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Greatest Cuisines? French and...

Do we all agree that the greatest cuisine in the world is French? Oui? But what other cuisine is it's equal? I used to think it was Chinese, and maybe it is - but I now think (based on my time in Japan), that Japanese should be right up there with the other two. The reason I think this has to do with the way French cooking can take the common idiom of the cuisine and build endless variations, like a very sophisticated language, with a large vocabulary, which you can use to say almost anything. On our trips to France we rarely saw the same thing on a menu twice, and when we did (bouilliabasse, mousse au chocolat), the dishes always turned out to be different from each other in important ways (bouilliabass in one place, Bouilliabasse Royal with lots of saffron in another; mousse au chocolat in one place, mousse au chocolat made with sour cream in another).

We saw the same sort of thing going on in Japan - again, except for a few traditional or standard items (like soba, or tempura), we never got the same thing twice - yet it was all identifiably Japanese. The "language" of the cuisine is sophisticated and capable of seemingly endless variation - something that I had to go there to realize, stuck, as I usually am, in the sushi-sameness of Chicago.

My husband contends that if we went to other countries (like Greece), we'd see a similar variety that we simply don't get in this country. I maintain that a cuisine like Greek, though tasty, is just not at the same level. Some cusines seem not to have evolved beyond a limited repertoire of standards (much as I love Lao cooking, for instance, it's certainly not in the same league as French).

I'd like to hear others' thoughts on the subject.

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  1. I've always thought Mexican cuisine is the most underrated (Just as Akatonbo and I have thought Chicago's Topolombapo is among the city's most underrated restaurants). Real Mexican food can be as complex and vibrant as any other. I'm sure some of you are reading this, thinking about your local place that serves tacos and enchiladas, and saying to yourself "huh!?" But the Mexican food we typically eat in the U.S. is not representative of the cuisine as a whole. Not even close. Check out Rick Bayless' PBS show (Mexico One Plate at a Time) to get a different view of the cuisine.

    1. I find arguments like this pointless and frankly, somewhat racist. There are no 'best' cuisines; only those we are familiar with and like and those we don't. And no, there is no consensus that French is the greatest cuisine in the world. Only people coming from a Western culinary background would argue it, especially as such a sweeping general statement.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Pupster

        Hum...the point of this website is to talk about food, restaurants, and cooking. This necessarily involves subjective judgements. I don't think anyone is implying their thoughts about "the best" of something, whether it is the best place for pizza in Chicago or the best world cuisine, is meant to be some objective statement about underlying truths. It is simply meant to be a statement about preferences, with the understanding that others may disagree. I think the discussion about world cuisines is no different from the discussion of best pizza in Chicago or best way to cook a pork butt. Perhaps the discussion about world cuisines could have been more carefully worded as "which cuisine do you like to eat most often," or "which cuisine has contributed more to the American food scene," or "which cuisine do think is the most complex," etc. Asking "which is the best" is simply a shorthand way of expressing these more general questions. It isn't meant to be anything deeper.

        Sure, this topic involves a great degree of generalizations. There are terrible examples of the so-called "famous cuisines of the world". There are also excellent examples of lesser-appreciated cuisines. The fact that there is variation doesn't mean we can't talk in generalities. We talk in generalities about all kinds of things on this site. In fact, this is the point I tried make in my earlier post about Mexican food: typical Mexican food in the US is not a good example of how great the cuisine can be. I think there is a lot to be learned from this kind of discussion. Perhaps someone who has only eaten at generic Japanese restaurants, or generic Mexican restaurants, will read Akatonbo or my posts above and try to seek out a better version to see what we're getting at.

        Cuisines of different countries can be a fascinating discussion. Why is the cuisine of Vietnam so exciting? Because of the country's colonial history, their food has elements of both their traditional cuisine and French influence. Why is the cuisine of France so unique? French high cuisine evolved from the influences of many of their neighboring countries when great chefs were brought in to work in the royal palace. I'm sure there are similarly fascinating stories for most countries throughout the world, and we do the food community a service by talking about these differences and what we like and don't like.

        1. re: Darren72

          " Do we all agree that the greatest cuisine in the world is French? Oui? But what other cuisine is it's equal?"

          Darren, there's much to celebrate within each cuisine and I have no issue discussing similarities, differences, histories, influences. Nor to point out particular renditions by specific restaurants or chefs. But the OP doesn't really seem interested other than to rank cuisines by nationalities, as though that can be done. Did she mean something else? Did she mean, I like this better than that; not, there is a world consensus that this is the best? (Psst, there's not.) Well, she should probably have said that.

          1. re: Pupster

            I agree that there isn't much to be gained from compiling a ranking, unless it is accompanied by a meaningful discussion. In the interest of moving forward on areas that would be most interesting to discuss, let's focus on an interesting point Akatonbo made about what impressed her about Japanese and French cuisines:

            "...French cooking can take the common idiom of the cuisine and build endless variations, like a very sophisticated language, with a large vocabulary, which you can use to say almost anything."

            What are some good examples of this in French and Japanese cooking, for those who are less familiar?

            What other cuisines have this feature?

            Besides this feature, what other features of a national or regional cuisine excite you?

            1. re: Darren72

              All I meant to do was elicit people's thoughts on the subject of what makes a cuisine "great." Sorry if I wasn't clearer. As for the idea that French is the "world's greatest," I don't believe I'm wrong in saying that many people do, in fact, think so (and not all of them are French!!). Also, French techniques are still the foundation for all the major cooking schools in the Western world, and the cuisine's influence, I think, is undeniable. But that doesn't mean there aren't other cuisines that are also complex and capable of great variation. I agree that in this country we get only a hint of the richness of Mexican cuisine - the same could be said for Thai and Vietnamese.

              As for examples, I'm not knowledgable enough about cooking terms to give good examples, but I still remember a "cressinade" that my husband and I ate in Paris many years ago. It was so-called because it involved watercress, and chicken livers. It was wonderful, and included a variation on a brown sauce - but though all these ingredients are known to French cooking, they were combined in a way that was unique to this one little restaurant. That's the sort of thing I mean. An example in Japanese cooking? Maybe the imo manju that I had recently at Meiji, here in Chicago. This was a variation on the agedashi-dofu theme: a "tofu" made from potato (imo) rather than soybean, deep fried and stuffed with cubes of eel and ginko nuts, served in a dashi liquid that was flavored with eel broth. Unique, as far as I know, to Meiji's Chef Ishi, but comprised of elements that are typically Japanese.

          2. re: Darren72

            'Why is the cuisine of Vietnam so exciting? Because of the country's colonial history, their food has elements of both their traditional cuisine and French influence.'

            Yes, but the 'traditional' cuisine is made up of many influences including Chinese. I think the French influence has more to do with ingridients, beef for one, than technique.

          3. re: Pupster

            (Yes, I know this is from eight years ago)

            "Only people coming from a Western culinary background would argue it, especially as such a sweeping general statement."

            Ever left the West, Pupster?

            1. re: BuildingMyBento

              Although it's probably fair to say that many Asian cultures also revere French food - take Japan and the number of French restaurants, bakeries etc etc.

              French technique (or more accurately technique codified by some of the great French chefs like Escoffier and Carême) forms the basis of most western cuisines which has been very influential. I do agree that other cuisines are equally great - Indian, Chinese, Japanese etc.

              I think one of common themes behind many of these cuisines is that cooking and great power go hand in hand. So the the "French" classic cuisine from the courts of Europe, Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisines from their princes, emperors and imperial dynasties.

              I believe it was the writer Fuchsia Dunlop who made the statement that Chinese cuisine would have a far higher level of recognition if it wasn't for the cultural revolution closing cooking schools, restaurants and "re-educating" chefs.

          4. "Also, French techniques are still the foundation for all the major cooking schools in the Western world"

            Don't tell this to the Italians and if you include Mexico then that is 2 schools of 'Western' cooking that do not use French technique.

            8 Replies
            1. re: KTinNYC

              I am not sure I am reading your post correctly, but if I am, I disagree. actually I think there is a not insignificant French influence in Mexican cooking techniques, which only makes sense given the French ocupation of Mexico. Of course, you might not recognize this eating the food that commonly passes for 'Mexican' at many restaurants in the US.

              1. re: susancinsf

                The first statement in my post is a quote from the previous poster. I do not believe either Italian or Mexican cooking uses French technique.

                1. re: KTinNYC

                  Check out the breads, pastries and the seafood stews next time you are in Mexico....(to give a few examples)

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    The bread, sure. The French influenced a lot of people with baking but I still contend that actually cooking technique in Mexico in the whole has little to do with the French.

                  2. re: KTinNYC

                    The basis of modern French cooking were the techniques introduced by the cooks Catherine de Medici brought from Italy.

                      1. re: Darren72

                        It was an interesting read but the examples really didn't sway me too much to your argument. It would be like pointing out Japanese curry and then saying that British technique really influenced Japanese cooking.

                        1. re: Darren72

                          KTinNYC wrote "It was an interesting read but the examples really didn't sway me too much to your argument."

                          I didn't make any argument regarding Mexican and French cuisines. What are you referring to?

                          You and Susancinsf are talking about the relationship between Mexican and French cuisines. Neither she, nor anyone else, is claiming Mexican cuisine is based on French cuisine. But perhaps there are some connections. This article discusses these connections.

                          If you scroll up, my original reply to the question about great cuisines of the world was to say I liked Mexican!

                  3. "Do we all agree that the greatest cuisine in the world is French?"

                    No. I'd give up French food before I'd give up Chinese, Indian, Italian, or Vietnamese.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I am not clear why I can't reply right below whoever claimed I said that Mexican food is based on French cuisine (is Darren replying to himself?) but I never said that, and don't believe that to be true for a minute. What I said is that I believe that there is a French influence in Mexican cooking. There are a lot of other influences besides French, as well. Sorry, Robert, I know that you weren't the one claiming that I said that, but this seems to be the closest reply point.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        For some reason the software limits the number of replies to a post, that is why I had to "reply to myself" so the post appeared in the correct place.

                        In any case, I fixed a typo in my earlier post. I didn't mean to imply that you said Mexican cuisine is based on French cuisine. I meant the opposite, actually. I fixed the typo and hopefully that post is more clear.

                        1. re: Darren72

                          I think all of us in this thread agree that Mexican cooking has French influence but there are many other equally if not more important influences.

                          I think we are still having problems getting use to the new software : )

                    2. I agree with Robert although I would replace Indian with Spanish. Probably throw in Thai also. French is fine, but it's certainly not the end all of goods. Oh, I'd also add Mexican, true Mexican.

                      1. "Do we all agree that the greatest cuisine in the world is French?"

                        I can think of about a billion people in China who would tend to disagree.

                        I'm stealing a friend's story here, but I heard once that a group of Chinese chefs from the most famous restaurants in China were once brough to Frendy Laundry and told "You're going to eat at THE BEST restaurant in the world." They all turned up their noses and said "Says who?"

                        Needless to say, their palates weren't ready for stinky cheeses and French preparation of food in general. I daresay 99% of the population of China would agree with the chefs' assessment that even the corner hut in a rural Chinese village made better food than Thomas Keller.

                        As for vocabulary, I think it only seems like the French have an impressive food vocabulary because we're so eager to assimilate their words into English. We could say "water bath" and not sound very special at all, or say "bain marie" and sound super special. We could say cream puffs, but guests are more impressed by profiteroles. Bouquet garni and herbs de provence might be considered "special vocabulary" because we know exactly what needs to be in each in order to fit agreed upon definitions. Wow, the French care so much about food that they came up with special words for their herb mixes. But the same could be said for Chinese five spice powder (wu hua fen) or Korean soy bean paste (doen jang). If we would be willing to refer to all foods and techniques by what they're called in their country of origin, you'd probably be less inclined to consider France special.

                        It seems like you're noticing regional differences and being impressed by nuances in cuisine in the countries you've visited (France, Japan). I assure you that if you were to travel extensively in other countries, you would find analagous subtelties in cuisine and be equally impressed by how different a dish with the same name can be if you travel just a few miles.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Pei

                          That business about "vocabulary" was a metaphor. But I agree that my opinions are based on my experience - as I mentioned, my husband thinks that here in this country we get only a fraction of what many cusines have to offer - and I don't disagree. I simply think that some cuisines are more complex, varied and more codified than others - due to a whole host of reasons that include geography, culture, the relative wealth of the country, etc. I also think that French, Chinese and Japanese are at the high end of the spectrum, with other cuisines (remarkable though they may be), falling somewhat below those three. Is that my subjective opinion, based on my personal experience? Of course.

                          As for "major cooking schools," I stand corrected - I should have said "most major cooking schools."

                          1. re: Pei

                            I heartily agree with Pei. 3+ billion people who live in Asia wouldn't give an old noodle for haute cuisine. The Japanese sushi chef who took 7 years to perfect his knife skills isn't interested in demi-glace sauces. Nor the Chinese roasted meat specialists or the Indian pickle-makers. These meaningless ethnic comparisons just stir up nationalistic emotions.

                            1. re: cheryl_h

                              The OP asked "Do we all agree that the greatest cuisine in the world is French?"

                              Then Pei said "I can think of about a billion people in China who would tend to disagree."

                              To which Cheryl said "I heartily agree with Pei. 3+ billion people who live in Asia wouldn't give an old noodle for haute cuisine."

                              Very funny. These are presumably the same people who would say McDonalds is America's best restaurant. After all, McD's served a billion meals last year while Thomas Keller, Alice Waters, Charlie Trotter, and (name your favorite chef) only served about 10,000. Come on folks. Since when do we judge the innovativeness, the quality, the excitment of a cuisine with body counts? I get your point, that every culture has its own cuisine, and thus the "best" is at some level clearly in the eye of the beholder. But if you want to have an intelligent discussion, you'll have to do better than body counts.

                              1. re: Darren72

                                The reply about sheer body count was somewhat tongue in cheek. The comments about the chefs from high end restaurants and masters of certain techniques valuing their own skills above French ones is more than valid.

                                Besides, a question like "Do we all agree (insert anything)" will always get plenty of irrelevant answers.

                          2. From my limited experience, my favorite cuisines are: Italian, Indian, Southern, Jamaican, Malaysian, Spanish, Brazilian, and my all time favorite is great Chinese food.
                            Italian - the cuisine is simple, healthy, and fantastic, a personal bias. However, if I wasn't raised with Italian food I would probably think Italian food was bad based on what I've eaten in restaurants.
                            Indian- obviously extremely complex and there is a whole world of flavors I've yet to encounter. Try cooking from a real Indian cook book.
                            Southern- I just moved down South! Food is serious here, and coming from New York I'm glad to see that. Fat in all the right places with an emphasis on pleasure and freshness.
                            Jamaican - some of the best food I had in New York was at a little hole in the wall down the street from me. When renovating my kitchen, I ate chicken curry, rice and peas, collards, and plantains for a week. I've never eaten French food that satisfying.
                            Malaysian-- great variety, influence of Chinese and Indian cooking.
                            Spanish -- ever have a real paella? If you've eaten in Spain you know what I'm talking about. The food matches the complete uniqueness of the country.
                            Brazilian- stroganoff de camarao, steak picanha. So rich and so good.
                            CHINESE FOOD -- chinese food, or food from the various regions of China, is imo, the best cuisine in the world. Complex, satisfying, full of umame (even without MSG). China is a huge country, but my experiences with Sichuanese and Shanghainese food are forever with me, even away from a major metropolis.
                            I have travelled in Europe, South America, and North Africa, and lived in New York City for over 5 years, however I'm not trying to impose a food world order, just sharing my opinion. I have found many cuisines to be overrated including:French, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Greek.
                            The worst and most expensive restaurant experience of my life was at a certain French seafood place in Manhattan. Completely overrated and terrible service. Fresher seafood can be had up the shore in New England :( And I am not impressed with complicated preparation for the sake of complexity. Italian food does a better job of showing off ingredients. There is a saying in Italy that the French came up with all of those sauces to cover up the rotten meat they were eating.

                            1. All cuisines may be equal. I think not, and I've argued this before, but that's another story. But all cuisines are different, and you can't perceive these differences without knowing the country's history. Once, as part of another topic, I listed three ways in which history can explain differences. There are others, but here are the three I found:

                              1. Courtly cuisine
                              There are two types of cuisine. One is earthy and earthbound. Peasant cuisine, the cuisine de terroir, mama's home cookin' Much of the Italian and Thai food we love is like that. The other is more elaborate, and features complex dishes designed for kings and aristocrats. Such courtly cuisine requires courts, or at the least a nexus of wealth and power. As such, it is correlated with political power or at least with wealth. The lavish banquets of ancient Rome, the elaborate dishes of Imperial China, and first and foremost the elevation of cuisine to an art form that graced the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France -- all these are examples of culinary greatness emerging from the halls of power. Florentine cuisine too might have followed this path were it not for the baneful puritanism of Savonarola.

                              2. Territorial expansion
                              The country that projects its power abroad will reap the harvest of foreign foods and cooking techniques. Sixteenth century Spanish explorers brought potatoes, tomatoes and cassava back to Spain, and the fruits and bounty of the Americas came to grace the dinner tables of Europe. The British Empire may not have benefited those colonized, but it gave the colonizers curry and mulligatawny soup. Some countries may also reap this diversity simply by being at a crossroads, their land visited by armies or traders who leave their recipes behind. Barcelona is like that. Romans, Arabs, all passed through. Or northern Spain, where pilgrims from all over Europe trekked through on their way to the shrines of Galicia. Mexico, invaded by Spain and (briefly) France.

                              3. Culinary experimentation
                              An adventurous culture has an adventurous palate. Curiosity, an openness to new ideas, is a prerequisite of technological, scientific -- and culinary -- advance. Consider those tomatoes discovered by Spain and brought to Italy, part of which was then under Spanish rule. The tomato arrived in Italy in the seventeenth century. But it was not until just before 1800 that tomato sauce was first invented, and even then it was not immediately popular. The intervening centuries were times of reaction and counter-reformation. It just wasn't a good time in Italy for experimentation, either cultural or culinary.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Brian S

                                Very interesting. I feel that, yes, we all have cuisines we "love" - but there can also be a more objective assesment that takes into account all the influences you mentioned.

                                Despite a lot of what has been said here, I think there are definite differences in cuisines - that some are "greater" than others. I don't think a cuisine is great merely because I love it. I keep coming back to Greek food. I can't believe that even if I lived and ate in Greece for years, I'd come away saying "Wow, Greek cooking ranks right up there with French." And I say that despite my very genuine appreciation of Greek food. I think you can assess different cuisines using objective standards, and in doing so you can shed a lot of light on human culture and why food is so important to us.

                                You say you don't think all cuisines are equal - so you must have an opinion of which ones are "best," or more evolved, than others. Can you explain, or link to your previous discussion?

                                1. re: Akatonbo

                                  I think this thread would have been a lot shorter if you'd been more careful not to use "best" and "greatest" interchangeably with "most complicated" or "most developed."

                                  French cuisine does, objectively speaking, tend to involve more complicated processes than Greek cuisine. Whether that makes it "greater" is strictly opinion. Like one poster mentioned, all that sauce might just be a way to hide a lack of fresh ingredients.

                                  Personally, I've found that my favorite foods tend to come from temperate climates (Italy, Greece, Mexico parts of China, California) where fresh produce and plenty of seafood mean that food needs little adornment and simple preparations are considered "best."

                                  1. re: Pei

                                    I find this whole topic kind of lacking in insight. I learned to cook in the french method, but I've spent my cullinary life in embracing, understanding, and enjoying cuisines I didn't grow up with. I have *the* classic texts in French cooking, Italian, Mexican, Greek, and Chinese. Of those, I've never even really attempted Chinese, because it's so complex and different from what I know. Many recipes in my Greek and Mexican cookbooks are not for the amateur. I just don't get the notion of claiming "one great cuisine." Cuisines of every country are so, so different . . . why not embrace them all and enjoy?

                                    Viva la difference!

                                    1. re: DanaB

                                      I agree with Dana. We all have our own preferences so one person's great cuisine is another's so-so cuisine. Seeing as how I grew up eating Lao foods and fortunate to have been exposed to the local cuisines of all three regions of Laos, I really enjoy the local specialties of each region as well as each region's versions of standard Lao dishes. There's many home-cooked Lao dishes that most tourists have never tried before. Restaurants typically only offer dishes that the owners think their customers might enjoy. It amazes me what my mother and relatives are able to make that brings so much joy to my tummy. =)

                                      Anyway, it's okay for Akatonbo to prefer French over Lao, Mexican, Italian, and others, but please do realize that not everyone will agree on the cuisine they think should be considered "the greatest cuisine".

                                      As for me, I love Lao and Japanese cuisines, but of course others don't have to share my views.

                                1. Beyond cooking that is purely at the level of subsistence (e.g, Inuits), I think that one's "greatest" will depend on personal taste and all the factors that go into that.

                                  Me, personally, I'm for a different cuisine everyday, get bored easily. :)

                                  1. I'm with Akatonbo on this one 100 percent. French cuisine is the finest in the western world. There are many fine chefs, many of which are not French, but I believe this civilization owes much to French cooking techniques throughout the ages.

                                    Catherine de Medici may have brought her Florentine chef to France in the 16th century to show French chefs how to cook but the French perfected it. Escoffier was probably the first celebrity chef and we still have celebrity chefs now in 4-star restaurants and all French.

                                    I love Italian, Japanese, and other cuisines too but they just don't come close. And have you ever heard someone trying to romance their new love in a burrito or pizza joint? Sorry not even close.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Flynn1

                                      Flynn,

                                      I don't understand what you are trying to say. What did French chefs "perfect"?

                                    2. If we're talking about French FOOD -- by which I mean things like blanquette de veau, ratatouille, frisée aux lardons, even choucroûte à l'Alsacienne, it's all very good, but no, I don't think it's the best cuisine in the world.

                                      I'd vote for American, which may be understandable given that I am an American, born and raised and taught to cook in America.

                                      Food cooked with American ingredients and French technique is still American food, just as food cooked with American ingredients and Chinese technique is American food. We have melded so many cuisines together that they would be unrecognisable to people from the countries of original influence... not to mention our rich regional cuisines -- Low Country, New Orleans, California, Southwestern, Tex-Mex, New England, etc.

                                      I also contend that the United States has the best desserts in the world, bar none at all. Nowhere is dessert taken to the level that it is here in the US, which may go toward explaining why we as a nation are so overweight.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        I don't believe you've ever left the country if you think the U.S. has the best desserts. Every other country I've been in tops us in desserts.

                                        1. re: fara

                                          Which countries would those be? I've been to many countries on every continent except Africa (and I'm assuming the Camerounese are not hiding a pantheon of desserts from us), and while there are good desserts and even great desserts, nowhere are there AS MANY great desserts as in the US (and Canada). Even in France, which as a nation seems to have the widest selection.

                                          I'm counting "dessert" as a sweet normally eaten at the end of a meal, by the way -- not a sweet taken between meals... most Asian cultures, for example, don't do much in the way of dessert but have very good sweet snacks.

                                        2. re: applehome

                                          Hey I was wondering when you'd join in. You're the guy to answer a question posed to me above: "You say you don't think all cuisines are equal - so you must have an opinion of which ones are "best," or more evolved, than others. Can you explain?"

                                          1. re: Brian S

                                            I was going to stay out of this one. I just bumped in to point out to DU that Diversity requires that we celebrate the origin of ethnic and geographical differences in food (as well as all other endeavors), not simply tolerate it as something that eventually becomes part of our common culture. Yes, we're a melting pot, and yes, we will end up fusing and melding foods together ad nauseum, but until we actually end up with something new and unique through that process, the food ought to remain thought of as the food of that country or ethnic origin. That's especially true of the food that first generation folks brought over and continue to replicate. So an Ecuadorian ceviche in Boston is indeed Ecuadorian, not American. Tex-mex or Cal-mex may be thought of as American, but there is plenty of Mexican food in this country that is purely a product of people from Sonora or some other region or place, and that is Mexican, not American. But none of this is germane to the original point of this thread.

                                            I definitely think that more evolved or complex deserves some sort of recognition - if not an outright ranking. But "best" is, of course, purely subjective. Time, the available ingredients and preservation techniques, the geography, and all those social and cultural elements that we've discussed in previous threads have something to do with the importance that a culture puts on its food and therefore the development of complexity and extended techniques and flavors.

                                            To DU's point, what does it mean for a country with a very developed sense of food to bring in other foods? The western influence in Japan is an example I think of a lot. My (Japanese) mother's uncle was trained by European chefs and served as a chef in the German club in Tokyo pre-and during WWII. His influence on her view of great cooking is reflected in Hiroyuki Sakai's expertise on Iron Chef - what great French chef's! My mother made beef wellington and chicken gallantine right out of the cordon blue cookbook - something she'd never actually seen. Now these are French foods - no doubt about it (ok, dead horse beat)- but why did they (and the style and techniques) become so classically important in Japan? Was it due to the Japanese already having evolved a level of respect and complexity in their foods so that it was easy for them to recognize the requirements that other cultures put on their foods?

                                            This isn't just altogether on or off. Our open land and cowboy culture (including the unprecedented amount of beef it brought us) meant that we became experts at the elements of campfire cooking (both simple and complex), so we may have evolved the world's "best" understanding of outdoor grilling, bbq, and even chili. Of course, humanity has been putting meat over fire since it discovered fire. Nevertheless, what we do with smoldering wood and a pig (or cow) is truly a major contribution to world-class cuisine.

                                            I don't think Chinese spare ribs hold a candle to Memphis style spare ribs. But I don't think you're going to find an American duck recipe that does for the palate, what a smoked Peking duck in hoisin sauce and scallions in a steamed pancake, does.

                                            Why don't we just leave it at that? Some foods in some cultures are seemingly more complex and evolved than some foods in other cultures.

                                            1. re: applehome

                                              Thanks. Just some added thoughts.

                                              Unless you believe that no dish or meal or restaurant or recipe is better than any other... in which case all discussion on this website would be impossible, except for "I like this" "Well I hate it" ... then you must believe that in theory one cuisine can be better than another. (Imagine cuisine A comprised of the better dishes and recipes, cuisine B comprised of the worst.) But two points need be made.

                                              (1) To say that one cuisine is better doesn't mean that that country is superior. A hundred years ago many people said that French cuisine was better than British, and the British didn't ipso facto feel inferior. They just didnt care. In fact, they scoffed. (Which might explain why French food was better.)

                                              (2) It is very easy for someone exposed to an alien cuisine which he just doesnt understand to make a totally wrong judgment. A hundred years ago, one of the top British music critics was privileged to attend a performance of exquisite Japanese music. He wrote this:

                                              "Music, if that beautiful word must be allowed to fall so low as to denote the strummings and squealings of Orientals, is supposed to have existed in Japan since mythological times ... but (its) effect is not to soothe, but to exasperate beyond all endurance the European breast."

                                              1. re: applehome

                                                And about what you say about barbecue... here are neat little stories about twenty other dishes Americans should be proud of...

                                                http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8392312/

                                                http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13563400/

                                            2. You originally said the "best" desserts were to be found in the U.S., now you say the "most" desserts. I would agree we probably have the greatest selection of food of anywhere, but I've rarely had a dessert here that equalled the pastry from the average cafe in Italy or France. I've defined dessert to be "things that we would serve as a dessert" i.e. ice cream, cream pastries, trifles, etc.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: fara

                                                I think at this point we're delving into personal taste (which is to be expected as the question is about "best"), but I find pastries from the average bakery in France and Italy to be dry -- and in France, to be overly sweet.

                                                I simply don't enjoy dessert in France as much as I do in the U.S., and that to me means that the desserts here are better -- there are more that I enjoy, and the ones that are comparable I find to be superior on this side of the Atlantic.

                                              2. Replying to Dave Feldman: "What did French chefs "perfect"?

                                                French chefs added BUTTER to Florentine cuisine. In my book that perfected Florentine recipes.

                                                1. The five great cuisine families that are usually touted are, from east to west:

                                                  1. Chinese
                                                  2. Indian subcontinent
                                                  3. Turko-Persian
                                                  4. Franco-Italian
                                                  5. Mexican

                                                  There is an interesting relationship among 2, 3 and 5, because of the role of vast Arab and Iberian trading over the centuries. The curries of India and the moles of Mexico can be thought of as emblematic of that.

                                                  1. i am chinese american, and i actually am in general agreement with the op. why? because france has been able to develop an extraordinarily rich culture for a nation of it's size, and it is a culture with a strong emphasis on food.

                                                    to a slightly lesser extent, i would describe japan in similar phrases.

                                                    now, as others have mentioned, every culture has indigenous/traditional or 'peasant' food which is often very good. but i feel there are three factors which elevate proletarian cuisine to higher levels of magnificence.

                                                    1) access to ingredients - quality and variety of ingredients, whether by local climate or trade, broaden the palette of whatever artist to create gastronomic murals of infinite variety and celestial glory. polar, landlocked and desert nations are generally screwed here.

                                                    2) culture - culture is everything. it defines our communal values and drives individuals and populations to express human potential in, well, infinite variety and celestial glory. some cultures value literature more (russia). others, food (france).

                                                    3) wealth - here is my most controversial contribution to this discussion. i feel that a nation which elevates a majority of its population above subsistence unleashes their productivity (and creativity) far beyond that of a multitude of peasants. even a medium sized nation, as long as it has achieved this, may develop the richness of its culture at a rate which outpaces that of a vast nation which is still impoverished. this applies to all media of arts and crafts, including cuisine.

                                                    now, which country in the world can combine most eloquently the three elements i have listed above? over the past 200 years, it is france, above all others. nowhere else has the broad populace been so intimately in touch with the potential for food to define humanity itself.

                                                    i would delightedly agree that places like china, mexico, italy, vietnam, and morocco can boast of great ingredients and some estimable levels of food obsession, and are absolutely delish places to eat, but they haven't been wealthy enough, for long enough, to catch france. yet.

                                                    basically, a villager in provence or oaxaca or the mekong delta has great ingredients and the desire to eat well. but only in provence does the villager have the time and the means to educate herself about and to draw on the foods and cuisines of the world to practice her art, and only there will her efforts be rewarded and communicated to a wider audience should she find success.

                                                    but i also happily assert that over the past 25 years, globalization and growing wealth/awareness have begun to bring these elements to all humanity, promising a very chow happy world. the dark cloud on that horizon is of course McWorld, but i prefer to believe that globalization is just a vehicle, a tool, rather than inherently evil. if our growing awareness can bring good banh mi and mafe to mc donalds, and if mc donalds brings them to ghana and cambodia, that could be a good thing too, for what else could follow but a desire for the real thing, and local adaptations of the same?

                                                    ed

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: echo

                                                      We think of French cuisine in the way that we do in part because the French were the Western inventors of the restaurant. Go here: http://archive.salon.com/books/review... for a review of a great book called The Invention of the Restaurant. It provides a fascinating cultural history of this invention, including the way in which the businesses that served "restaurants" (soups known as restore-ants, the basis of a health food craze) got around restrictions on hours by claiming medical necessity for their ailing customers. This gradually become more elaborated during the nineteenth century into what we now know as the restaurant--a more modern and urban and competitive culinary environment than the previous repository of non-home cuisine, the inn.

                                                      When visiting Paris in the past I have felt that what is truly remarkable about the cuisine today is only that it's hard to get a really lousy meal--that there's sort of a basic very good standard, especially for everyday food like cheese and bread. As for me in my limited experience I think Northern California does a better job at restaurant-based highbrow cuisine these days than France does, both because of better produce and because of a willingness to experiment with a greater range of cultural influences.

                                                    2. With the exception of the post about "courtly" versus "peasant" cuisine and the like, no one on this thread seems to mention class as an issue here. I think that much of what differentiates and makes French cuisine unique in Western Europe, is the development of a "middle class" and consequently a bourgeois cuisine.

                                                      I love it, but I also recognize that its "glorious" history is tied to less glorious developments. And the Greek cuisine of peasants and shepherds and the like has taken a beating in this thread, but what could be better than fresh local ingredients eaten in their prime, without much stretching or preparation, the staples of life like great olive oil, tomatos, seafood, rabbit, mountain herbs, goat's milk, lamb...oh take me there right now!

                                                      1. Because *real* peasant food for most of history was much less varied: in Europe it was barley (or oats or rye) porridge (later, maize porridge) or bread (which was MUCH more usable after it had gone stale) and a liquid (water, though water was not drunk straight as much as we do now; a hard fruit cider -- apple cider was the most common beverage in the US from colonial times until the advent of industrial-scale beer breweries in the mid-19th century; beer and ales; and buttermilk-like dairy products). The advent of the potato in the early modern period was a godsend to the peasantry.

                                                        June-July was the hardest time in northern Europe because it was before the main harvest (the wheat harvest starts in July) and bread was short and all the winter stores would have been used up, and they would only have extended into spring after a good harvest the prior year.

                                                        Also realize that pre-modern Europeans had certain food rules based on four-humours medical theories that discouraged them from eating certain foods unless they had some malady, not terribly different from Chinese theories about balancing foods.

                                                        Anyway, we need to realize what daily peasant experiences were like for most of history before projecting that anachronistically onto their Sabbath and feastday fare.

                                                        1. intro to cultural anthropology classes are offered at most community colleges.

                                                          1. Well this has been an interesting thread so far but I still agree with Akatonbo that French cuisine is #1.

                                                            Japanese and Chinese cuisine have all entered the mainstream and are so pretty to look at but I believe here's what their recipes lack: WINE. French gastronomy is loved not only for its well-known dishes but also for its wine like Burgundy and Bordeaux. I just cannot imagine the genius of French cuisine without wine in its recipes yet I can envision Chinese food with beer and Japanese food with beer or saki. This is not to state that Japanese and Chinese cuisine is not delicious but it has not married well with wine the way French chefs have used it for centuries.

                                                            Italian cuisine uses wine in recipes as well but in my opinion pasta is elevated too often in too many courses, in the USA anyway, to achieve 4-star restaurant status (Babbo) as an example.

                                                            Add to that the Romance Factor: the French seem to know how to make the smallest bistro seem romantic and there you've got it. A loaf of bread & a jug of wine...

                                                            4 Replies
                                                            1. re: Flynn1

                                                              The romance factor seems like well done marketing to me.

                                                              1. re: Flynn1

                                                                Your observation is interesting although, I think, not founded. Your opinioin is based on your cultural upbringing.

                                                                For example, wine is distilled grape, in all variants and shades.
                                                                The Japanese have sake, which is distilled rice. It is supremely refined and comes in unlimited varieties and quality no less decadent than wine.
                                                                The Chinese have rice liquor (different and stronger than sake), oat liquor, bran liquor, and rice wine (similar to sake). All of these have various levels of quality and refinement no less worthy than wine.

                                                                It is because we have only exposure to wine in the west that we are naive enough to think that it is any better. Conventional and pro-west perspective coupled with French branding power and haute snobbery have led us to conclude that wine is the best.

                                                                And by the way, all beers originate from the original Viking/Scandanavian/German traditions. Beers are no less sophisticated than wine especially given the uprise in artisnal and craft beers these days.

                                                                1. re: riteus

                                                                  Sake (nihonshu) is not distilled, it is brewed. Wine is not distilled, it is fermented. Wine that is fortified with distilled product is brandy (cognac, armagnac, etc.). These are major differences in method and product - you can't conflate them, much like you can't conflate boiling and broiling. You also can't have an argument with a 4 year old post, esp with a poster that posted last in 2007.

                                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                                    To be fair, several major categories of nihonshu (sake) DO contain distilled spirits. These categories include Daiginjo, Ginjo and Honjozo. However, the quantities of distilled spirits are very small and can best be considered "adjustments" to what is essentially a brewed product, closer to beer than perhaps anything else. It is also worth noting that pure versions of sake have the highest percentages of alcohol among all fermented beverages, with some versions of "genshu" (undiluted sake) topping 20% alcohol. These would include Junmai versions, which do not contain any distilled spirits.

                                                                    Still, I am glad that Applehome pointed this out -- too many people believe that sake is distilled, which is entirely wrong.

                                                              2. Greatest Cuisine? No. Most innovative? Maybe. Most varied? Definitely not. That would be Peruvian with its blend of Spanish, Italian, German, S. American Indian, East Indian, Chinese, Japanese, etc. I remember a research article that looked at each countries food and the amount of distinct dishes. France came in third or fourth on the list with Peru at the top with Four times as many dishes.

                                                                I am a chef trained in the Classical French Tradition and I never eat French cuisine unless in France and never cook it. None of the Mother sauces. Nothing. I cook and eat mostly Asian or Mediterranean.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: JMF

                                                                  Same here! Trained in Classic French, cooked in Classic French style restos, but never go out to eat it or cook it in my own home unless I have to. I cook Mediterranean and Asian, and love Japanese! My Larousse Gastronimique doesn't get much use anymore!

                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                    I was wondering when someone in this thread would get around to mentioning Peruvian.

                                                                  2. The study of food is the study of human survival throughout time. Two ingredients are essential to classify "great" food, and in this case, cuisine: 1) time and 2) resources. So to talk about great cuisine, it's important that the culture be around for hundreds if not thousands of years AND it must have had enough empire to accumulate the resources -- ingredients, equipment, wealth, spices, luxuries -- it needs to prepare, shape, and educate its consumers. And without continued wealth, it's hard to sustain the education and technique, which leads to lost recipes and cooking skill.

                                                                    Of all the cuisines on this globe, only a few of them have been fortunate enough to have had all of these factors. The ones that come to mind are obvious:

                                                                    1. French - the greatest cultural empire of modern Europe with a decadent high court and tons of wealth to create elaborate banquet. Because the empire is relatively modern, most of its influences have lasted and impact our very own lives.
                                                                    2. Italian - Rome's empire and Renaissance decadence incorporated ingredients from all over the world, but was long ago enough that exotic elements have been lost given its more recent history of "second fiddle European power" status and poverty in the 1900s. That being said, it combined and refined tastes and techniques so perfectly that it is still the foundation of many western kitchens today.
                                                                    3. Chinese - one of the longest span of uninterrupted empire throughout human history covering a massive land mass with many tribes of people, trade, and riches, Chinese placed particular emphasis on academic knowledge and technical skill. Lots of cuisine has been lost and displaced due to its recent and violent history of Communism, isolationism, and poverty, but it is now on the rise once more with great economic growth.

                                                                    If you fully understand and have fully appreciated the many aspects of these three cuisines, you will notice that their dishes have infinite combinations, preparation techniques, and almost limitless ingredient base. Of these three, perhaps Chinese is the only one where one cook cannot master most of these techniques within a life time due to sheer ethnic/tribal diversity and the quantity of available ingredients.

                                                                    The "second tier" of great cuisines embodies cultures that have had either time or resources sporadically throughout its history. This list of "honorable mentions" include:

                                                                    Greek - lots of time and riches a long long time ago but was unable to sustain and continue development of its cuisine within modern history
                                                                    Spanish - recent empire and relative wealth but not enough time to refine or perfect a limited ingredients base
                                                                    Japanese - long-lasting, moderate empire throughout history but with limited resources and ingredients
                                                                    Indian - very long empire with lots of ingredients and spices in particular but plagued by extreme poverty throughout many periods of its history, making it hard to ever focus on cuisine development and cultural refinement

                                                                    Of course, at the end of the day, it's all your own opinion. But if you were to have some basis for judgment, this is a good one to start with...

                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                    1. re: riteus

                                                                      That is simply not true at all at all that India has "been plagued by extreme poverty throughout many periods in history."

                                                                      No Indian empire ever encompassed the entire borders of modern India either, so I am not sure what "very long empire" means either.

                                                                      Indian cuisines are culturally refined, food consumption in many Indian cultures is ritualistic, ceremonial, ceremonious, as well as highly constrained by cultural rules. There were several eras of courtly cuisines or cuisines of elite ruling/landed classes. (Mughlai cuisine for one, which still has prolific influence on modern Indian, Bangladeshi, and Pakistani cuisines!)

                                                                      Anyway, I didn't like the premise of this whole thread for reasons that have been hashed out already above (French?!?) but I just couldn't stand to see this false info propagated about one of MY favorite culinary regions.

                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                        Luckyfatima,

                                                                        Indian is also one of my favorite cuisines as well. In fact, I go way out of my way to eat Indian all the time to Jackson Heights, East Village, and Astoria. One of my personal dreams is to go and travel all of India specifically to taste these cuisine variants. But to call it a multifacted/"great"cuisine is hard for me to do simply because of the judgment criteria I had established in my earlier post.

                                                                        One of the premises I established was that cuisine needs to be continually nurtured and refined in order to cultivate. In order to continually nurture and cultivate, you need an abundance of resources, time, and money. India has been plagued by great periods of poverty in our modern history (1800s-2000s, slave/colonial state, civil war and independence, relgious partition and violence) which has really hindered its culinary progress. With the recent economic development spurred by investments in emerging markets, India's cuisine has been on the rise, but it's still relatively short-lived compared to others.

                                                                        I hope to discover more about Indian cuisine and have sampled a great many ethnic versions. But to compare it to the cuisines that I have tried to objectively classify as "great" is still premature. Perhaps it will get there, but I just don't think it's there yet.

                                                                        Of course, you can completely disagree with me, and you are more than entitled to your own opinion.

                                                                        1. re: riteus

                                                                          But Indian cuisine in all of its diversity has been nurtured and refined by a history of wealth and abundance:

                                                                          Do you know about the 57 Heavenly Dishes? The Chota and Bara Hazri? The Wazwaan? The farsaans? The paandaan?The cuisine of upvas? The sehri and iftaari? The khaatirdaari and mehmaan nawaazi?The jewels ground into royal cuisine, and gold and more commonly silver foil used to decorate dishes and sweets, the thousands of types of regionally diverse cooking vessels, each with a special purpose and said to produce special and distinct effects of the food prepared within them? The Maharaj and the Khansama? The sequencing of a meals? The seasonality of food? The single dishes with 120+ different ingredients? The various dietary restrictions that birth amazing culinary creativity? The special sought after ingredients that are only found in certain famous places which dot the country? The cuisines of meat eating Brahmins, and the endless vegetarian delights that include meatless kababs and meatless meatballs? The food and health associations that heal with ancient Greek and Hindu medicine and wisdom that still play a huge role in what individual Indians consume to maintain the best health, and that the practice of these types of food science take years of study? Maharajahs and Nawaabs and the delicacies designed for their excesses? The foods of the temples? The specialties of each region, ethnic group, linguistic group, religion, caste, sub-caste, and so on that are part of a never completely knowable land of never ending and new culinary experiences, from Kashmir to Kerala. It is a land of everything from earthy rural cuisine to highly specialized and refined cuisines of ritualized constraint and ceremony.

                                                                          I don't believe that there is one Greatest Cuisine...but Indian cuisine does have the components of greatness.

                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                            I love Indian food and am constantly amazed when talking to my sis-in-law from Kolkata (and even better, to her mom) how complex and varied her variety of Bengali food is. The meal sequencing thing brought this to mind. They're as knowledgeable and obsessed with food as Chinese friends, and that's saying something. Where can I learn more about the things you cite? Fascinating.

                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                              There are different angles to approach learning more about Indian food. I think regionality is an easy one. Starting with Bengal would be a good idea since you are familiar with that food a bit. There a books dedicated specifically to Bengali cuisine (a good one is by Chitrita Banerji).

                                                                    2. Short answer: Non. Pour moi, c'est la cuisine chinoise.

                                                                      Long answer: What do you mean by greatest? You don't give a criteria on which to judge, besides saying you saw dish variations while in France, of which you only name two examples, bouillabaisse and mousse au chocolat. That's like saying "Do we all agree that the greatest ice cream maker in the world is Baskin Robbins? oui?" And saying it's so because you went to their store and they offered variations on chocolate or vanilla ice cream flavours.

                                                                      I think people would need a lifetime of travelling extensively through multiple continents and sampling countless cuisines in-depth before even attempting to make such sweeping judgements. Have you travelled throughout India and tasted the different cuisines from Punjab vs Kashmir vs Mumbai? Or tasted cuisines of Fujian vs Szechuan vs Hunan vs Cantonese in China etc?

                                                                      The fact is European countries have dominated the modern world which has also meant their cuisines have had a disproportionate level of exposure/influence which has made us much more familiar with their cuisines vs those from other parts of the world. That doesn't make these cuisines the greatest though. Given the continued growth of China's economic and political clout, I would be interested to see whether we start to see more of the vast variety of Chinese food that exists besides the sterotypical kung pao or general tso's chicken.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                        I agree. I'm not a fan of Americanized Chinese food, but do enjoy eating authentic Chinese food like the places in Chinatown that serve "exotic" ingredients unlike the typical Chinese fast-food places (i.e. I'll pass on the sweet and sour pork).

                                                                        1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                          Je suis completement d'accord avec vous, SeoulQueen. There is no other cuisine as diverse and multifaceted as Chinese.

                                                                        2. I am not positive, but I believe the Chinese kitchen was codified 1,000 years before the French were eating off anything but knives, and that's enough for me.

                                                                          1. I've heard it said that the three great cuisines of the world are the French, Italian and Chinese.

                                                                            My personal favorite, however, may well be Indian.

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                              No, you heard that the three "great" cuisines were Turkish, French and Chinese;)

                                                                            2. You may want to read a new book just out, "Au Revoir to All That: The Rise and Fall of French Cuisine", by Michael Steinberger, that tells us, among other revelations, that McDonald's second most profitable marketplace is France. That's got to tell you something. It sure tells me something. All good things must end.
                                                                              CocoDan

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: CocoDan

                                                                                Sounds a bit melodramatic (anything to sell a book, eh?). I hardly think the proliferation of Mickey D's signals the collapse of French cuisine. Now if he's got something more convincing than that to offer, I'll listen.

                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                                  It's an interesting read. Check it out. I'm sure it doesn't signal the collapse of Frence cooking, but it can indicate current trends. That being said, I generally only believe about half of what I read.
                                                                                  Enjoy,
                                                                                  CocoDan

                                                                              2. Peruvian food should be up there on the top.

                                                                                Legendary French chef, food writer and cookbook author Auguste Escoffier declared Peruvian cuisine one of the world's finest, third only to French and Chinese. That means 100 years ago, he was onto something many of us are only just now discovering: Peruvian food is awesome

                                                                                1. As Chef Nietzsche would put it: There are no Great Cuisines, only interpretations of Great Cuisines.
                                                                                  CP

                                                                                  1. This is a very subjective question and ultimately comes down to personal taste preferences. French cuisine is certainly amongst the top in the world, but I think people's perceptions about it are skewed. For one, people tend to conflate french food with haute cuisine. Everyday french food is different from multi-course meals served at fine dining restaurants.

                                                                                    While I do like french food, I never find myself craving it the way I do Chinese, Mexican, Italian, or South Asian food.

                                                                                    1. I am surprised that Indian cuisine wasn't mentioned in this write. Indian cuisine is a traditional cuisine which has barely been influenced by other cultures. People may take this point as a negative, but I appreciate that this cuisine is only Indian and not anything else. On the other hand, Indian styles and flavours have influenced other cuisines such as Chinese and Persian, which further influenced Greek and European cuisines. More recently, Nepalese, Pakistani and Bangladeshi cuisines share pretty much the same plates as India, of course with more meatlike dishes and a few flavours of their own.

                                                                                      1) Indian cuisine has its roots deep in the Indian Subcontinent from around 2500 BC. Very few other actual cuisines have roots that old, or even close.

                                                                                      2) Traditional Indian meals include everything a body needs. Dals and beans full of protein, curries and veggies abundant in taste, fiber and vitamins, Rotis and Naans with carbohydrates and milky desserts and Kahris to provide Calcium. Look at any real Indian family meal and you will see all of these.

                                                                                      3) I realy don't think any other cuisins has such fabulous street food! Pav-bhaji, Samosas, Aloo Bhunda, Pani Puri, Channa Tiki and Bhel Puri, to name some of the most common.

                                                                                      4) Every region of India has its own real variations of the cuisine. North Indian cuisines:

                                                                                      Awadhi cuisine
                                                                                      Punjabi cuisine
                                                                                      Cuisine of Uttar Pradesh
                                                                                      Rajasthani cuisine
                                                                                      Mughlai cuisine
                                                                                      Bhojpuri cuisine
                                                                                      Bihari cuisine
                                                                                      Kashmiri cuisine
                                                                                      South Indian cuisines
                                                                                      Kerala cuisine - Sadhya means "banquet" in Malayalam. It is a typical feast of the people of Kerala.
                                                                                      Tamil cuisine
                                                                                      Andhra cuisine
                                                                                      Cuisine of Karnataka
                                                                                      Hyderabadi cuisine
                                                                                      East Indian cuisines
                                                                                      Bengali cuisine is a style of food preparation originating in Bengal, a region in the eastern South Asia which is now divided between the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Barak Valley of Assam and the independent country of Bangladesh. Bengali food has inherited a large number of influences, both foreign and South Asian, arising from a historical and strong trade links with many parts of the world.
                                                                                      Cuisine of Jharkhand
                                                                                      Oriya cuisine
                                                                                      North-East Indian cuisines
                                                                                      Sikkimese cuisine
                                                                                      Assamese cuisine
                                                                                      Tripuri cuisine
                                                                                      Naga cuisine
                                                                                      West Indian cuisines
                                                                                      Goan cuisine
                                                                                      Gujarati cuisine
                                                                                      Maharashtrian cuisine
                                                                                      Malvani cuisine
                                                                                      Parsi cuisine
                                                                                      Rajasthani cuisine
                                                                                      Other Indian cuisines
                                                                                      Indian Chinese cuisine
                                                                                      Jain (Satvika)
                                                                                      Sindhi cuisine
                                                                                      Chettinad cuisine
                                                                                      Udupi cuisine

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: DrProffessor

                                                                                        Personally, I thought the entire premise that French food was universally considered to be the greatest cuisine was too flawed.

                                                                                        I definitely consider Indian-subcontinent cuisine to be among the best in the world. I rank Sri Lankan at the top of that list, but I'm biased since my husband is Sri Lankan and his mother taught me her recipes. But Indian cuisine is also wonderful.

                                                                                        1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                          War on a plate, war among plates. Am I kinky or just have eaten in the wrong places?

                                                                                        2. re: DrProffessor

                                                                                          I've tried quite a few of the regional cuisines of India (thanks to living in Dubai with its huge Indian expatriate community and frequent trips to India).

                                                                                          As my son says, it all comes down to something more or less the same: overcooked and over spiced brown mush.

                                                                                          Harsh, but that's one perspective!

                                                                                        3. In the West, French cuisine undoubtedly has the largest influence. From how a restaurant kitchen is run to cooking terms (i.e. braise, sauté). The most popular and revered wine grapes all are French.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                            The thread title ought to have asked: "What is the best cuisine in the world.............in 'your opinion'?"
                                                                                            "Since all experience is subjective 'value judgements' are irrelevant". Lao Tzu

                                                                                            1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                              I agree "best" is subjective but the question was "greatest” which is more objective.

                                                                                              Surely greatest would assessed by measures such as: most influential; most widely cooked; most copied; most techniques incorporated broadly into cooking; most taught in cookery schools; most respected by great chefs and authors; longest lasting period of influence; geographical spread, etc etc.

                                                                                              If it's subjective based on taste then there must be many many "bests". I may like Peruvian food the most, respect its diversity and heritage, respect the skills, etc etc but it's not a cuisine that had travelled, it doesn't form the basis of much cooking outside Peru (at the moment) etc etc.

                                                                                              French cuisine on the other hand (which is really a codified European cuisine because the chefs who codified it worked across the French, Spanish, British courts etc) is great because of its influence, reach etc etc.

                                                                                              Japanese is definitely another "great" cuisine and is gaining influence i.e. the simplification of many classical dishes, plating etc etc. Chinese* and Indian cuisines have the potential to be great cuisines, but both are held back because both are more home style rather than restaurants cuisines. Neither have been codified like the French and Japanese. SE Asian could be another - I combine Thai, Malay, Vietnamese, Myanmar, Vietnamese etc for convenience and also because the physical borders don't really define the food. I am certain their times will come as they are fantastic - but are they yet great.

                                                                                              * Chinese should really be on the great list but the cultural revolution derailed its influence. However, there are lots of techniques that very much part of Chinese cooking that will gain greater currency as they become better understood.