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Grand Cuisines of the World

Reading through alot of food related writing, I often find writers mentioning Chinese and French as the world's "great" cuisines. Sometimes, you'll also hear Mexican, Indian, and Japanese. What do you think compels writers to declare Chinese and French as "great" cuisines? I would guess part of it is due to the immense impact that both cuisines had on the cultures of their respective geographical boundaries. To be honest, i'm not very knowledgable about French cuisine but I love Chinese and Indian cuisine for the sheer diversity of flavors, ingredients, and styles of preparation. I am sure everyone has their own criteria for "great" cuisines but I am curious as to what everyone else would choose if they were to determine their own list of "grand" cuisines. For me, Chinese and Indian would definitely be on the list.... French as well for it's impact on Western culinary culture in general..

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  1. Yeah I read something similar years ago and there are basically 3 factors:
    1) A royal kitchen - Eager to impress the king and queen etc and w/ the resources to do so.
    2) A long dynastic run - To ensure coherence and refinement of cuisine.
    3) Access to spices, meats, fish, etc.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chinon00

      I often see Japanese being listed as the 3rd of the "great" cuisines nowadays but going by those 3 factors alone I suppose Japanese cuisine cant really be included due historically lacking access to a variety of spices, ingredients, as well as being basically pesco vegetarian. It seems Japanese culinary influence on world culinary culture is relatively recent in comparison to the historical influences of Chinese and French cuisine. Going by those 3 factors, Indian cuisine could be included no? They had access to an extremely large variety of spices/ingredients just like the Chinese, and I do believe the royal Mughal kitchens would qualify for factor #1.

      1. re: cpa314

        Dunno a whole lot about the history of Japanese or Indian cuisine. But from what I've seen when it comes to pure artistic flair of their cuisine the Japanese, Chinese and French are second to none. Also the source I read listed Turkish cuisine as well.

      2. re: Chinon00

        Korean cuisine may fit in nicely then. Though, like in many places meat wasn't always fit for the hoi polloi, and their access to tropical spices was limited (though cinnamon seems prominent these days).

        1. re: BuildingMyBento

          I'm not sure if historically Korea would fit into the 3rd factor. The climate there was not exactly beneficial to the growing of a large variety of fresh vegetables... hence, the emphasis on pickled vegetables such as Kimchi to allow for the consumption of vegetables during harsh Winter months.

      3. The world's great cuisines? Have folks from Honfleur and Nice make a fish soup. Roast duck from Hong Kong or Peking. Mulligatawny from Delhi or London. Each is influenced from the culture it comes from and resides in. I love the fact that MacDonalds serves wine in France and beer in Germany.

        So the "great" cuisines? Ones that have made a world wide impact? Wendy's, MacDonald's, Taco Bell, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

        In a region of 250,000 and a vibrant community from the sub-continent, we have one dining establishment of Indian cuisine. Two German. A rough dozen sushi/Japanese. One high end French. And a plethora of pizza places and half a plethora of Italian places. And finally an amalgam of "Fusion".

        While our French does not have an entrecote, it does have sirloin and rib eye.

        1 Reply
        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

          Two German restaurants in a region of only a quarter million? An anomaly - a lucky one, but nevertheless...

        2. Everything Chinon00 said about continuity

          I would add the royal influence in what we have come to call "technique & method" ,much of which began as indulgence,excess,spectacle.Getting the food,feast from a kitchen how far away and still be ? a feast for the eyes and impress the audience.
          Forks,knives with round tips,dumb waiters and restaurants are recent history.The hot meal as we know is very recent.

            1. There's a difference between "great" and "greatly influential." You can find great food anywhere on earth if you look hard enough, but Euro-centric cuisine has had a major influence on those former colonies. French food used to be a kind of standard; every royal house and industrialist castle boasted a French trained cook. English cooks were so intent on apeing their French counterpart that their own cooking fell into disrepute. Rationing almost killed it off. Fortunately, they're rescuing the cheeses and livestock breeds that were near extinction. I think as more cultures crosspolinate and rediscover old ways of doing things in the kitchen, the distinctions between "great" and "near great" cuisines will matter less and less.