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Mar 9, 2011 05:56 AM

Lonely Planet on top food countries

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  1. Very interesting article. I myself would put China at the top followed by France (but I haven't been to Thailand yet). LP has that nice series of books on the food of various countries that is very enjoyable as well.

    1. my list would be different. Chinese food is good but only IN China. i do love LP's food guides though (too bad they discontinued them).

      11 Replies
      1. re: Pata_Negra

        I disagree. The Chinese food in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore are incredible. The Chinese/Indian food fusion is excellent too. The Chinese food in SF and NYC are a little inconsistent, but if you find the right place, can be terrific.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            most places in China don't have foods exactly like in HK, or Singapore.

            i agree that the food in HK and Singapore is fantastic. working on getting to Taiwan.

            1. re: Pata_Negra

              Taipei is where I learned to love Chinese food.

              1. re: buttertart

                Chengdu for me. read Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery book and got on the next flight to Chengdu where i stayed 9 days just to eat.

                a friend from teenage years is currently living in Taipei and i've promised to visit her [and of course to eat]. 2 birds with 1 stone.

                1. re: Pata_Negra

                  You'll love the food. I love Dunlop but I haven't been to Sichuan yet, have been to lots of other places in China.

          2. re: Pata_Negra

            Chinese food in China suffered terribly under the Cultural Revolution- restaurants were considered bourgeoisie, chefs were driven out, etc.. Later on, people were assigned to work in kitchens by the Chinese government who had no inclination or skill to work in one. On top of that, there were widespread food shortages and a generation or two where culinary memories and skills were wiped out because food was no longer available.

            It was in countries untouched by that terror like Taiwan or Hong Kong where food didn't disappear like that, and why the argument has been made that you can find better Chinese food outside China. Just like the Taiwanese pride themselves on keeping traditional Chinese written language alive, they pride themselves on keeping those traditional Chinese dishes that would have been lost in Cultural Revolution.

            1. re: hobbess

              Very true about the post-49 and the CR's effect on food (not to mention the disruptions in food supply and other issues in years previous to those events), however Chinese food in China has come roaring back since the Deng reforms, with provincial cooking schools etc. and promulgation of local cuisines in restaurants.

              By the time we were there in 1994 (Jiangnan, Shanghai to Nanjing corridor, extended visit focusing on Suzhou) food of a very high order, similar to - and in some memorable instances superior to - what we had eaten in Taiwan in the '80s, was available (along with more ordinary but largely still acceptable food in smaller restaurants).

              Taipei in the '80s was a paradise because as the KMT officials who came from the mainland died off and the chefs they had brought with them (of the top quality, as would befit their employers) were free to start their own restaurants the food available was as varied and as delicious as conceivably possible. Shaanxi cuisine, anyone? Shanxi (not the same)? Xinjiang? Huaiyang? Jiangzhe? Beifang? along with the usual suspects Sichuan, Hunan, Guangzhou, etc. All (and more) there, all wonderful, all cheap as dirt.

              Nowadays (visits in 2007 and 2008, and if I don't get there again by next year there's gonna be trouble) I find that at least in major centers, Shanghai prime among them, you can eat at least as well as anywhere else in the world.

              PS until I lived in Taipei (and we lived in the Bay Area up to that time) I disliked Chinese food and would never have dreamed that the future me would rank China above France, not in a kajillion years.

              1. re: buttertart

                Do you think its possible that the Chinese places you enjoyed so much in China had to go overseas to learn to cook better Chinese or that they imported overseas talent?

                Even with the Deng reforms, we're still talking almost 40 years where Chinese food culture was repressed and destroyed, sometimes actively by the government and sometimes as collateral damage. After all that time, who was going to be left to teach new people how to cook? Almost all the old great chefs would have been dead by then, assuming they hadn't left with the KMT.

                Its like America's restaurant revolution where we've seen a resurgence of top american chefs these last twenty years. But, America's restaurants were such a mess for so long that most of those top chefs had to first apprentice overseas.

                1. re: hobbess

                  I have a set of books from the provincial schools that I bought on that 1994 trip - (and the recipes are complex and what one would expect of such books) - haven't checked the publication date but there was certainly a move toward improving the quality of food served at that time.
                  I doubt very much that PRC chefs were/are free to emigrate to develop their skills or that it was necessary.
                  As to American food, there were excellent restaurants in operation before 1990 - I ate in a good number of them all over the US (and Canada). Interest in and quality of food available is not that recent. The vast run of restaurants were not terrifically good but they aren't today either.

                  1. re: hobbess

                    A lot of talented chefs went overseas, a huge amount went to Taiwan with KMT but a large number went to HK, Singapore, Canada, etc.

                    I think the vast majority of those did a masterful job of preserving the old dishes, working to keep the memories alive. But they weren't exactly creating new flavors or new dishes. It isn't until much later that the chefs of a later generation were able to expand and riff on the underlying themes of the old cuisine. Food has gotten much more adventurous in the past couple of decades, partly because people got out from the prepared foods habits and were able to become creative with fresh ingredients again. Of course globalization has caused some ccreative tension amongst the different cuisines and caused an explosion of new cuisine.

            2. I wouldn't put much stock in the Lonely Planet guide. Their listing of restaurants in Paris in the France guidebook is appalling to the point that you wonder if they even did any research.

              Anyhow, while I can go with a list of the premier food countries trying to rank them is meaningless. Chinese cuisine can be fabulous and it has a wide range of regional cuisines and techniques and flavors, but it's quite distinct as a whole from, say, French or Thai cuisines. Trying to claim that Thailand is #1 or China is #1 is meaningless. I will always prefer the cuisines of France and Italy to the China or Thailand, while others will always prefer Chinese cuisine to French.

              From another perspective, if we're going to have a list of the top food countries one should also consider the quality of the raw produce and meats. This would be damning for China which suffers from enormous ecological and pollution problems and even Fuschia Dunlop wrote that she had to be careful what she was eating in China when she realized she was dining on fish from heavily polluted lakes and rivers.

              1. Well to be perfectly fair, that article doesn't actually rank them, it just lists them (in no particular order, says the writer)

                1. love this list - i'd say i've done 7.5 out of 10. i can't really count mexico as i know i have not done the food justice there - travel when i was very young, or on extended family trips that were not chow worthy - have not been to china or indonesia yet)