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Jul 1, 2011 05:04 PM

What's the most VARIED cuisine in the world?

By varied cuisine, I mean which cuisine has the most variety of dishes? Can you eat a different Chinese/Italian/French/... dish for 365 days each day of the world? I'll let you define what you mean by "varied". For instance, if you consider beef fried rice and chicken fried rice to be two dishes, please state this assumption.

Just a bit of a discussion I had with my mom. (We're Chinese.) She's claiming Chinese cuisine to be most varied. I actually say it's Italian, or at the least, Italian cuisine can be just as varied as Chinese.


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  1. I'd say China is far far bigger in terms of geographical regions (and hence variation in biological systems), population, and area... so surely should have more different types of food.

    Perhaps Europe (as a whole) or the Indian subcontinent would be a better comparator?

    1. A nicely provocative question, and I never like being first to reply. China clearly brings trump cards to the table: history, size, conduit for human migration, land and sea. No one can dispute the signature dishes from many chinese provinces.
      Provocateur as I am, I argue that Mexico may not be in the same weight class as China, but is a contender in it's own right. Distinctive regional specialties, agrarian / seafarian excellence, great cooks and imagination and history.
      I'll enjoy the discourse to follow.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Veggo

        I think Mexico has the same weight as China in this arena. Both cuisines are amazingly diverse and varied.

        1. re: Veggo

          Mexico came to mind for me too, as one of the choices that would be less obvious than China...and even though you wouldn't guess it from the (lack of) range of Mexican restaurants in my area of the U.S....I also think that 'American' food (food from various regions of the United States) can have more variety than we would give ourselves credit for.

        2. When one considers the vast variation within not only regions but neiborhoods as well as households I think Italian cuisine to be the most variable. Think too about the use of butter versus olive oil; Pecorino versus Reggiano; Seafood versus beef/meat. Even garlic versus onion and there you have, from north to south, the most variable cuisine.

          Nota bene: I'm talking native cuisine, not Italo-American food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Gio

            Italy isnt even in top 10. It's a relatively tiny country. Chinese, hands down. Indian. Mexican.

          2. China is as vast as most of Europe, so it's kinda apples, oranges.

            I'd suggest the following five principal food cuisine families:

            1. Chinese
            2. Indian subcontinent
            3. Turkish-Persian
            4. French-Italian
            5. Mexican

            2 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              I think your breakdown is spot on. I would rank your list of cuisines in the same order and group them as you did because of the regional and cultural overlaps.

              1. re: FLFoodieGrl

                With further consideration about the key issue of variety, I would put the Indian subcontinent over China.

                I am not familiar enough with imperial Turkish and Persian cuisines to fully appreciate how they'd be ranked vis-a-vis French-Italian. But I am aware of it's something barely appreciated in the West.

            2. Chinese can't really count because collectively it is a huge range of cuisines.
              My vote would be for Burmese cuisine. It is like having things from India, China, Thailand and Malaysia -- all at the same time.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Tripeler

                Except that the Burmese peninsula is frozen in time behind locked doors, with a desperate silent suffering population.