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The 3 Grand Cuisines

I once read an article that stated that there are 3 grand cuisines on earth: French, Chinese, and Turkish. And according to the article this occurred in these cultures for 3 specific reasons including: the presence of a royal kitchen, a long dynastic reign and the availability of a variety of foodstuffs. To explain further, the royal kitchen produces a variety of splendid dishes to please the king or emperor. A long dynastic reign ensures the coherence of these dishes over time and provides time for their perfection. Finally, access to plentiful and diverse foodstuffs provides the raw materials. Having said that how many chowhounds agree with this? Does this argue that all others cuisines are inherently inferior to these? Thoughts?

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  1. All I can say is forget the coq au vin and thousand year old eggs - I want a Doener Kebab!

    1. French and Chinese, yes. But I would have to vote for Indian as the third. The use of spices is unequalled by any other cuisine. That being said, I enjoy all types of food, and love learning about it, and the culture that developed it. While I have some preferences, they are my own, and they do not imply that any one cuisine is inferior. Though it is very hard to beat French pastry.

      9 Replies
      1. re: phofiend

        The mother of French cooking is a Florentine!

          1. re: phofiend

            Yes, "French" food was developed in Italy. There is actually much more variety in Italian cooking too.

            1. re: fara

              Please explain "developed" and qualify "much more variety". Yes I am a Francophile

              1. re: Chinon00

                Developed meaning that Catherine de Medci thought the food was horrible in France when she married Henry the II. She had to bring her own chefs over to France and show them how to prepare food.

                1. re: designerboy01

                  Must remember this for future tactical use.

                  1. re: designerboy01

                    Just curious, in the "development of French food" how much credit do you give events post-Medici through 1787.

                    1. re: Chinon00

                      The towering figure here is Louis XIV. Under his patronage, Varenne and Vatel transformed cooking into cuisine. Some people date this development to 1651, when Varenne published Le Cuisinier Francais. Louis XIV apparently discovered that a grand cuisine could boost the power of the central government (i.e. him) Nobles who would otherwise stay in their home castles fomenting insurrection were induced (or compelled) to spend their time attending lavish banquets at Versailles, and their money dressing for them. Napoleon used the same trick when he set up his chief diplomat, Talleyrand, with a palace and Careme as chef.

                      1. re: Brian S

                        Sounds exactly like the Aztec strategy under the Triple Alliance.

            2. I once read the big three were: Chinese, Italian and Greek.

              The logic behind this list, as I understand it, is these three cuisines have had the most influence in the world. Certainly it's debateable but I see some logic in it...just can't explain or defend it. If I recall, French was left out because French technique relied too much on sauce. Greek was in because of their influence on the whole Med. region and related to their empire. As I understand it Italy has a similar influence going westward, although I'm sure the French would disagree.

              13 Replies
                1. re: ML8000

                  I'd heard that Turkish cuisine influenced Greek cuisine, but perhaps it was an even trade?

                  Thanks to Chinon00 for the background on where this theory came from. My Turkish students (I teach English) love to talk about the three great cuisines, and I'd always thought that it was odd that regional cuisines could be lumped in together as solely "French," "Turkish," or especially "Chinese." I suppose a royal kitchen could standardize things. (Not that commoners ate the way the king did, but...)

                  1. re: lemonfaire

                    Actually one could make a strong arguement that Greek and Turkish are side-by-side, or influenced each other equally.

                    They do share common specific cultural connections, exemplified by common ruins. They both had empires and both had access to trade. I won't get into the politics or specifics (mostly because I can't) but it does seem reasonable...and I wouldn't side with either country and certainly against there food.

                    BTW, on a tangent...sounds similar to the "who invented the noodle - China or Italy" argument. Seems the real answer is the Middle East/Persia.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Well since you are on the subject of noodles, read this article.


                      1. re: ML8000

                        Well Greece was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire actually.

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          You're right. I had to look it up, Ottoman Empire from 1299 - 1922, which is most recent. In BC or Hellenic times it was reversed with the Greek Empire spread through the region. I'll just leave it as there was obvious cross-over.

                          1. re: ML8000

                            Under your theory Italian would fall under Greek in Hellenic times, no?

                            1. re: welle

                              In southern Italy there was an influence of Greek culture.

                            2. re: ML8000

                              To get real historical, Greeks were in Greece for more than a millenia before any Turks were in Turkey. Turkish tribes are (relatively speaking) recent newcomers to Anatolia.

                              Of course, I say this as an American - with our nation less than 250 years old.


                              1. re: Ed Dibble

                                Hey Ed, don't forget we've got BBQ.

                                1. re: Ed Dibble

                                  No Ed, lets get reeeeal historical. Before we get there, the main problem with drawing up Grand Cuisines along national boundaries is that they often obliberate historical empires.

                                  Instead of saying Greece, Turkey or some other why don't we instead look at the Eastern Meditteranean as a single entity with a Grand Cuisine. I suggest this because:

                                  (1) The countries of the Eastern Meditteranean all share a common culinary thread.

                                  (2) There is no fair way possible to really segregate which country's ancestors contributed each thing... it will just come down to a pissing contest about which ancient empire we like better.

                                  Finally consider the real historical mess to decipher:

                                  > Yes, the Ancient Greeks pre dated the Ottomans by more than a millenium. But, there was a contemporary civilization that spread from Turkey to Bulgaria know as Thrace. Anyone who read the National Geographic article on the Thracians last month, knows that they have been historically overlooked... but are about to be the hottest thing in cultural travel.

                                  > The Greeks owe much of their culture from the Phoenicians (Caaninites), from whom they borrowed so much. The Lebanese will tell you that the Greeks were still eating bananas from tree vines when they brought them civilization.

                                  > The Phoenicians owe much of their culture from the Egyptians, from whom they borrowed so much. The Egyptians will tell you that the Phoenicians were still eating bananas hanging from tree vines when they brought them civilization.

                                  And then the Mesopotamians.... yada, yada, yada

                                  One final thing... although the Phoenicians were more civilized, there are many convincing arguments that they were invaded by Mycanean Greeks who taught them to sail and ultimately brought their civilization to a higher level.

                                  As you can see there is a just a back & forth, tit for tat.

                                  I think ultimately, the reason that Turkey is singled out is because as the historical crossroads & a blessed geological makeup... it is probably the only single country that has covers most of the North African, Medittarenean, Middle Eastern & Near Eastern culinary traditions, techniques & ingredients.

                                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    Indeed, the whole Eastern Mediterranean - and Near East as a whole - share all sorts of culinary traditions. One does not need to believe everything in _Black Athena_ to be aware of Greece's debt to the rest of the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa. And perhaps these traditions did culminate in Ottoman court cuisine.

                                    I was merely responding to folks who seemed to view Greece as a mere appendage of Turkey. The Turks are the inheritors of a long culinary tradition that they did not create. It also needs to be remembered that all of the Eastern Mediterranean including also for a time Persia and Bactria were ruled by Greeks who no doubt learned much about various ways of preparing food that they later passed on to Turkey.


                                    1. re: Ed Dibble

                                      I see that you tend to agree with my points, but you seem to be overrating the Greek contribution and resent the fact that the Turks are getting credit. If you buy into my argument that we should not seperate them & instead consider it one Grand Cuisine then there is no need to argue about who made the most contributions.

                      2. Thirty years ago Craig claiborne wrote that the three great cuisines on the planet were Chinese, French, and Mexican.

                        46 Replies
                        1. re: Evil Ronnie

                          I agree with Craig. The value of the contribution of Mexican food to culinary traditions around the world cannot be underestimated. I mean, hello! The tomato, the potato and the avocado! Not to mention corn. Potatoes and tomatoes transformed European cooking. And what would Italy be without polenta?

                          1. re: DanaB

                            I hear what you are saying but what you've mentioned are foodstuffs and not cuisine per se. Could you elaborate?

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              Salsa, aka tomato sauce, aka the basis of most of what we think of Italian cooking.

                              Anything with potatoes. Mashed, fried, frites, baked, roasted.

                              Cornmeal, aka polenta.

                              1. re: DanaB

                                Spend a day in the kitchen of a Oaxacan woman - and you'll soon come to understand the 'greatness' of Mexican cuisine. This could not be farther removed from your typical tex-mex greasy burrito.

                                Dana is right on in his assessment.

                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                  *Finally plans that Oaxacan restaurant crawl I've been meaning to do for eons.*

                                2. re: DanaB

                                  To be clear for me cuisine includes both the techniques of a certain cooking style and the resultant dishes. Mexican cooking is important and I agree that salsa is an important sauce/condiment. However I think it might be a stretch to allow Mexican cuisine to claim dishes as general as: “[m]ashed, fried, frites, baked, roasted [potatoes]”. And again cornmeal is a foodstuff and not a resultant dish. And of course any dish referred to as “polenta” would be understood to be Italian.
                                  The discussion I think focuses on “great cuisine” and not the influence that a cuisine or a region's foodstuffs has had around the world (which is a whole different topic).

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Those examples that Dana gave only scratch the surface.

                                    While the technique of Mexican cooking may not be as influential on the world stage as French technique certainly is, it is the ingredients -inherently Mexican- that have transformed ALL CORNERS of the world.

                                    In fact, I regard Mexican cuisine (technique and dishes) to be one of the most diverse in the world. Look no further than Diana Kennedy's books.

                                    Mexican Cuisine is comprised of the following elements:

                                    Spanish: ingredients & technique
                                    Various natives of Mexico: Ingredients & techinque
                                    Asian: Ingredients (Manila - Acapulco Galeons)
                                    French: Ingredients, technique (Maximillian's Empire)
                                    Later immigrants (Lebanese, Italian, Mennonites): Ingredients & technique.
                                    Central & South American: Ingredients (Spanish Empire no doubt spread)

                                    If you like I can give you representive dishes of all of the above.

                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                      Actually, I do think Mexican belongs as a "great" cuisine not only because of the ingredients which it has contributed to the rest of the world, but for a number of other reasons.

                                      1) The technique is there. People who are competent with the traditional European techniques often have difficulty at first adjusting to technique in the Mexican kitchen because it is not quite as instintual as they are used to. Why would it be a "stretch" to allow Mexican's to claim baked, roasted, braised, fried etc. They've been doing that for centuries along with the rest of the world. Those are not necessarily methods that any particular cuisine can lay claim to. From the time humankind discovered fire we've been applying it to food of all kinds in every way. But techniques such as grinding cacao on a metate over a fire is a unique contribution without which chocolate as we know it today would not exist. It is also a technique that is still used today for processing chocolate in some Oaxacan villages.

                                      2) Yes, Mexico gave the world corn and that's an ingredient. It also gave the world the process (or technique if you will) for making the corn edible. Corn has to be slacked in lime in order for it to be workable and digestible. Carbon dating has put the age of early corn kernels found in early Mexcian settlements at about 8,000 years of age which, if nothing else, implies that corn was being cultivated and used in some way that long ago. So the early nomadic tribes in MesoAmerica had to learn how to make the grain they had available edible in order to survive. That process/technique is still very much alive in Mexico and being used today. Corn for tortillas, posole and even the corn destined for masa harina first has to be slacked out with lime. Pretty old technique if you ask me.

                                      3) The early MesoAmericans also figured out that if they grew squash and beans along with the corn that they didn't destroy the soil and that their village could thrive. Corn, squash and beans are, of course, a complete protein when eaten together. This triumverite is found extensively in Mexican cooking and is one of the foundation building blocks for the cuisine Once again, it was a cooking method used to ensure the survival of the tribe and the village.

                                      3) Read Bernal Diaz who chornicled Cortez' discovery and eventual defeat of the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan. He describes the daily feasts with hundreds of dishes offered to Moctezuma, feasts that the Spanish partook of and reveled in. Feasts that are equivalent to the royal feasts of other cuisines. Read Fray Bernardin de Shagún who was an early priest sent to convert the heathens to Catholicism. He was appalled at the destruction of the indigenous books and took on teh task of describing everything he saw. He devoted a great deal of space to describing the food, how it was prepared, the breadth of the cuisine, which was far greater than anything Europe knew at that time.

                                      4) The sheer diversity of Mexican cuisine is not apparent NOB (North of the Border). The depth and breadth of what the Mexican kitchen can turn out is truly amazing. From insect cuisine, which is still alive and well, to the extensive use of seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, ferns, cactus and other plant life, to the complete use of all and any protein source, the Mexican kitchen is probably only equaled by the Chinese and Indian kitchens. What we see and eat in the U.S. as "Mexican" is only a minute fraction of what is consumed in Mexico on a regular basis.

                                      5) What Mexican cuisine has in common with Chinese and Italian (which wouldn't exist as we know it without the Mexican influence) is that it is very much a land based cuisine. There is a very strong connection between the land and the culture in Mexico and both contribute substantially to the cultural identity of Mexico and the Mexican kitchen. Most of the great cuisines of the world have grown out of connection to the land and the sense of identity that comes from that which is then reflect in the cuisine.

                                      The best meals I had in 2005 were in Mexico City; and they were contemporary Mexican from kitchens of the young turks who studied elsewhere but have returned home to put down roots. The grand dame of Mexican cooking - Diana Kennedy - is the ultimate purist and has very little use for the modern, contemporary chefs. Her complaint is that they lack technique and disrepect the nature of the Mexican kitchen. However, those that have mastered traditional techniques have been able to take the traditional kitchen in new directions and to new heights. In order for this type of transition to happen the foundations of the cuisine have to be solid, which Mexican is. The fact that these contemporary chefs can take traditional methods, techniques and ingredients and produce incredibly innovative and outstanding dishes (meals) without loosing the integrity of the tradition or the ingredients is, for me at least, validation and verification that Mexican cuisine is, indeed, world class. That it can continually reinvent itself without loosing the link and connection to it's history and tradition speaks to it's place as one of the 3 great cuisines of the world.

                                      Mexico and Mexican cuisine is so much more than assorted table sauces (salsas), overstuffed tacos, soggy chile rellenos and jumbo burritos from San Francisco's Mission District. To dismiss it as such misses the whole point of the cuisine.

                                      1. re: DiningDiva

                                        A close Mexican friend relayed some of your same sentiments about Mexican cuisine and the American perception of it.

                                        His basic analysis beyond the lack of understanding and what we get here: Mexican food (in the late 80s, when he said this) in the U.S. is generally where Italian food in the U,.S. was in the 50s (spaghetti and meatballs and combo plates). It took another 20-30 years for it to move onward in the U.S. perception. He's about right...in the past 5-6 years full Mexican cuisine is coming to light in the U.S.

                                        Of course any ethnic cuisine is mired in cliche, stereotypes and pop culture context, i.e., Olive Garden, PF Changs, Chevy's.

                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                          I think that there might be a disconnect as to what we are referring to as “cuisine”. Listening to what has been stated about “Mexican cuisine” thus far to me there appears that there was no real consistent cultural hand guiding it through its development (which by no means suggests that it doesn’t taste wonderful). Apparently, taken as a whole it’s at best an amalgam of possible cuisines and influences now defined under one “Mexican cuisine” umbrella rather than being a cuisine guided by any central ideas or principles? But as the OP states, the royal kitchen (as in China, France, Ottoman Empire), with a long dynastic reign, can guide the development of a cuisine whereby it takes on a more singular coherent character and can thusly be better referred to as a discrete “cuisine” than others can be?

                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                            I think if you did a study of Aztec, Mayan and Inca civilizations you might reach a different conclusion about there not being a consistant cultural hand guiding the development of the food.

                                            I have my history books on those cultures packed away, so I can't provide details and I was focusing on other aspects of those civilizations other than food.

                                            The court life at the time of the last Aztec emperor was far more lavish than anything in Europe. They kind of had their priorities correct. Gold was merely decorative, they used cocoa beans for currency.

                                            So there are stories of Montezuma drinking his daily chocolate out of golden goblets and throwing them away ... the important part was the chocolate, eh?

                                            So to your critera ... at the time of the death of the Aztec empire ...

                                            1. the presence of a royal kitchen,

                                            The article mentions that the kitchen had specialized cooks using exotic, hard-to-find foods. It says ...

                                            " Sahagún describes a tlatoani’s daily meal: “two thousand kinds of various foods; hot tortillas, white tamales with beans forming a sea shell on top; red tamales; the main meal of roll-shaped tortillas and many foods: sauces with turkeys, quail, venison, rabbit, hare, rat, lobster, small fish, large fish; then all manner of sweet fruits.” (quoted in Berdan 1982:51)."

                                            2. a long dynastic reign

                                            This is not the greatest article on the Aztecs, but it puts the culture at a couple of hundred years. It has some links to the society which discusses some sophisticated agricultural systems and road systems that allowed for varied crops or transporting different foods efficiently from any part of the empire.

                                            3. the availability of a variety of foodstuffs.

                                            Heck, there are Latin American foods that most of us are still unfamiliar with. The ones we are familiar with ... especially chocolate, corn, vanilla, peppers, potatoes and tomatoes ... changed the way the world ate. There are too many others foods and spices to mention.

                                            This article says ...
                                            "Tenochtitlan chose each day from an array of three hundred dishes: abundant fowl, tropical fruits, ice creams made using snow from a volcano, and fresh fish carried by runners from the Gulf of Mexico ... The majority of Aztec dishes were complimented by pepper sauces ... and accented with wild herbs"

                                            While current Mexican food is a fusion of many cultures, primarily Spanish, one could say that the cusine of the world is currently a fusion of the foods of Mexico.

                                            I guess I don't see why Mexican cuisine falls out of your definition of having a 'more singular coherent character and can thusly be better referred to as a discrete “cuisine” than others can be?"

                                            If other cuisines have incorporated the very discrete and singluar aspects of Mexican cuisine, does that invalidate the original cuisine?

                                            And shouldn't a grand cuisine be a living cuisine?

                                            I wonder about calling Turkish cuisine a grand cuisine. Almost anyone could cite the impact of Chinese and French cuisine ... and Mexican. I'll bet few of us not only know what Turkish cuisine is or why it would be considered a grand cuisine.

                                            I guess I'm more curious about that. Ok, they had a royal kitchen, had a variety of foods ... though I'm not sure exactly what those would be ... and had a long dynastic reign. However, how does that differ from almost any culture out there? Really, I'm seriously asking, why is it considered above any of the rest?

                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                              Chinon00, I don't know whether to be stunned or flabbergasted by your comment. To utterly dismiss the entire Pre-Columbian history and culture as having "no real consistent cultural hand guiding it's development" would appear to show either gross ignorance or xenophobic elitism. The pre-columbian era stretched over several thousand years, the rise and fall of several major civiliaztions and several hundred dynasties. And like all empires it's power peaked and it finally fell. The development of food from subsistence to ritual to cuisine is well documented and well defined and has been for at least 500 years.

                                              The royal kitchen in France owes it's heritage to Catherine di Medici, a Florentine. The royal kitchen of the Ottoman Empire owes it's heritage to China and the countries along the Silk Road. Neither of these kitchens were guided by long dynastic reigns byt flourished by assimilating whatever was new into existing tradition. Which is exactly what Mexico did with the Spanish.

                                              The pre-columbian kitchen overroad the Spanish kitchen, not vice-versa. The pre-columbian kitchen was highly stratefied according to caste and food had tremendous ritual significant. Much of the "work" done between ceremonial periods was specifically food related and directed towards the next ceremony in an ever sustaining perpetual circle of time. As rworange has pointed out, the daily meal a the Aztec court far exceeded in scope and diversity anything known in Europe at that time; and the sheer size of those meals had been going on for generations, it wasn't something Moctezuma cooked up.

                                              Mexico is a country and its' cuisine has a clearly defined trajectory that shows development, assimilation and evolution over several thousand years from the hunter/gatherer nomads to the modern era. Really, only the Chinese and Indians cuisines can make a similar claim.

                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                I really want to visit Oaxaca and try the cuisine. I am quite aware that it is a foodie city. There was some connection from China with Mexico when the Budhist monks went to spread their message and they arrived in Mexico as recorded. I'm not saying that there was any influence on the cuisine, but I'm curious to find out for myself if there are any similarites if at all. I spent 8 years studying the language and culture but have not really visited many places in Mexico yet.

                                                I know that true Mexican food is something that is really good and nothing comes close to it here in the US.

                                                1. re: designerboy01

                                                  "There was some connection from China with Mexico when the Budhist monks went to spread their message and they arrived in Mexico as recorded."

                                                  I am interested in this statement - unknown to me - could you give more details?

                                                    1. re: kare_raisu

                                                      I heard about this watching through some historal videos a long time ago. If I recall correctly the voyage was recorded but there was not much written about the voyage. Its recorded in some chinese historical books if I recollect correctly. But I do recall a voyage by the monks and they reached the west coast down in Mexico.

                                                      1. re: designerboy01

                                                        Is this what you were referring to ... the Buddhist monks in Mexico in the 5th century? What would you be looking for in terms of an influence on the food?



                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                          I don't think I emphasized that there is a relation. I cannot comment on Mexican food as I know I haven't done most of it yet.

                                                          Those were very interesting articles that you found. Thanks!

                                                    2. re: designerboy01

                                                      I think Oaxacan food is the best in Mexico, although I have Pueblano friends that scream whenever I say this. El Naranjo in Oaxaca city is Iliana de la Vega's nouvelle interpretation of traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Just reading the menu on the restaurant's web site will cause you to start trip-planning. Also, despite recent problems, Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world.

                                                      1. re: henrytberry

                                                        El Naranjo is currntly closed and not expected to reopen in the immediate future. Iliana and her husband have left the city. My source for this information is someone who knows her.

                                                        1. re: henrytberry

                                                          Oaxacan is great cuisine and along with the Yucatan are the often the first to allure too many foreigners, but there are many other states that are equally compelling to Oaxaca.

                                                          Oaxaca is relatively well marketed. Interestingly, Oaxacans have been on the receiving end of much racism within Mexico... because they are shorter than most Mexicans, their appearance etc., As a response, Mexico's progressive intelligentsia has responsded by celebrated Oaxaca with equal zeal... and this has resulted in Oaxaca receiving quite a bit more exposure than other states.

                                                          One thing I always noted, is that in Mexico City culinary competitions... Chiapanecas (women from Chiapas) seemed to win a disproportionate amount of time. Their cuisine was at least as compelling as that of Oaxaca.

                                                          Then you have Veracruz which delivers a whirlwind of flavors from the very meditaranean flavors of the Port of Veracruz to the Cajun like cuisine of Alvarado, the subtle Totonac cuisine with its use of Vanilla as a savory spice, to Central Mexican cuisine of the Huasteca, the very African cuisine of the Sotavento region... it really is a dynamite.

                                                          And then Puebla... the state that has provided many of Mexico's most glorious dishes like Chiles en Nogada, Huitlacoche Crepes, Rabbit Mixiotes etc.,

                                                          There is alot about Mexico to discover... and I don't really think you can call out Oaxaca as being superior to the other top foodie states.

                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                            I wasn't arguing that Oaxaca was the best, but rather that the food there is my favorite, and that is because of the different moles. Puebla has mole poblano, but Oaxaca has seven different classic moles, including my favorites Mole Negro and Mole Coloradito. Heavenly. Certainly the food in Vera Cruz is wonderful as is that in the Yucatan. I have only spent a brief time in Chiapas, but would like to get to know the food better. As to the above note re El Naranjo, I hope it isn't true. The web site is still up and advertising the place, so I'm hopeful.

                                                            1. re: henrytberry

                                                              The indigenous (Purhépecha) cuisine of the state of Michoacán is as rich in variety, flavors, and tradition as anything Oaxaca offers. Michoacán has its own moles, its own tamales, its own caldos and guisados. The home cooking in Michoacán is stupendous.

                                                      2. re: DiningDiva

                                                        Sticking to pre-Columbian Mexico for the moment to me when you or anyone mentions "several" major civilizations there seems to me to be therefore a lack of centrality to the "cuisine" which I personally find problematic in this argument. I might be parsing here but taken individually (e.g. Aztec) I would agree that that might meet my definition here of a "grand cuisine". But to me “Mexican cuisine” might be best described as a confederation of multiple cuisines (some or all of which might be [have been] considered “grand”).
                                                        Additionally, I would like to thank all of you for a very interesting discussion thus far. I admittedly may have initially underestimated the “grandeur” of some pre-Columbian cuisine.

                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                          Please define "confederation of multiple cuisines" and why wouldn't you consider Chinese a "confederation of multiple cuisines". Why or what leads you to the conclusion that there is a "lack of centrality". I don't follow your reasoning and I don't understand how you came to these conclusion.

                                                          You've made some provocative statements that dismiss and discredit Mexican as a viable cuisine and world player. Yet you have not provided much in the way of support for those statements. There have been a number of rebuttals. Now it's your turn. Please provide us with some support for your statements/point of view. What led you to your conclusions?

                                                          'Splain yourself please

                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                            I've been having trouble following Chinon00's reasoning as well.

                                                            1. re: kare_raisu

                                                              I have a fuzzy view of that reasoning.

                                                              Unless a person spends any time in Mexico it is difficult to gain a true appreciaction of that amazing society ... food and everything else.

                                                              The problem is that there was such a campaign to obliterate a culture. So the majority of our written records are from the point of view of the peoples who took over the power base.

                                                              Chinon00 writes ...
                                                              "But to me “Mexican cuisine” might be best described as a confederation of multiple cuisines (some or all of which might be [have been] considered “grand”)."

                                                              The words "have been" implies this all died with the Aztecs ... or whatever. That's the mistake.

                                                              The Mexicans took the best of the European and incorporated it into their cuisine, made it their own. They really didn't cave food-wise like so many conquered nations. It still remains a unique, distinctive cuisine.

                                                              And as you mentioned WAY earlier kare_raisu, what is going on with the innovative chefs in Mexico City is amazing.

                                                              Mexico seems to be the quiet culinary revolution ... a cuisine whose focus is based on patience. As said before, the food of that nation changed the way the world ate ... so thouroughly that most don't even recognize or acknowledge the source.

                                                              Until there is more research and ... quite frankly ... press ... given to that part of the world, Mexican food as a 'grand', focused and cohesive cuisine won't be appreciated.

                                                          2. re: Chinon00

                                                            to follow your logic I think would mean that only a highly centralized, beaurocratized system could generate a "grand" cuisine - that seems highly unlikely. the fact that their is a strong central government, as with the ottomans, french or chinese (at many stages of history) can only be a factor which might encourage the systematization or codification (as with the french) of the cuisine itself. I think it more likely, that longstanding, highly developed cultures such as the chinese, indian, persian, italian or mexican will develop wide and deep cuisines, which may or may not reach pinnacles in their court cuisine (the emperor may be a philistine)

                                                            1. re: jen kalb

                                                              I agree; I tried to say something like this below. French culinary history might have been far different (and less exciting) had Louis XIV not been a gourmet (or, at least, an astute politician who used elaborate banquets to keep potential rivals close to him, in plain view at Versailles) England fills all the conditions for a great cuisine, but I suspect the monarchs there (except Edward VII) viewed obsessive concern with food as prissy, unmanly, and, most damning of all, un-English.

                                                              1. re: Brian S

                                                                To address the "English question" apparently the Tudor Court for example had wonderful and extravagant feasts. But as I understand it by the late 18th century "the majority of the English population began to move away from the land, and [the decline in English cuisine] was compounded by the effects of rationing during two World Wars (rationing finally ended in 1954), followed by the increasing trend toward industrialised mass production of food." - wikipedia on English Cuisine

                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                  They moved away from the land in the 18th century because the aristocrats chased them out. (Enclosure Acts) But the land remained, and the aristocrats, who should have been the chief gourmets, reaped the benefits. (And now, to some extent, we in America do. Game birds shot by Scottish lairds find their way to American restaurants, which aren't allowed to serve game hunted within the US)

                                                      3. re: DiningDiva

                                                        There are a number of cuisines that have been mentioned as elites by some group of people or another and they include Chinese, Indian, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, French & Mexican. Personally, I think all these are certainly elites and trying to narrow them down to the Top 3 or 5, is plain foolish because no one can really understands all of them. I personally consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on Mexican cuisine, and fairly well versed in the others... but my knowledge of Indian – for example – is so minute relative to my knowledge of Mexican cuisine that I would automatically assume that Mexican cuisine is 100 times more diverse & sophisticated than Indian etc.,

                                                        Now adding to all the great comments posted by Dining Diva, here are the arguments for Mexican as one of the elite cuisines:

                                                        The world’s top consumed spice... the Chile (Capsicum). Originally from South America, the first Chile was a fierly little round ball similar to the modern Chiltepin. Mexicans genetically modified it into 95% of the varieties consumed around the world today. That is right no Chiles in Thai, Indian, Chinese, Hungarian, Spanish or anyother cuisine without Mexican horticultural expertise. The Chile is the world’s most widely consumed spice / condiment whether measured in weight, volume or $.

                                                        The world’s two favorite flavors... Chocolate & Vanilla have both been described as such. Anyone who has seen the plants & knows the process to get them to be edible understands who impressive it is that are so widespread today.

                                                        The Turkey... while not as prolific as the Chinese Chicken, in its Mexican form (that is not the incredible blandness to which it has been bred in the U.S.) it is a culinary delight that immediately replaced the Peacock on the royal tables of Europe.

                                                        Other notable foods of Mesoamerican horticultural genius include Pineaple, Avocado, Peanuts, Pecans, Sunflowers, Blackberries, Papaya, Amaranth, Cassava (Tapioca), Achiote, Allspice, Guavas and countless other products essential to Mexican cuisine that are not know globally like Cactus, Huitlacoche, Zapotes, etc.,

                                                        With regards to cooking techniques, Mesoamerica already had many of the sophisticated techniques associated with Classical French, several centuries ahead (I will describe the techniques in a bit). Did the French, Italians & Spanish create these techniques on their own or did they find their way to Europe? That is the million dollar question. Consider a couple of vignettes:

                                                        The Spaniards (as chronicled by Diaz del Castillo & others) were so impressed by the Aztec & Totonac civilizations that their nobility castes were maintained intact and provided a high status in New Spain. The artists classes including the cooks were often taken to Spain as presents to the crown. The Spanish crown was so impressed by their contributions that they created the title ‘Duke of Montezuma’ which was granted to the Aztec nobility that settled in Spain... among the Duke’s role was to bring cultural talent to the crown.

                                                        Marcos Cipac was an Aztec artisan who was taken to Spain to study painting, when he returned to New Spain in the late 1520’s he painted the world famous image of the Virgin of Guadalupe which is considered to be equivalent to that of the European masters of the time.

                                                        The Spanish Crown got so much attention for their Hot Chocolate (heavily spiked with Vanilla) that the French were obsessed to break their deeply held secret. In the 17th century they figured out Chocolate was coming from Mexico, and were able to grow it in their colonies but failed miserable at trying to transplant vanilla... only the Totonac lords held the secret (another group granted nobility status by the Spaniards). The Totonacs became insanely wealthy selling Vanilla to the French (in Paris you can still see one of the Totonac mansions), until the French figured out the pollination secret in the 19th Century and started growing it in their colonies.

                                                        European cooking at the time of discovery, was fairly limited... with stewing, baking & roasting being the primary methods & no noted use of multiple methods. In terms of flavors it was limited to saucing with wine, preserved fruits, and spice route spices. There is no documented, extensive use of herbs & salt. In contrast in Mesoamerica, they did flavor foods extensively with herbs, salt, chiles, fruits, preserved fruits, wines, liquors, brews, true spices (achiote, allspice etc.,) and used sophisticated cooking techniques & combination cooking techniques. The following lists some of Mesoamerica’s most impressive cooking techniques:

                                                        Closed Pit Cooking aka Barbecue finds its oldest expressions in Eastern Mexico about 4,000 years ago. In Mexico that usually means a combination of dry heat, steaming & smoking. This didn’t really catch on in Europe but it did spread everywhere else (thanks to Yankee 19th Century Colonialism)

                                                        Mixiotes... steaming meats & vegetables with sauces inside pouches made of Agave... a sublime dish that was presumably plagiarized by the French (Papillote)... the French were basically the Microsoft of the culinary world. Agave wine & other alcholic beverages were often used as the steaming liquid adding to the dishes sophistication.

                                                        Molcajetes... Mesoamericans frequently seared meats & vegetables over volcanic rocks while saucing them continously... a process that resulted in tenderness, carmelization & intensely deep flavoring.

                                                        Moles were another common technique in Mesoamerica in which a meat was first poached to create a rich broth, then drained & seared in the Molcajete method with a flavorful paste, then reintegrated with the broth... Moles were not limited to the thick, nut based sauces we know of today and include the types of Tomato sauces that deeply influenced Italian, French & Cajun cooking.

                                                        Delicate Soups & Stews have been in the Mexican repertoire for thousands of years before French Classical Cuisine.

                                                        Ceviche... even prior to the Spanish contributions of limes, Mesoamericans lightly pickled fish & seafood in vinegars made from Pineapple & other tropical fruits.

                                                        In addition to these techniques that most likely influenced European, there were many other impressive elements involved in Mesoamerica that made it a complete cuisine such as Grilling, Roasting & Smoking.

                                                        Of course on top of all the Meso American greatness you add in all the contributions from around the world...

                                                        Spice Route & North African Spices
                                                        Asian fruits & vegetables like Tamarind, Mango, Cauliflower
                                                        Mediterranean ingredients like Wine, Capers, Olives & Cheeses
                                                        African ingredients like Watermelon & Yams
                                                        Contemporary French plating & 19th Century Pastries

                                                        And the numerous undocumented techniques that undoubtedly came with them, and you have one absolutely grand... yet underrated & misunderstood cuisine.

                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                          Not to ignore the wealth of knowledge that you've posted but I wanted to make clear that the point of OP was to examine a theory that I'd read which argued that due to some clearly defined contraints that there are 3 "grand" cuisines on earth. I merely wanted a reaction to this theory and whether we thought that it was a sound one or not. I believe however that due to some chowhound's love of certains foods (i.e. Mexican) they've tried to "force a square peg into a round hole" by attempting to apply these contraints to that "cuisine". I've found that problematic. What would be a better approach for them would be to suggest that the theory is rubbish in my opinion.
                                                          The theory works best I believe with France which essentially constructed a singular codified cuisine starting around the Renaissance and stretching forth to today. I keep emphasizing singularity because for me that's the beauty of the theory; that the cuisine was created and controlled as an almost singular event with an almost singular character. As "grand" as Mexican cuisine apparently is it isn't that, is it?

                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                            Well, judging by the passion and number of responses, I'd say you got a reaction to the theory ;-}

                                                          2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                            Mexican cuisine is as complex and developed as any other cuisine. I think what's going on here is both a lack of/ or limited amount of knowledge by the general population, stereotypes and geographic reality.

                                                            Italian and French are easily acessible to the western palette and has cultural factors related to Western Europe and the U.S. understanding it. Chinese, Turkish and Greek have a geographic connection and inter-connectiveness that the West can't ignore and has a long history due to trade routes and such.

                                                            Mexico in many ways is isolated from Europe and even the U.S. (due to xenophobia) and thus doesn't get the same "play". Even if it did get "play" it might still suffer from cliches and stereotypes of what the cuisine is about, just like Chinese food does to some non-CHs.

                                                            It some ways the general success of TexMex/anglofied version of Mexican cuisine in the U.S. is its own enemy to understanding the better stuff. Not sure how this could change but ambassadors beyond Rick Bayless and the two hot tamales would be a good start.

                                                            1. re: ML8000

                                                              I enjoyed reading the posts about Mexican food. I know that there is a bad representation of it in the US as well as many other cuisines. We only get a small taste of the real thing in the US. French seems to be marketed the best but I really think it is overrated as I travel and see more.

                                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                                Yup you are right on. Mexico has an image problem that will only be corrected if Mexico develops its economy. When that happens... it will become the next Italy. Relatively small (compared to China & India) but having a disproportionate influence on Fashion, Food, Art etc.,

                                                                In general, Mexico is this cultural behemoth waiting to be discovered. For example in the world of "Classical" Music... the country's modernists such as Manuel Ponce, Sylvestre Revueltas & Carlos Chavez, Jose Pablo Moncayo & Candeleraio Huizar produced work that was of the stature of Stravinsky, Bartok, Debussy & Shostakovich, yet they are only being discovered in Europe now. If Mexico ever becomes an economic power... I am sure the history books will come to the conclusion that no other country had such a collection of Modernist Masters... yet in their time no attention. Similarly, today Mexico has a group of a dozen composers that are creating stuff that is equally compelling as those early masters... yet they get little attention.

                                                                Mexico is just not in the path of power & influence.

                                                              2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                Some of the crops you mentioned as Mesoamerican are not: pineapple, peanut (from what is now the Amazon lowlands of Brazil and Bolivia), amaranths (Andes), cassava (Brazil).

                                                                Also, the Aztecs were desert "barbarians" from the north who conquered the Nuahuatl, not the people of science (and cuisine).

                                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                  What few paltry glimpses I have had of the glories of Mexican cuisine come from a Pueblan restaraunt in Queens. I think if anyone who thinks Mexican cuisine is limited to tacos reads this post it will give you some idea. Please, Mr EatNopal, could you glance at it (and also http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... )and maybe comment (by replying to the post on Outer Boroughs) if it sounds authentic to you.


                                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                                    Well as complimentary as you are, how can I not respond. Check out that thread.

                                                        2. re: DanaB

                                                          I thought the Potato is from South America.

                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                              I would assume it was introduced into Mexico by the Spaniards.

                                                              1. re: Sharuf

                                                                Its use in Mesoamerica predates the Spanish, but it was domesticated in the Andes.

                                                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                  Exactly, the centers of origin of beans, potatoes, some of the amaranths, quinoa, and other crops are the Andes, largely of what is now Peru. We had the book "Crops of the Andes" when it first came out with us in Bhutan. Many of the Bhutanese mistakenly thought that many of the Andean crops were from the Himalayas.

                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                    ... better than the coffee growers who thought that they were growing the raw material for bullets.
                                                                    [totally not kidding on this one.]

                                                        3. I agree about French and Chinese, but the third is open to debate. Indian has a good claim, due to the highly sophisticated and developed concepts, and the variety and scope of ingredients and techniques.

                                                          There is a lot to be said for the "palace cuisine" theory

                                                          1. I will add another criteria. How many of each type of restaurant do you see and what is successful. Admittedly this is an empirical test, but I think it bears discussion as well.

                                                            Based on my area, the West Village/Downtown Manhattan there are probably more Chinese and Italian restaurants than any other ethnic types. followed closely by either Mexican or Thai.

                                                            Turkish would be way down on the list as would greek (I think Greek would be higher than Turkish by this criteria).

                                                            While there are a few French restaurants, it seems that this is not a growing thing. My son who goes to the Culinary Institute says that they are closing the Escoffier restaurant there. No one wants the perceived as heavy food/sauces.

                                                            If you measure by how people eat out in Manhattan, and by reflection how many of each restaurant type there is, this is how I think it would come out.


                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: darkeraven

                                                              Interesting point, but ultimately what is being discussed is something bigger than what people want to eat in NYC. A great cuisine may not be what ordinary people in a different place and time chose to recognize. It has its own integrity.

                                                              The lack of desire of eaters here for "heavy sauces" (Im so tired of fresh, clean and light!) does not invalidate the claim that the french cuisine is a great one. Even if culinarians cease to cook food they call french, the influence of French training, methods, aesthetics is extremely important.

                                                            2. Empirically (and I'm not disagreeing, just giving a different perspective), viewed from my geographic assignment, based on the number of restaurants and how people eat out, Mexican or Tex-Mex would have to rank at the very pinnacle! Of course, I'm not based in the 212 area code. From down here in Texas, the three great cuisines would have to be Tex-Mex, Barbecue and Chicken Fried Steak.

                                                              1. Frugal Gourmet argued for China, Greece, Rome.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: designerboy01

                                                                    I agree in terms of influence. I think those three cuisines influenced a lot of other regions.

                                                                    The article argued for 'royal' cuisine, which I am not sure is a good criteria. I know I wouldn't want to eat some of the stuff in Chinese imperial court (like bear paws).

                                                                    1. re: notmartha

                                                                      You'll never know if you don't try. My friends would never eat turtle, but after I ordered it and they ate it they asked me what it was and I told them. There was surly a moment when their face turned white but they did go back to the restaurant to eat it again.

                                                                1. According to the criteria listed, I'd have to include Thai.

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                                    Pad Thai is a dish that came from China.

                                                                    1. re: designerboy01

                                                                      She did not equate Thai cuisine with Pad Thai. Royal Thai cuisine is highly refined, complex, and sophisticated, I agree H.C.

                                                                      1. re: laguera

                                                                        I'm familar with Royal Thai Cuisine but the influence is still from China.

                                                                        1. re: designerboy01

                                                                          You said "Pad Thai is a dish that came from China," thereby implying that one noodle dish represents the entire cuisine. Yes, some dishes, like Pad Thai, are clearly Chinese-based, and other dishes are clearly influenced by Indian cuisine, but Thai cooking has evolved over hundreds of years into a unique and complex national cuisine. Like other great culinary traditions, Thai cooking has taken influences from surrounding regions and assimilated them elegantly into its own cuisine. You should check out David Thompson's book Thai Food. He has written a very detailed history of Thai cuisine.

                                                                          1. re: laguera

                                                                            There are many thais that have descended from the Chinese. Its usally the ones with the lengthier long name. Indian spices did have an influence all over Asia including China. China did trade spices with them.

                                                                            1. re: designerboy01

                                                                              And the Thais originally lived in Yunnan Province before migrating south to empty land in the 13th century.

                                                                              1. re: Brian S

                                                                                Pad Thai is a Yunnan dish. I also recall that Thais cook with a Wok and the technique of stir fry came from the Chinese which is just one example.

                                                                                1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                  the indians also cook with a pot shaped much like a wok and have since very early times - but that doesnt mean it comes from china.It may simply mean it is a logical shape for a cooking pot placed on top of a charcoal burner.

                                                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                    The wok comes from China...no doubt about that.

                                                                              2. re: designerboy01

                                                                                Actually the Thais with the long name are people of importance in their village -- honorifics are added to the family name in Thailand. Thus, someone named Pravongviengkham is (or was) more important than someone named Pravong.

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek


                                                                                  This architecture article states that "The Chinese have been a force in Thailand since the dawn of the nation’s history..."


                                                                                  You can do your own research on the internet if you are still not convinced.

                                                                      1. re: Kagey

                                                                        Great question and I look at it this way, Chinese is to French as Japanese is to Italian. Both Chinese and French cooking rely more heavily on processing than do either Japanese or Italian cooking. To me Japanese and Italian cooking are mostly about enjoying the elemental flavors and textures of the ingredients. Their food is more likely to be “naked”, as it were, where as Chinese and French are usually draped in a sauce. Not to say that their cuisine masks flavor. It’s just that the Chinese and French try to “create” where as the Japanese and Italians try to mostly not get in the way of the inherent flavors and textures of the food.

                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                          Cantonese food is not known for food being draped in sauces. I think the flavor of the dish comes from the ingredient. I'm not sure of what chinese food you are talking about but I hope its not one of those chinese fast food joints.

                                                                            1. re: Chinon00

                                                                              You have a very little understanding of the chinese cuisine or japanese. A lot of Japanese food comes from China, they don't even bother to translate and use chinese words. If you go to a Shaihanese restaurant you'd be struck at how much it resembles Japanese.

                                                                              1. re: welle

                                                                                Could you please tell me if what you are talking about is the availability of Chinese cuisine in Japan and vice versa? Thanks

                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                  No, I was saying that many Japanese dishes have Chinese origins and chinese names. Great examples are u-don (won-ton) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Udon, ramen (ramyen) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramen and gyoza (guo tei). I've had a dish very similar to Dongpo pork (popular in Shanghainese restaurants) at some japanese restaurants (don't remember what it was named). Then there is chahan, tea eggs, just to name few very popular japanese dishes of Chinese origin. If you can find a Shanghainese restaurant where you live, you'll change your outlook on Chinese food - very clean 'naked' flavors as you said.

                                                                                  1. re: welle

                                                                                    I appreciate what you are saying and will explore these options if they become available to me. But aren’t there are exceptions to every rule? Can’t we agree that typically Chinese cooking uses more oil, more ingredients and heavier seasonings than in Japanese cooking? Aren’t rich sauces (thickened with corn starch) served with many proteins in Chinese cooking?

                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                      "Can’t we agree that typically Chinese cooking uses more oil, more ingredients and heavier seasonings than in Japanese cooking? Aren’t rich sauces (thickened with corn starch) served with many proteins in Chinese cooking?"

                                                                                      No and no.

                                                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                        Fine. But what bothers me when ethnicity gets involved is that it's difficult not to offend people. If I were arguing that there were virtually NO broad differences between Chinese and Japanese cuisine I would probably be equally chastised (and probably by the same people).

                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                          Maybe Chinese and Japanese cuisines are one of those concepts for which, as Wittgenstein argued, you can't provide a definition. Instead, each element of the concept is linked to some others by some sort of "family resemblance". In the case of these cuisines, the links are historical -- i.e. they were eaten in China, or in Japan.


                                                                                      2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                        Chinese food especially Cantonse food focuses on the flavor of the original ingredient. A dish coming out covered with sauces is considered a failure. I know there are restaruants in the US that do this but in China this is not considered a sign of a good chef. Shortcuts are used in the states like frying which is actually a short cut. If you go to a real chinese restaurant in China they will follow the steps of the proper preparation. I cannot say chinese food in the US is representative of that in China. There are shorcuts that are taken like pre-frying certain foods because it is faster than preparing it with the proper steps. The fact of the matter is that it just makes more economical sense to take the shortcuts because you can sell more dishes in a night at a restaurant.

                                                                                        1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                          Fine. But would you say that there is ANY FUNDAMENTAL difference between Japanese and Chinese cuisine? Surely there are differences but are you suggesting that there are virtually NO BROAD differences between the two?

                                                                                          1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                            To me, the greatest fundamental difference between Japanese and many regional Chinese cooking is in the use of spices. Living in a Chinese household and growing up on mainly Cantonese cuisine, my view of Japanese food is that it is mostly bland and sometimes too sweet. But that's just me and my admittedly limited exposure to Japanese food.

                                                                                            1. re: dpan

                                                                                              Could you please elaborate on the difference in the use of spices, and the blandness and sweeness of Japanese food (in your view)?


                                                                                            2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                              Of course there are differences. Even among different provinces in China there are differences.

                                                                                        2. re: welle

                                                                                          Welle, you're incorrect in saying "Japanese dishes". Save for udon, those dishes are actually considered Chinese dishes in Japan. Japanese wouldn't consider them anything but their own take on Chinese. An apt analogy might be pizza, spaghetti, and other Italian foods in the U.S. Many ramen shops in Japan are actually called "Chinese Soba". In Japan, when you go to eat chahan, gyoza, and often ramen, you go to "Chinese" restaurants the same way we would go to "Italian" places to eat pizza or spaghetti in the U.S. I use quotation marks because each culture obviously has it's own take on another's cuisine. But it's imitation or assimation more than influence. Gyoza and chahan and tea eggs aren't Chinese influences. They are just considered Chinese food. In Japan, ramen of course, has taken on a life of it's own, but then again, Japan is well known for taking things from the outside and assimilating them into Japanese culture, albeit with their own particular spin, often elevating it to artisinal status.

                                                                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                            Yes, Silverjay, I'm aware of that Japanese consider them Chinese dishes, but it's not well-known to people outside of Japan. I just used these dishes as well-known examples popular non-sushi foods. And I do like Japanese spin on many of them, especially ramen and fried rice (I only like Japanese version of fried rice anyway).

                                                                                            1. re: welle

                                                                                              But that's exactly what I asked you earlier and you said "no".

                                                                                              1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                it is still 'no', if you read Silverjay's comment, U-don is still considered Japanese dish. It can be found in sushi restaurants. The term 'chinese soba' implies that soba is native, but the base of it, buckwheat originates in Central Asia and came to Japan by way of China most likely. I'm not a scholar on the subject, but so much in Japanese way of living and thinking came from China by way of Buddhism and Daoism centuries ago, it's hard not to suspect many more imports.

                                                                                                1. re: welle

                                                                                                  Ok but could you please explain your statement to Silverjay "Yes, Silverjay, I'm aware of that Japanese consider them Chinese dishes, but it's not well-known to people outside of Japan". Are they Chinese dishes as you stated to Silverjay or are they Japanese as you've stated to me twice now? Can you understand my confusion?

                                                                                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                    Chinon, outside of Japan they're known as Japanese, but in Japan, they're called 'Chinese'. Re: heavy starchy sauces, you're probably thinking of Cantonese food which is just a sliver of all what's available in China. There are also heavy broth and thick sauced dishes in Japan. A lot of what you refer to as 'clean and un-masked' taste comes from a school of thought by way Zen Buddhism and Daoism (it just got adopted wider in Japan and into all aspects of their lives). Again, I have a very superficial knowldege of all of this, and suggest you do your own experimentation and research. I see you're in Mid-Atlantic - not very far from NYC - maybe you can come here and visit a couple of Shanghainese and Japanese non-sushi restos and come to your own conclusions.

                                                                                                  2. re: welle

                                                                                                    Welle, fellow NYer, "Chinese soba" means "ramen" in Japan. Buckwheat soba is a different thing all together and called by a different name. It would be unusual to find any noodles, udon or otherwise, available at an authentic sushi restaurant in Japan, as things tend to be specialized there and people avoid eating rice and noodle dishes in the same sitting- though that's changing thanks to Japan's izakaya culture. But anyhow, the legacy of Chinese influence behind udon is probably lost to the average Japanese, though noodles are considered, in general, of Chinese origin in Japan- cept' the ones made out of squid!

                                                                                                    Some of the assertions made on this thread about the influence of China on Japan are way overstated. Japanese living and thinking today bear very little relation to Chinese. It's just not even worth bringing up Buddhism and Toaism. I would counter that with Shintoism, the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Meiji Restoration, not to mention a completely different language, racial background, and various other things not worth getting into. The list of similarities and influences is much shorter than that of differences and deviations, deliberate or naturally occuring. I've had these discussions many times with Chinese friends when I lived in Japan and the only people who tended to make these assertions were Chinese-Americans/ Canadians trying to take some kind of obscure pride in their own culture. Mainland Chinese loved being in Japan BECAUSE it was so different from their own culture. My Shanghaiese friend enjoyed pulling me aside and waxing poetic on the differences between the two and he took particular pride in his ability to navigate Japanese culture as a Chinese.

                                                                                                    Regarding cuisine, so different ingredients and techniques came from China or other places? So what? I don't think that's the same as influencing the cuisine. Go eat in Japanese ryokans or in the small fishing and mountain villages around Japan and try to identify Chinese influences. If the best you could come up with is some Buddhist monk from a few hundred years ago, you might as well go back to Adam and Eve picking an apple off a tree. Let's just give the individual cultures their due and move on....Besides, I could probably make a compelling argument that daily Japanese food is more influenced by French and continental cuisines, more than Chinese.

                                                                                            2. re: welle

                                                                                              I agree there are many dishes in Japanese Cuisine take for example of this Mabo Tofu which is a dish from Szchecuan. The recipe is from a Japanese food expert and it even suggests to use Chinese toban sauce.

                                                                                              I don't get it how wonton and udon are related. I can see at some Japanese restaurants on how they serve shui-mai and I can see Udon being related to Silver Needle Noodles more. In chinese historical texts, it states the first people that landed on the islands which are now called Japan are from China. They were sent out by the Chin Emperor (the Emperor where China got its name) to look for the plant/herb that would give him eternal life. They did not go back because they knew they would not be able to find this plant and chose to stay on the island for just a quick short synopsis.

                                                                                              1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                As I`ve mentioned in an earlier post, mabo-tofu and gyoza and the like are simply considered Chinese food in Japan. They appear in Japanese cookbooks and as part of the daily food vernacular the way pizza or spaghetti have in the U.S...Japanese research shows their genetic heritage to be closely associated with Mongolian and Tibetan bloodlines, mixed with Caucasion, and Southern Island (like native peoples of Taiwan). Japanese draw very little heritage from Han Chinese- genetically speaking. Regarding influence, much of Japanese history is defined by long periods of isolation from the outside world, including China. Japanese cuisine leans very heavily toward all things from the sea. It`s focused more on freshness, simplicity, and is less greasy than Chinese cuisines. European influence is probably much more substantial these days.

                                                                                                1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                                  In the Chinese history books, the people of Japan did come from China who were on the search for a herb that would provide youthfulness to the emperor.

                                                                                        3. re: Chinon00

                                                                                          I disagree with this analogy. I think Chinese and Italian are more similar, as both are more garlic based and the food is prepared simply (stir fry anyone?) and the flavors present more boldly. French and Japanese highly emphasize meticulous visual preparation and more subtle stocks/lighter flavors.

                                                                                          1. re: jeanki

                                                                                            How do you come to the conclusion that Chinese only do stir fry? I guess you never had dishes that were steamed, stewed, baked. Did you ever hear of Hotpot?

                                                                                            I would like to know why you think everything is garlic based? What has been your experience with Chinese food?

                                                                                            1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                              I'm reading jeanki's response and I don't see where she said that the Chinese only stir-fry -- she said that the food is prepared simply. She also said that it was MORE garlic-based, not that it WAS garlic-based.

                                                                                              Your tone is a bit condescending there; there are others besides you who have eaten Chinese food, and yes, that includes me -- I'm talking about food in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Chongqing and Beijing, not about Panda Express and General Tso's chicken here. Huoguo, by the way, is originally Mongolian in origin, and whether it's "Chinese" is up for some debate, such as whether pizza as Americans eat it is Italian food -- but it's so essentially a part of the Chinese food scene that it must count somewhere.

                                                                                              That said, I have my own issues with the reply -- first, while much more garlic is used in Chinese cookery than Japanese, neither is especially "garlic-based" -- and neither is Italian necessarily. If you want a garlic-based cuisine, look to Georgia (the country next to Armenia, not the state with the peanuts and Jimmy Carter). Italian cuisine doesn't stir-fry, and while a lot of foods are quite simple (Val di Chiana steaks), there are just as many that are layered and complex (ragu bolognese)

                                                                                              I don't know that you can draw any kind of broad relationship between Chinese, Italian, French or Japanese -- all four of those cuisines have so many regional interpretations that any attempt to pair them will result in so many exceptions that the rule is cast in doubt.

                                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                To add to the flay here. Both China and Italy are big countries, that borders on other countries. So within regions of China and Italy there are a great variation of food.

                                                                                                Cantonese food is known for more light cooking. Shanghaiese is hardier and uses a lot of soy sauce typically. You know about szechwan food and its spiciness. The northern chinese are known for their wheat based noodles and dumplings, and the southern for more rice based dishes.

                                                                                                Same goes for Italy. Regions closer to Switzerland has different food than the regions closer to Greece, for example.

                                                                                                Can't really generalize by the use of garlic, etc and cooking methods.

                                                                                                I think Chinese food does influence the food from other countries, just as Indian food influences China and others (see how many variations of curry you can find - Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Cambordian, etc.)

                                                                                                I thought the rumor is also that Marco Polo bought back chinese influences to Italy (noodles, ice cream). I wouldn't know for certain of course, since I wasn't there. ;)

                                                                                                But Japanese usage of miso and bonito flakes aren't very common in chinese cooking (actually I don't know any, but can be mistaken).

                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  Agreed with das ubergeek, but I figured if people were drawing analogies between Chinese to French and Italian to Japanese, that one could argue the opposite just as easily. Of course such analogies are limited, and I know Chinese food isn't just garlic and stirfry (I cook it myself, I'm Asian, and I prefer to eat at more authentic establishments thank you very much), but the overall approach to me seems more direct and about the food's flavors than the incredibly aestheticized approaches of French and Japanese cuisine, and this I feel rings akin to Italian food as well. (I know this because both Italian and Chinese cuisines tend to be my favorite to cook.)

                                                                                                  1. re: jeanki

                                                                                                    What Italian dishes do you cook regularly or most often?

                                                                                                    1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                      Nothing fancy. I'm an amateur home cook. pasta/gnocchi dishes with different types of sauces (italian sausage, red sauce, pancetta sauce, clams/seafood, etc), chicken marsala/piccata, salads like caprese, roasted red peppers, so forth. I do happen to use garlic in most of these though.

                                                                                                      1. re: jeanki

                                                                                                        Sounds good! But what you are describing to me as "Italian" I might consider "Italian-American" cooking. Italian-American cooking (that I respect and have enjoyed for most of my life) is very different from most Italian though (as you might know). Italian-American cooking tends to be rich and heavy in both sauce and ingrediants. Italian cuisine while differing greatly from region to region still across the board tends to be more about celebrating the inherent flavors, fresh ingredients, etc, above anything else (to my observation). A few meals that I’ve had in my travels to Italy have been wonderfully simple. And if a protein had a sauce or dressing it was usually a great olive oil, lemon, or a simple pan gravy made with a little wine or vinegar (no flour or corn starch). It is this “light” character that is apparent in much of Italian cooking that I find similar to the Japanese that I’ve eaten.

                                                                                                        1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                          In terms of undressed star ingredients, Japanese perhaps is more akin to Italian. I also fondly recall my favorite steak ever in Florence, a bistecca florentine, that was simple, full of flavor without much adornment. Likewise, sushi is about the freshest possible ingredient in and of itself. But in terms of the fastidiousness of the preparation, and to me, the less bold flavors of Japanese, are more akin to French than Italian. Even in Tuscan or Italian mainland form, the flavors are clean but still sing boldly to me, more boldly than French or Japanese. I still think there is more of an oil/garlic reliance overall in both Italian and Chinese cuisines (not all dishes in either of course). And some of the dishes I cook are not just Italian-American but straight Italian in origin. (I took pointers from my sister who lived in Rome.)

                                                                                                          1. re: jeanki

                                                                                                            I'm curious what are your favorites which are straight Italian origin?


                                                                                            2. re: Chinon00

                                                                                              There are so many exceptions to these generalizations that they are really pointless.

                                                                                              I would not say that either Italian food (think of the cheese and pork products used for example) or Japanese food (miso and other soy products, smoked products, pickled and dried products)are at all free of "processed" foods. In both cases there are manipulations of the natural tastes that go on. It just occurring at a different stage in the preparation process.

                                                                                              1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                Just a point of clarification. When I mentioned "processing" I was talking about the cooking process itself and not "processed foods". The skill, manipulation, and multi-multi-step procedural nature of much of say French classic cuisine is what I was referring to.

                                                                                                1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                  I understand - I was just pointing out that in some cuisine, a lot of the "processing" occurs in the making of the ingredients, and not in the phases of putting the dish together.

                                                                                            3. re: Kagey

                                                                                              Their cuisine only became a hit after they got soy sauce. And guess where that came from? Also 70-80% of their culture came from the Chinese.

                                                                                              1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                You make me laugh. Because, you know, Japanese food is completely and utterly based on soy sauce, the same way all Italian food uses butter.

                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                  It wasn't much before they had soy sauce.

                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                      I obviously cook a lot of Japanese (being one). Shoyu would be about tenth on my list of needed ingredients.

                                                                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                        This was what was stated at a Japanese food conference at the Japan Society in New York. I didn't make this up this is what I was told and they were a panel of Japanese food historians. Don't have any intention to insult anyone but this is what was stated from an organization that promotes Japanese culture.

                                                                                                        1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                          Tell us about was was stated at the food conference. Do you happen to have a link?

                                                                                                          1. re: Silverjay

                                                                                                            This was several years back. Maybe Japan Society has some info. I had to pay to hear this.

                                                                                            4. Why three? Great cuisines certainly include Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican, French, Japanese...

                                                                                              1. Or, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese-schezwuan, Vietnamese-french, Cajun/Creole - which is way better than French as a whole, for me anyway), and Southern!!
                                                                                                Oh and let us not forget great deli!
                                                                                                How can there only be three?

                                                                                                1. Maybe there are only two - French and Chinese.

                                                                                                  I'm really more familiar with French food, but in both French and Chinese, I imagine you are also not limited to the "royal" cooking listed in the original post. There is a refined side of each cuisine, but also a huge selection of regional or specialized cuisines. In fact, it was after the overthrow of the roaylty during the French revolution that the concept of a restaurant (a french word) came into existience as former court chefs branched out into providing meals for the wealthy and middle class.

                                                                                                  So not only is there the very refined classical French cooking, you also have a whole mini cuisine of Bistro fare that itself has regional differences. Provence has a whole cuisine to itself, as does the Alcasce and other regions. And then there is French wine, which may be the most complex, varying, and refined food stuff in the world.

                                                                                                  I love Mexican food, but I do not see a similar variety and complexity. A lot of great food, but I don't think there was ever a simlar defveloptment of the food for royalty, or the huge variety of cooking technique and development of the chef as a profession, or the retaurant culture, to extend the cuisine the way we see in France. These elements all seem to exist in China.

                                                                                                  If anything, Italy may equal them. I don't know enough about Turkish food to comment on that. Japanese food is also very unique and does contain some of the great cuisine elements, but it certainly does not have the influence of Chinese or French.

                                                                                                  So I think you can argue about number three, but I does anyone deny the first two? If so, it indicates that something about these two stands out over all others.

                                                                                                  1. I think it is kind of reductive to call certain cuisines 'great' over others. It can smack of a certain elitism and prejudice. I for one have actually found French cuisine incredibly overrated. Mainly style/preparation, not much to say for flavor in many cases (especially bistro cuisine which is often to me just gussied up pub fare). Chinese is too large an umbrella as well (sichuan is quite different than shanghainese or cantonese although there are some similarities), and actually in terms of preparation seems more akin to Italian fare, and if anything Japanese is more akin to French cuisine in terms of valuing distillation of flavor and heightening of presentation over straightforward rusticism and wok hay.

                                                                                                    I don't think having 'royal cuisines' mean much either. I actually find royal food in Korea acutely dull in flavor relative to homestyle IMO.

                                                                                                    I also find Ethiopian food brilliantly flavorful; I don't know enough about its history to say if it is royally based or not, but I don't think many will mention it as a 'great cuisine.' I've never cared all that much for Greek or Turkish food personally, so I find it hard to call a 'great cuisine' relative to Indian or Mexican or Vietnamese. I've also been quite happy with Peruvian and Thai and Afghan and Caribbean and soul food among others. My personal faves are Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese and Korean.

                                                                                                    I think there are only a handful of agreed upon bad cuisines (sorry, but Eastern European, German, and English and yes, American, come to mind) although even these have great dishes within them. I think most of the rest are great in their own right and people have personal favorites within the rest.

                                                                                                    French and Chinese benefit more from hype, tradition, size, and culinary schools perhaps.

                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: jeanki

                                                                                                      Where do you think the Vietnamese, Japanese, and Koreans got their influences from?

                                                                                                      1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                        All Asian cultures have some relation to China, and yes perhaps culinary influence (Vietnam also has a heavy French influence interestingly enough) but that does not mean one can be labelled more 'great' than another.

                                                                                                        1. re: jeanki

                                                                                                          Culturally China had a strong influence on Vietnam. In Vietnam the Forbidden City was even copied on a minature level for their capital. The cultural influence of Vietnam is not as strong on France as China is to Vietnam, do you think?

                                                                                                          1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                            I'm having trouble following you. Certainly the cultural influence of Vietnam on France is weaker than that of China on Vietnam, but that's not what we're talking about -- and I put to you that the French influence on Vietnam is felt out of proportion to its short duration -- Vietnam has been next to China since there was a Vietnam, but France has only been involved in Vietnam for the last couple of hundred years.

                                                                                                            Vietnam also has a lot of foods that were copied by China and Thailand -- lemongrass is not a common ingredient in Chinese food (compared to, say, ginger), nor is caramel sauce, but there are Chinese dishes (yuecai, of course) that use them in Vietnamese-inspired dishes.

                                                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                              Vietnam was under the rule of China for several Dynasties. That is why I say there is an influence. The foundation of their cusine is based on soy sauce too. Mainstream chinese do not cook with lemongrass. Maybe Martin Yan has a dish, but soy sauce is used more mainstream in Vietnamese cooking.

                                                                                                              1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                nuoc mam. FISH sauce. would it make you feel better if every country in east asia turned towards the middle kingdom and wept soy-sauce tears, crying, "we are nothing without you!" ten thousand times?

                                                                                                                1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                  Soy sauce is mainstream in Vietnam???????? When and where were you last in Vietnam?

                                                                                                                  1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                    Okay, you're definitely looking at the world through shoyu-coloured glasses. Soy sauce is rarely used in Vietnam.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                      My reply to that seems to have been removed recently. My response was:

                                                                                                                      Northern Vietnamese Cuisine uses more soy sauce and does more stir frying. Other parts do use nuoc nam, but guess where fish sauce was first invented?

                                                                                                                      Also remember:
                                                                                                                      Banh bao is Chinese baozi.
                                                                                                                      Chao is Congee
                                                                                                                      Com chien Duong Chau is Yangzhou fried rice
                                                                                                                      Mi bo vien is Chinese egg noodle soup
                                                                                                                      Banh Bot Chien is a Chinese pastry and in Vietnam they serve it with soy sauce!

                                                                                                            2. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                              they all have SOME influences from china, but not all. All countries also use native ingredients that are local to their countries when cooking. I also think that all 3 are very far from chinese cuisine, but have some similarities to it.

                                                                                                              1. re: bitsubeats

                                                                                                                Yes every cuisine might have the influences of others (I know Korean chili peppers actually originated from trade with Portugal in the 1500s, and some Korean stews seem oddly related to cataplana portuguese (i.e. use of clams and pork together in stews)), and it is interesting to trace, but ultimately each national cuisine develops its own unique oeuvre within their own right, and even within each country there are regional variations. It's kind of banal to say everything descends from French or Chinese when all cultures and cuisines have an ongoing interplay of influences and then develop their own identity. It's not just PC, it's reality.

                                                                                                              2. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                I think we know where your enthusiasm lies, designerboy.

                                                                                                                The question of greatness is a totally separate one from influences. Unless a cultural creation is entirely derivative (and thai, vietnamese, japanese, korean culinary achievements are NOT entirely derivative of China) it deserves assessment on its own merits. It would be as silly to diminish the achievements of thai or japanese cooks because at some formative stage their society's cuisine was influenced by chinese culture, than to diminish the achievement of a great artist because he studied the works of a lesser artist in the academy.

                                                                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                  As I mentioned earlier, I absolutely enjoy all the cuisines offered in this world and I do enjoy eating other dishes of different cultures. I even will go as far to say that I do enjoy these dishes, but overall I do believe Chinese cuisine is one of the great cuisines, and I can't see any of these other cuisines in Asia overshawdowing it.

                                                                                                              3. re: jeanki

                                                                                                                While I completely agree with you that it's reductive to call certain cuisines "great", I found it mind-blowing that you chide others for being elitist and then go on to summarily dismiss Eastern European, English and German food as "agreed upon bad cuisines." Agreed upon by whom? You were kidding, right? Have you ever had real German food? And from what area of Germany? Dismissing French cuisine based on your experiences? Your first two sentences run counter to everything that follows. I don't understand.

                                                                                                              4. if were gonna get reductivist, heres one for ya:

                                                                                                                wine cultures: good
                                                                                                                this includes france, italy, spain, japan and china among others...

                                                                                                                beer cultures: bad
                                                                                                                this includes czech republic, germany, the uk among others.

                                                                                                                im currently travelling in china and i just wish that people could really get a sense of how the representative restaurants in the us are only the tip of the iceberg as to what chinese cuisine truly is, and that there are so many provincial styles that are completely unrepresented in most of the united states with each province holding a library of hundreds if not thousands of dishes and each small city being famous for something...(most people have tasted cantonese, sichuanese, taiwanese/fujian, shanghainese, beijing...perhaps they've also dabbled in yunnan, hunan, maybe even shanxi, there are still some 20 something provinces you havent tried. once these guys start getting rich and start sending expats to the states, were in for a real treat!

                                                                                                                i've been having pratically seven course meals for lunch and dinner for weeks on end with hardly any overlap of dishes and wildy varying techniques, ingredients and styles... i'd like to see anyone achieve this in europe! no one can lay a pinky finger on chinese cuisine...

                                                                                                                just to point out. tea culture can be just as rarified, refined, and expensive as the finest juices that the french or italians can pump out... i've had single small pots of aged pu er tea that cost more than a bottle of petrus, and there are a few individual tea trees in yunnan province that are insured for somewhere close to a million dollars (where that actuarial data came from is beyond me)

                                                                                                                also the variety and absolute deliciousness of chinese breads is often overlooked as most chinese food in the us is southern rice based cuisine dominated... deliciously light and crispy fried crullers, hearty bings, variegated and shredded zhua bing, uyghur naan bread, steamed breads (mantou and meat or vegetable buns) it just goes on and on man, you cant even imagine!

                                                                                                                dont even get me started as to how many types of pasta/noodles there are in chinese food.

                                                                                                                i've been in shanghai nearly 10 days and i havent even had shanghainese food yet. im going to "qun" tomorrow with friends though!

                                                                                                                if by great cuisine, one means a central node whose effects can be visualized geographically as if they were seismic waves that extended concentrically outwards. chinese cuisine is the big one whose effects rippled the furthest and with the deepest faultlines across this great globe of tastiness...

                                                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: modernist

                                                                                                                  very well said about chinese food and tea. I'm not as well-versed, but my SO who has lived in China, always sneers at how overrated French and Japanese foods are; and especially Japanese tea.

                                                                                                                  1. re: welle

                                                                                                                    The tea culture was learned from China.

                                                                                                                    1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                      Yes, and even the tea ceremony. But not too many people know it and are willing to pay premium for so-so Japanese tea, but not for superior chinese tea.

                                                                                                                      1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                        ... and is rarely practiced in Japan.

                                                                                                                    2. re: modernist

                                                                                                                      Thank you. Wait till you get to Canton and eat there. The Cantonese food served in the states are not much than what you can get there.

                                                                                                                        1. re: modernist

                                                                                                                          "wine cultures: good
                                                                                                                          this includes france, italy, spain, japan and china among others...

                                                                                                                          "beer cultures: bad
                                                                                                                          this includes czech republic, germany, the uk among others."

                                                                                                                          Pooh pooh. First of all, Japan and China are beer cultures as well, as the so-called "rice wine" is in fact a beer. And in the second place, your dismissal of Northern European and UK food as "bad" bespeaks either profound ignorance of the subject or simply that it's not to your personal liking. Sauerbraten bad? Stuffed cabbage bad? Choucroute garni bad? Viennese boiled beef and weinerschnitzel, English mutton and roast beef, Scottish kale soup, cock-a-leekie and roasted salmon bad? The only problem I can see with beer-culture food is the fact that they do tend to go best with beer, and that's strictly a personal problem: I'm no longer allowed to drink it...

                                                                                                                        2. My impression is that most of these "grand cuisine" classifiers are talking not about influence, primarily, or what tastes good, but about widely recognized, codified, traditional cuisine (cooked mostly for the rich, until recently, pretty much by definition). Which certainly fits French and Chinese. I think you can make an argument along those lines for Mexican, Japanese, Turkish. Persian, anyone?

                                                                                                                          1. I would like to say that all countries to me have "grand cuisines" or are considered as such. It's too difficult to say who is the "grandest" who has the most influence on who and so forth. It's impossible to compare countries to each other because all are completely unique.

                                                                                                                            1. It sounds nice and politically correct, but I don't agree.

                                                                                                                              1. I would say the persian/moghul cuisine tops the ottoman/turkish in its range and influence.

                                                                                                                                1. I too once wrote a post which tried to examine the impact on cuisine of factors such as courtly cuisine and territorial expansion. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/302932 But I never thought great or grand cuisine REQUIRED the presence of these factors. In fact, a courtly cuisine might end up to be stultifying. Most of Chinese cuisine evolved independently of the Imperial chowhounds in Peking. And, though I wrote that a strong imperial regime led to conquest and thereby access to different ingredients, I later realized that a strong regime wasn't required; 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.

                                                                                                                                  Nor do I think that great means most influential or widespread. Spain and Portugal would get honors here for spreading manioc to Africa, sweet potatoes to New Guinea, potatoes tomatoes and corn to Europe and cumin to America. American fast-food and chain restaurants might be a runner-up. Great to me means elegant, inspired and (maybe) complex, and it might be found in a peasant's hut as well as in his king's grand palace.

                                                                                                                                  1. IF you agree with the posited definition (royal kitchen, dynastic reign, availability of a variety of foodstuffs), then yes, I suppose the three would probably be the 'grandest'. Then again, I think a lot of posters are choosing to argue for different defining criteria, which makes the question of grandest an 'eye of the beholder' thing. As a wise man once said, "Every man thinks he's got the prettiest wife at home."

                                                                                                                                    As for me, the grandest cuisine is easy...whatever Mom cooks. Mom was (still is, in fact) a great cook. Except for her red cabbage...yuk.

                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                      I agree, the most important ingredient is L-O-V-E and who can give that da best!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                                                                                                        Palace cuisine is stupid and not tasty (just because you CAN eat something, and it's hard to catch, doesn't make it GOOD, just prestiguous). Give me peasant cuisine any day of the week!

                                                                                                                                      2. I think the three above-mentioned cuisines' 'Grandness' has also benefited from their written languages and cultures of meticulous chronicling of all things especially palatial. That's the reason someone can pull out their ancient recipes and revive, improve on, adopt and import/export them; and that’s the reason that many other great civilizations’ cuisines like Meso-American are not on the list.

                                                                                                                                        1. After thinking about it some more, I feel Classic French Cuisine, not regional cuisine, not Bourgeois cuisine, is in a class by itself. Elevated to an art, with strict rules, techniques, and a body of work ( cookbooks and treatises) to back it up.

                                                                                                                                          The only thing that would be close to a second would be Classic Chinese Cuisine.

                                                                                                                                          The idea that Mexican and others might qualify is absurd. Although they might cometimes be delicious,they just don't reach the high level of science and art that is French Cuisine.

                                                                                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                            Two points... Classical French cuisine was non existant before it plagiarized Florentine, Greek, Mexican & Spanish cuisine.

                                                                                                                                            Second, I vastly prefer the French Cuisine in Mexico that incorporates native influences like Chiles, Huitlacoche & others and which also incorporates Mexico's superior agricultural products.

                                                                                                                                            Yes, Classic French Cuisine is an art... but the Mexican version of it takes it to another level.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                              A few points : Classical French cuisine did not plagiarize Florentine Cuisine. The techniques and ingredients were brought to France by Marie de Marie de Medicis when she became Queen of France.

                                                                                                                                              I may prefer Texas BBQ or other foods; that doesn't make them great Cuisines.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                Sure it may have started with the Medici contribution but the French also borrowed pastry techniques from the Greek & like I have noted, many techniques from Meso America. That the French made some improvements yes... but most of it was incremental... yet some Frenchists act as if the French invented food.

                                                                                                                                                Part of me likes to give the French credit for taking food so serious, codifying it perhaps to a greater extent than other civilizations before them (although they weren't the first)... but the other part of me kind of laughs at French cuisine. They take a basic flour & butter sauce common to the Spanish & Italians for many centuries... make the tiniest little changes and give each variation its own name. Then you have misguided foreigners (including many Mexicans) who think its the pinnacle of culture. There are certainly things I like about Classical French cuisine... but - really - most of the dishes are pretty silly and so misguided like putting a whole tenderloin in pastry.... yes it takes some skill, but the flavors end up being so simplistic. Other than the great job they do with the upscale restaurant experience most of the dishes are less compelling than a decent street taco.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                  I thought it was Catherine de Medici and she married Henry the II in France. Its funny, when I was in Florence and was speaking to the local people about this, they tell me that they even bought over the fork to France.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                Whoa, hold on there, hoss. You can claim art but NOT science for your fave cuisine--whatever it might be.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                  If this is true -- and I don't think it is -- it is because people have always thought it was true. The rich gachupine elite sent from Spain to rule the colony now known as Mexico, and the Mexican-born Criollo elite which took their place after independence, always regarded Mexican cuisine as peasant food, and preferred to eat Spanish or French cuisine. The development of Mexican cuisine as a courtly elite cuisine was thus halted just as Louis XIV began it in France. And yet... mole poblano, hardly the most complex Mexican sauce, can take two days to make, involves the preparation and blending of three pre-sauce mixtures, and 50 ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                                                                    I think you are missing the point. It isn't how complicated a cuisine is that makes it great. I think it is how codified and developed and refined it is. A system for cooking, serving, and dining, if you will.

                                                                                                                                                    I think only French. and perhaps Chinese qualify. That doesn't mean that other cuisines are not delicious, interesting, or complicated.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                      Wouldnt Japanese then qualify?

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                        I don't know enough about Mexico to answer this. In fact, no one does. The Mexican moles we love might well be the legacy of a two thousand year old courtly tradition. Mexican history before the Spanish burst on the scene like a diablo ex machina goes like this: A great empire rose and flourished, with its capital at city A. Rich and prosperous for a few centuries, city A declined for causes unknown, and was ultimately abandoned. Meanwhile, city B a few hundred miles away became rich, and an empire rose around it. Then city B declined and C came along, etc. But all these cities probably adopted the culture (and food) of their predecessors. Then the Spanish came along, 90% of the population died, and all the records the conquistadores came across were burnt.

                                                                                                                                                  2. All history, whether it's culinary or political, is written by those at the top of the food chain (sorry, couldn't resist). In other words, white people who live in North America and Europe.

                                                                                                                                                    Since western culture looks toward France as the pinnacle of style and culture, it's natural that we think of French fashion, design, and yes, cuisine, as the standard by which all other cultures are measured; i.e. the most fashionable street in Prague is called Parizska, and hip hop artists make reference to Louis Vuitton. The French have codified their cuisine, and for Americans, Julia Child has reinforced our belief in this system.

                                                                                                                                                    From the western viewpoint, China is the mirror in which we peer, and see ourselves upside down. Remember your parents telling you if you dug a hole in the back yard, you would reach China? We look at Chinese cuisine as the "other", and its stature is enhanced by its exoticism. China has the same vast physical resources as France to produce high quality food ingredients, and the intellectual stamina to consume items that we in the west might consider repellent. (Though eating an ortolan in France might evoke the same response in a Chinese.)

                                                                                                                                                    If you carry this argument to its logical conclusion, the third great cuisine is American. We own the world's resources, and have the leisure and luxury to enjoy them. Alice Waters' influence is greater than we imagine. We enjoy the freshest and widest range of ingredients, are adventurous enough to combine them in novel ways, and have a class of food enthusiasts who can support artisanal chefs. All of this is further driven by a media that thrives on the latest exotic cheese from the Dingle Peninsula.

                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                      Boy your logical conclusion certainly fortifies the concept that "history is written by the victor", as you suggest in the beginning of your message. While I like American cuisine (I eat some everyday), I have to disagree that American cuisine is the third great cuisine out of common sense given the complete scope of "American cuisine" which naturally includes agriculture and horticulture, i.e., you grow what you eat. You can't seperate them neatly.

                                                                                                                                                      In the past 50 years American agriculture and the food industry has bastardized just about every food product there is -- beef, frankenfood veggies, yada, yada, yada...you name and it has been altered and devoided of taste and texture. Alice Waters is certainly influential but she's really a small counterweight to the American way of food. AW's perspective, great as it is, is influenced or is really a rededication of region/slow food applications that other countries/cuisines have used forever.

                                                                                                                                                      If you're talking classic American cuisine, it's largely based on German and British traditions, evolved over many years with some adaptations to available foodstuff. Chicken Fried Steak is American Wiener Schnitzel...yada, yada, yada...same with roasts, stews, etc. Of course I eat this stuff, so what can I say?

                                                                                                                                                      Any way, America's legacy to cuisine might be fast food.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                        "Alice Waters' influence is greater than we imagine."

                                                                                                                                                        That is a little delusional... I don't she has much influence outside of the Bay Area. What she did in the 1970's was already done in several places around the world for centuries.

                                                                                                                                                        Wait... I get your point... the U.S. gets to dictate World History then in 100 years she IS the most influential culinary behemoth of her time. Go it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                            Every city in this country has its version of what Alice Waters started i.e. restaurants featuring locally grown, "artisanal" foods. "Terroir" has been embraced by America. A chef like Jean-Georges Vongerichten--who works in the US--was influenced by his stint at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, and it informs the way he cooks in America--thus, we have a unique cuisine being created in this country right now.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                              But that existed decades before Alice Waters... read around their have always been little inns & hotels around the country that raised their own turkeys & produce for their guests etc.,

                                                                                                                                                              Another example, in Mexico there have been restaurants like that since the 1800s and probably even earlier if you include the Convents which at the time were the main form of dining out.

                                                                                                                                                              Just because suburb lifestyle temporarily displaced the Farmers Markets in many places... doesn't mean that is true everywhere in the U.S. I know some towns in Washington State never stopped having farmers markets which sourced the local restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                              And in Mexico, the Farmers Markets have NEVER stopped since pre-hispanic days. Even in Mexico City, there have always been no less than 10 seperate Farmers Markets on any given day since my dad moved there in the early '60s. And the restaurants & cantinas there have always sourced from the markets and purchased specialty, artisinal foods.

                                                                                                                                                              Alice Waters did not invent anything she just copied what she saw (I believe in France), and which had already been going on elsewhere in the country. The push to to do the same in upscale restaurants was sparked independently throughout the U.S. by native Chefs that went abroad to train.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                I'm not saying that Alice Waters wasn't a huge influence on America, but she was an influence on one subset of restaurants... and she didn't originate it, nor was she the only one who was doing it in the US at the time.

                                                                                                                                                                Using locally-grown, in-season foods could only have happened in the US in the 1970's -- we were really the only ones who had given over our souls to the Stouffer's frozen dinner. Locally-grown, in-season, so-called "artisanal" foods has been the M.O. in most of the world, simply because there is nothing else available.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                  And in America too, of course. Varieties of corn that had, for best taste, to be eaten immediately after picking used to be popular, since that's what the farmers did. Now, only long-lived varieties are used.

                                                                                                                                                                  I know a woman here in Tulsa who will drive a hundred miles to the town of Porter in July because she makes peach pies only from one of several varieties of peaches grown in Porter, and believes that those grown in Porter are best.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: whs

                                                                                                                                                                  There are many dishes being created in the US but how many typical American homes eat these dishes or can even re-create them.

                                                                                                                                                            2. To try to answer the original poater's question (which I attempted to address just above http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/... }... that question being can you have a great cuisine without centuries of courtly centralized development, grand treatises, authoratitive cookbooks codifying recipes, academies of cuisine, royal banquets prepared by tyrannical chefs who subject their underlings to years of peonage before they too might win the coveted title of chef? By analogy with art, I think yes. Art in France developed like food until about 1860, with a central, tyrannical academy laying down the law. And then artists arose, like Courbet and Manet and later the Impressionists, who worked outside the system. The academy refused to let them exhibit in its halls. But today the academicians like Bouguereau are all but forgotten and those refused entry are recognized as great. In other words, the courtly, centralized system stifled art rather than promoting it. And to those who say, well, that academy laid the necessary groundwork for the rebels... what about the sculptures of central Africa? You can't say they are inferior to French painters... and indeed they revitalized modern art. And what I've just said about art applies equally to food.

                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                                                                                I think its more accurate to say that the art of the "rebels" grew out of and was made possible by their training in the academy. Which was itself informed by centuries of artistic culture and tradition. The rebels transcended the sterile academy, but it and the underlying culture provided fertile ground in which their talents could take root. Europe benefitted from centuries without major upheavals and exceptional cultural manifestations like great cuisine, painting and great musical achievements occurred. China developed a stable political and economic system which enabled the develop of a refined cuisine as well as other cultural manifestations(you dontcook a special dish or write a poem when you are running for your life) The ottomans, Persia, India, Japan, etc experienced enough centuries of stability to develop elaborate and deep cuisines.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                                                                                                                                  I agree about the French rebels. That's why I mentioned central Africa.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                                                                                    I dont think we are going the same direction on this. I think the rebels are a MANIFESTATION of the culture even as they transcend the traditional ways of it they learned from and are based on the traditions. The stability of the base traditions is essential, and their art was not the only manifestation. Cant speak to central african culture or the sculpures, though they are striking, but Id say the foreignness and directness of this art entered into the consciousness of western artists and revitalized it , just as the availability of a new ingredient or technique might have a major impact on cooking.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Beautifully stated. This has been an excellent string so far IMHO.

                                                                                                                                                                1. I have to think about this for several days...

                                                                                                                                                                  To answer the original question, I don't think the criteria stated: the presence of a royal kitchen, a long dynastic reign and the availability of a variety of foodstuffs defines a grand cuisine to me.

                                                                                                                                                                  Also, all the discussions of whether some cuisine is grand or not DOES NOT mean that if the cuisine isn't grand, it's bad tasting. I found good qualities out of all varieties of cuisines I've tasted, as well as bad ones.

                                                                                                                                                                  I will agree to the criteria:
                                                                                                                                                                  1) diverse usage of ingredients
                                                                                                                                                                  2) influence on other countries' cuisine
                                                                                                                                                                  3) the longveity of the cuisine (thousands of year versus hundreds)

                                                                                                                                                                  I for one cannot pick the top 3. It's like thanking people during the awards ceremony. Someone's bound to be offended.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. why 3? there are sooo many--chowhound delights--

                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: marlie202

                                                                                                                                                                      You must read the original post. We've been debating a theory that "Grand" cuisine is the function of certain criteria that apparently only three cultures comply with: French, Chinese and Turkish. So far the conversation has been IMHO outstanding with strong support for Mexican cuisine to be considered. I wish however that someone would speak authoritatively about Turkish cuisine's role in all of this.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                                        Using Google, I searched for French Chinese Turkish cuisine and found a lot of websites that repeated this theory. All of them are based in Istanbul!! Some of them provide descriptions of a grand imperial court willing to devote thousands of workers to food preparation (apparently using recipes that were a fusion of many of the cuisines under Turkish rule) I can't find a description of dishes that rival those of France and China. But there must have been some winners! And maybe some are lost forever.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                                                                                          My father in law (who is a San Diego gringo) has traveled France & Italy quite extensively. He did Turkey for about 4 weeks a few years back... hired a college professor to be his guide etc.,

                                                                                                                                                                          His conclusion was that Turkish food was much better than French or Italian. Just one man's opinion... but shows that an unbiased gringo can possibly come to that conclusion.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Brian S

                                                                                                                                                                            I think Brian has gotten to the root of this debate - it does look like the OP's theory must have originated or at least gained steam in Turkey - someone claiming parity for the Turkish cuisine with the two generally acknowledged biggies, France and China.

                                                                                                                                                                            The Ottoman cuisine is clearly extremely elaborate and drew from ingredients and techniques throughout the countries conquered by the empire - and then disseminating them back through the region. But although this is a great cuisine, the claim of parity with the french and chinese seems a bit chauvinistic - I certainly think their are a number of other cuisines that we have discussed in this thread that are at least as great.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: marlie202

                                                                                                                                                                          I think there are more than three, but not many more.

                                                                                                                                                                        3. While this is a fascinating string - allowing all hounds to expound on what they know about food history and various ethnic cuisines - the premise is fundamentally flawed. Why THREE cuisines? Why are they limited by a "country's" cuisine and why do we have to rate them? As humans, we inherently like to classify and define. For some reason we also find it terribly important to rate things. We draw borders to create countries, thereby creating languages out of "dialects" (the borders are really much fuzzier) and we like to declare one country or one cuisine better than the other. There has been migration and trade since prehistorical times. Who knows who made the very first noodle? Whoever it was was certainly speaking a language no longer spoken in that form today and living within borders that no longer apply. The posts here don't really get us any closer to answering the original questions posted at the top, but they certainly reveal an amazing amount about the chowhounds who have responded: their array of knowledge, experiences and prejudices.

                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: suse

                                                                                                                                                                            As for the update information on the Noodle debate, ABC News and BBC News reports the following in 2005 which is the latest on this subject:



                                                                                                                                                                          2. I think it is interesting that most of the theories about Grand Cuisine seem to limit the possible "grand cuisines" to three. Once again, our culture's strange love of threes comes up. Three cuisines, three criteria....

                                                                                                                                                                            Using the OP's criteria, however, lots of cuisines qualify as "Grand". To me, the biggest questions are: 1. the definitions of "royal kitchen" and "variety of foodstuffs", and 2. the implied injunction that the culture still be in existence.

                                                                                                                                                                            Given relatively loose definitions for question one and negating the second as a little absurd, you could define virtually any cuisine that evolved within the context of an empire as "grand". If there is royalty, there will be a royal kitchen. Most continental cultures, and many island cultures, have a variety of foodstuffs available. Off the top of my head, I would say that Aztec, Roman, Greek, Persian, Ethiopian, Japanese, Thai, and Indian royal cuisines qualify as "grand cuisines" under this theory.

                                                                                                                                                                            What makes it more complicated, and I think the confusion of this thread attests to, is that these royal "grand" cuisines are always accompanied and succeeded by regional, non-royal (maybe common?) cuisines that are arguably more influential anyway. More modern Mexican, Italian and American cuisines, along with regional French and Chinese cuisines fit into this category, but most don't consider those "grand" cuisines in the normal use of the word.

                                                                                                                                                                            Interesting thread, thanks.


                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Peter G

                                                                                                                                                                              Just curious - how do you qualify Thai as "grand" and not Chinese. I don't follow completely.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: suse

                                                                                                                                                                                I didn't mean to qualify Thai and not Chinese.

                                                                                                                                                                                I'm just saying, both Thai royal and Chinese royal cuisines qualify, given the rules in the O.P.'s post, as do a bunch of other cuisines, some of which I have listed.

                                                                                                                                                                                China and France (like most countries) both have robust cuisines that are NOT associated with affluence, so they have "common" cuisines that accompany their "grand" cuisines. The common cuisines have pronounced regionality, whereas grand cuisines might be more codified.

                                                                                                                                                                                I was saying that Chinese regional cuisine might not fit into the definition of "grand" cuisine; but certainly fine/artistic/royal Chinese cuisine would.


                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Peter G

                                                                                                                                                                                  What about Emperor Qianmong during the Qing Dynasty. This was the period that the Manchu's occupied China on the last Dynasty. He did like Beggar's Chicken which was produced by commoners and was served in the Imperial Court. As for this Emperor who was Manchurian and came from a foreign land he even enjoyed simple dishes of tofu from the monastary.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: designerboy01

                                                                                                                                                                                    Doesn't that explain it sufficiently? He was Manchurian -- Heilongjiang isn't exactly known for its impressive food! :-P

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                      Oh the Qing emperors were immersed in the Chinese culture and world. Qianlong was a connoisseur and a major patron of the arts. (so much so that the myth spread that he was really of Han Chinese descent. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qianlong


                                                                                                                                                                                      Beggar's chicken, despite the name, takes a day to prepare. Just as 16 century Japanese appreciated deceptively crude, even flawed, porcelain, so Chinese aesthetes appreciated seemingly peasant dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                      For Heilongjiang food, see http://www.chowhound.com/topics/247294

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                                                                                                                        The point is that he is the Emperor of China and he has access to all Chinese Chefs and cultures from dynasties back. Also it shows that even this dish can make it to the Forbidden city and still be a mainstream dish that can be replicated at home.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. With the criteria in mind, I would agree that Persian/Iranian food would qualify as a grand cuisine. Since they are an older culture than either Greek or Turkish(Persian empire trumps the Ottoman both in age and size),with a royal lineage.Persian food acts as the bridge between Indian(rice,spices,curries)and Greek/Turkish foods(Kebobs,eggplant,honey,nuts)etc.The "Khorasan Highway" stretched from Gandhara(India)to Iona(Greece)and at the time of the Persian empire became a well traveled route of trade for spices,foods,and most likely the first chowhounders in search of a good Chelo Kebab.

                                                                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: foodseek

                                                                                                                                                                                  That seems to me to be quite a stretch.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Fleur

                                                                                                                                                                                    Would you like to contribute a more thorough analysis? Foodseek's points are accurate and under the criteria mentioned above Persian cuisine could certainly qualify as a Grand Cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                    BTW... wine yet another item plagiarized by the French... Persia & the Middle East have a native wine tradition that precedes any European wine tradition (even Southern Spanish) by several millenia.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                                      I do not believe that the French ever claimed to be forerunners in wine production per se. No, the French have merely provided us the most heralded wines.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                                                                                                                                                                        French Wine... like much else about France... a bit overrated.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. This thread has devolved into a pissing contest between people claiming to know more about a particular culture than others. The mere fact that people are arguing which culture produced the "grand cuisines" as fact rather than opinion is ridiculous enough to begin with. most people in here just seem as if they want other to be impressed with how much they know rather than tryng to figure out if the actual theory has any merit.

                                                                                                                                                                                  In my opinion the theory is being treated as fact before it is even being questioned. To think that there are only three "grand cuisines" in the world is ridiculous. there are so many things wrong with this theory that is amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MVNYC

                                                                                                                                                                                    Very well stated. However, I think that there being a finite number of "grand cuisine" is completely dependent upon how we choose to define "grand cuisine". It's when we all have different criteria (or worse, a "dog in the race" due to ethnic pride, etc) that the true chaos begins. So is it possible that we all can try to agree on criteria or is that silly too?

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Hard to say. When you have the internet you have tons of opinions which may or may not be valid. People have their own agendas but may not have the true experience to back up said opinions. That said, the orginal statement to me seems to ,e as one of trying to legitimse Turkish cuisine. To be completely honest my fathers parent are from Korce Albania, one an ethnic Greek, the other an Albanian. The food that i ate growing up was for all intents and purposes Turkish food. So i would be somewhat biased in my opinion that Turkish food does not compare to the other two. This isnt even my major problem. My major problem is with the theory in and of itself. You can take a look at any of the cuisines mentioned and find foreign influences, tenchiniqes etc.. and realize that all cuisine is adapted and influenced by others. To say that one group is that influencial seems illogical.

                                                                                                                                                                                    As others have stated more elequently earlier in the thread, cusine is influenced by both the conquering and the conquered peoples. To say that the conquering people created the food is off base. All of these great cuisines are amalgams.

                                                                                                                                                                                    in my honest opinion, which is only MY opinion, no other cuisine can match the artistic mastery of the Japanese. Whther you consider them grand or not, i for one cannot think of another cuisine so devoted to mastery of techniques and showcasing of ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Simply opinion. I don't want to bore people with backup unless you really want to discuss.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Chinese

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. French

                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Italian

                                                                                                                                                                                      In that order.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. ok I believe that this statement has a point.

                                                                                                                                                                                        First of all I believe that I have right to have a word on: I am a turkish married to an italian, lived in france and have been a lot of times in greece. Also I love syrian/lebanese and persian food(both to cook and to eat). So here is my approach:

                                                                                                                                                                                        I believe that techniquewise French cuisine is really more sophisticated than both italian and turkish cuisines (although I do not like taste of French food). The reasons of this fact is explained in some of the posts above quite well. So there is a point to but French cuisine in the first three.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Chinese cuisine, I know only from restaurants which means nothing actually. However this page shows how wide it is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outline_...
                                                                                                                                                                                        Therefore, china has the only cuisine without doubt one of first three(even the most maybe).

                                                                                                                                                                                        Now, here I can talk about Turkish cuisine. Let me start from the claims on greek and lebanese cuisines. I like both of these food so much. Even it is possible to say that they are tastewise suberb(much better than french). However all my trips to these countries showed me that there is nearly nothing you can not find in turkey now. Actually I do not like this term of Turkish cuisine, instead we use Anatolian Cuisine. Turkish cuisine has a race based sense which is not true for the kitchens of Turks. Anatolia is culturally incredibly rich, it is where parts of mediterrania and ancient greece is on. Moreover, tens of different peoples/states lived in this area(one of the research shows that only 25 percent of Turks has turkish gene).

                                                                                                                                                                                        So Anatolian cuisine includes kurdish cuisine, greek cuisine, Syrian/lebanese cuisine, cuisines of balkans, cuisines of Turkish tribes that came from middle assia through Persia, levantine cuisine, armenian cuisine, assyrian cuisine etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Just to give an idea there are 300 different kinds of meatballs(köfte) in anatolia.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Both my wife and me agree that anatolian cuisine is richer than italian cuisine(My wife is a loyal supporter of italian cuisine).

                                                                                                                                                                                        Fragner states that "It is a matter of mere speculation whether the origins of this imperial culinary legacy are to be traced back to Greek antiquity, the Byzantine heritage, or the ingenuity of the glorious Turkish and Arab nations, not forgetting Phoenician and Jewish traditions; nowadays you may find support for any of these claims in various countries in the Balkans and the Near East"

                                                                                                                                                                                        It is possible to find perfect kebebs in lebanon, or super Humus in Syria, delicious mtchadi in georgia, faboluos Haloumi in Cyprus, tasteful fava in greece. However, in Anatolia in any city you can find these or similar dishes. Anatolians trys to make better baklava than syrians (Actually the master in halep, syria was accounted as best in baklava world, but he died and his students are teaching and making in anatolia now), and best feta (turkish white chees is much more diversed and sophisticate than greek feta) in the world. Because this is the heritage of anatolia, all the peoples living on these lands.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Therefore, I agree that chinese is absolutely in top 3. French techniquewise for sure in first three but for taste or variety, I think it is smaller than indian and anatolian (Mexican really I have no idea). Anatolian, is most probably in first three with indian and chinese (also Mexican?).

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Five, not three, grand cuisine families - From east to west:

                                                                                                                                                                                          East Asian (Chinese)
                                                                                                                                                                                          South Asian (Indian subcontinent)
                                                                                                                                                                                          West Asian (Turkish-Persian - the Persian relationship is more important than the Greek)

                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                                                                                            Where do goobers fall? (or guba, if you want to say it right...)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                                                                              This thread is pretty much dead but Karl S, I must seriously agreed with u. I was waiting to say it the whole time too, was just hoping that the thread would make the jump from 2006. if u wanna learn the history of cuisine and in turn decipher the great cuisines of world, study world history, not food history. Everything done in the west was basically already covered in the east, we migrated from around mesopotamia and followed the ocean to asia where we found spices. Chinese cuisine is definetly the most important player in asian cuisine.I find it to be very varied, developed, and highly influential to the areas around it.
                                                                                                                                                                                              In europe I think the same of jewish cuisine. Just as varied if not more than chinese. They had a major influence from central and eastern europe down the balkens through turkey into northafrica and up into the iberian penisula, most importantly the mediteranian.

                                                                                                                                                                                              Whenever there's a western european dish that calls my attention I usually try to back track it through the more temperate eastern europe into countries ending in -istan or south through middle east towards india.
                                                                                                                                                                                              the last most important cuisine has to be mexican its the only developed one from the new world. While it did receive influence from colonial europe, its also the best example in the americas of resistance to european influence, much unlike the rest of latin america.