know what true ethnic cuisine is. With so many options out there it is good to know the cultural history of your food. This page is a guide to know how to identify where your dish got its start.


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    Check the name of the dish. The title that a dish is given can be the most important identifier for the geographical location of that food. Because many regions and societies are separated by language, the ability to identify what region that cuisine originated from can be your best bet at finding its birth place. After writing down the title of the dish, you should find out what language it is so you can at least find the continent where it started.
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    Observe the cooking methods. Methods and processes of cooking food are deeply rooted in the history of a people. The resources of the area, along with the technological advancements of a culture are mirrored in the way that they prepare their food. By looking at the style of cooking your food is prepared, you will be given clues to the region and people that first ate that food.
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    Consider the types of meats and veggies used. The meats and vegetables that are used are representative of the agriculture of the ethnic group you are uncovering. Because trade and environmental factors allowed separate continents to have access to similar ingredients, paying attention to what ingredients are paired with will give you more information on that culture.
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    Check which spices are being used. Some historians believe that spices were the first forms of currency. Because of its value, the use and access to spices have become global. However, as tradition has it, spices speak loudly about their origins and the people that introduced them into the culinary arena. Finding out what spices are indigenous to an area is helpful. Although other cultures might make use of that spice, the people localized around where it is indigenous often make use of that spice in many of their dishes.
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    Pay attention and ask around. Doing research for yourself is the best way to be confident in your knowledge of cuisine. However, there is nothing wrong with taking a chance and throwing some questions at your chef. More often than not, they will be more than happy to share what knowledge they have with an inquisitive diner. It is also good to pay attention to what people of other ethnicity eat on a daily basis. Tradition is a large part of culture and traditions don't always fade quickly. Look around and observe what your neighbor's continually have on their menu.


  • A helpful read is You Eat What You Are: People, Culture and Food Traditions, by Thema Barer-Stein [Firefly:Ontario] 1999

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Categories: World Cuisines