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Help define cuisines by style, rather than ingredients

While there are certainly ingredients that show up in various cuisines, like ginger in thai, I'm trying to think more in terms of styles of cooking. Share whatever cuisine you have an awareness of, but avoid the obvious, like fresh and local. Naturally there's not many historical cuisines that seek out only far away foods that are past their prime.

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  1. But many cuisines do use a lot of dried/salted/fermented/preserved foods, so "fresh" is not necessarily a given. In fact, for many "historical" cuisines, using preserved foods was key to being able to eat when fresh foods flown in from far away places weren't an option.

    Wouldn't kimchee be a defining food of Korean cuisine? Fish paste a defining ingredient of Southeast Asian cuisines? Etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      I knew that would come up. I was just trying to weed out generics that would be true to some extent across most cuisines. What is it about their use of a particular fresh or preserved food that makes it unique to that cuisine.

    2. Could you articulate a bit better? For instance...you misapprehend Thai cuisines; "like ginger in Thai" when in actuality ginger isn't terribly prevalent, but galangal is...

      *AND* "fresh and local" isn't, as far as I'm aware, a cuisine, but, rather a practice that might be applied to divers cuisines. Of course then there's your dismissal of "not many historical cuisines that seek out only faraway foods that are past their prime." May I draw your attention to the the spice trade, the silk road, chiles in Thailand, potatoes in Ireland, baccala, etc etc etc

      2 Replies
      1. re: aelph

        that was kind of my point about "fresh and local." I was afraid of giving any examples because there's always someone on chowhound to negate something. Just like the preservation issue, I was certain someone would mention spices, but that's beside the point (which I'm aware I am not communicating well. I am being purposely vague so as not to direct answers, or create, "but, you're forgetting..." type answers." Once those spices, or means of sustenance get to a particular area, what is it about that cuisine that makes it distinguishably Irish, or Thai, or Italian, etc.

        I'll ask it another way. Forget ingredients... what is it about a particular cuisine that defines it?

        Or, think of it this way. I've got a box with bison, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, cilantro, and cumin. (you can add whatever other new world ingredients you'd like) what will a Irish person do with that differently than a Thai person an Italian person...

        Did I clarify or further confuse?

        1. re: kindofabigdeal

          I admit being a bit put-off by perceived vagaries in your initial request. However, the above response does qualify your post somewhat. I'm still not sure it's clear enough to posit actual contributory content; what intrigues me is this idea of a culinary taxonomy debrided of cultural authenticity. Or, perhaps I'm completely misunderstanding you?

      2. I guess I am unclear what you are asking here. While some "items" seem to always show up, i.e the garlic/onion family; so do styles, such as dumplings or methods of cooking, such as boiling vs. open fire roasting.

        Can you be more clear what you are seeking?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Quine

          I think you're starting to get at it. There's definitely some universals (dumplings), but I'm seeking the differences. For example some cuisines do things with ingredients that no others do, or they at least make their dumplings differently. There's always the possibility that its not a valid question though.

        2. I like the question! though I'm also one to randomly ask somewhat superficial questions b/c I'm curious- however I don't think styles define cuisines really, ingredients do. for ex, what would you do with:
          - potatoes, beef, milk, cheese.
          - sardines, raisins, fennel, wheat
          -rice, soy beans, greens
          -corn, beans, peppers
          -shrimp, coconuts, cilantro

          I tried to think about this, but I think this is like genetics, there's more variation within a population in terms of cooking style than among ethnicities (same goes for genetic divesity.) I think people make things that taste good from what they have. Some people within an ethnic group go heavy on the grease, others do not, some do not season heavily,others do.

          1. I'll try and give this a go. Being from Tennessee, It has been my experience that much of southern cuisine, as far as vegetables are concerned, revolves around cooking "low and slow", much like bbq, usually using a flavoring agent such as ham hock or pork in the simmering process.

            1. OK, I think I've got one:
              Swedish cuisine = Simple
              Swedes really do not complicate their foods. The most labor-intensive Swedish dish that I can think of is actually the famous Swedish Meatballs. For example, they eat their fish plain- steamed, broiled, or baked- with onion, dill, and possibly lemon for seasoning. They might make a stew out of it, but it will surely be a quick one with salt pepper and onion as the only spices. For the most part, they prepare their meat roasted whole (I have never come across a four-hour Swedish stew or braised pot of anything). Many foods are eaten cold on bread, such as pickled fish (herring five different ways, but always simple), smoked salmon, or cheese with butter. Sausage is served plain with mashed potato. I have never had deep-fried food there, nor anything stir-fried or sauteed with spices, sauces, wines, etc. Interesting, now that I'm really thinking about it... I love Swedish food, but I guess their furniture isn't the only way they're minimalist.

              1. Another way to describe it would be the lightly sauteed Southeast Asian, vs. hot and spicy Szechuan, vs. unflavored Cantonese, selected for freshness and tastiness.

                Another factor that could be thrown in is how the food is eaten once served. Plated? Family style? Rice with, or afterwards as filler?

                1. Then there are the two Italys. The one where olive oil is prevalent and the one where butter is used almost exclusively. The one where seafood is the main ingredient and the one where beef and other meats are used more prominently. Italian food preparation and ingredients used is very regional.