The power of three

Three ingredients

What flavors define a cuisine? Given the nearly endless array of possible herbs, spices and other flavoring agents, one might think it impossible to distill the essentials of a cuisine to only a handful of ingredients. But as FoodBeast reports, the folks at DataDial have attempted to do just that. They've created an infographic that lists the three essential "spices" (the term is loosely applied) for 36 cuisines from across the globe.

Some of the combinations are uncontroversial. Greece, for example, gets lemon, olive oil, and oregano. Southern Italy is tagged with olive oil, tomato and parsley. Others aren't as straightforward but are logical, such as the three flavors of the Midwest USA: parsley, mustard, and caraway. This makes sense because of the tremendous German and Scandinavian influences on that region.

Many of us may not be familiar with some cuisines, such as West African, which features chili, tomato and peanut as its top three. The Yucatan's sour orange, garlic, and achiote might also be new to us. A few selections are a bit controversial. China's three spices are fennel, cinnamon, and clove. Arguments for replacing the fennel with garlic have merit, but since China has several diverse regions it's almost impossible to distill it down to a mere three ingredients.

It's interesting to note that a few ingredients, like garlic and olive oil, are important to many cultures. Did you find any surprises on the chart?

3 Comments

  • ellabee  on  7/5/2014 at 2:46 PM

    It's an intriguing project, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. China gets the award for most misleading. It's a mistake not to break such a vast and various food culture into regions when Italy, India, France, and the Arab world have multiple regional entries. But even if considering only one region, which part of China uses fennel, cinnamon, and cloves as its core spices? The inclusion of chile in Northern & Eastern European is just bizarre to me; I'd replace that with dill or chives. Where is Thailand (which should have fish sauce as one of its three)? Etc. It's an entertaining game to try for yourself with regions you know well, maybe starting with a list of five.

  • Rinshin  on  7/5/2014 at 6:28 PM

    One man's view.

  • ellabee  on  7/6/2014 at 4:15 PM

    The chart is so full of fail that it's almost mesmerizing. "Yamen" = Yemen? "Norther & Easter Europe (sic)", "Bengal" = Bangladesh? "Persia/Iran" but not "Burma/Myanmar", Normandy, Provence, and Yucatan listed as if they were their own countries but (USA) for US states or regions, "European Jewish" as its own region when it differs in no essential way from the specific countries or regions involved, a separate entry for Tunisia despite listings for MENA and North East Africa, Louisiana w/o file powder or its famous Tabasco pepper, Spain without pimenton, the omission of Scandinavia, Thailand, the Philippines, and the entire continent of South America while the US midwest rates an entry (the power of Joy of Cooking?). Finally, while I'd expect publicity like this to be the result of a press release from either or both of DataDial and KimStone, no reference to the chart can be found at either site. More than one person is asleep at the wheel here...

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