Cuisine Ingredients

Looking for the ingredients that make food taste different around the world.

Every cuisine, while sharing many common elements with others, uses a handful of ingredients that combine for unique flavors.

With Chinese food, you often see soy sauce, green onion, and sesame oil. With Italian food, you often see garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. Vietnamese food uses fish sauce. Korean food uses chili paste.

As I venture into new cooking territories, it’s been fun to discover the flavor bombs from various cuisines. A lot of “where have you been all of my life” moments.

So what are the ingredients that make each cuisine?

I looked into a Yummly ingredients dataset. It contains ingredient lists for a bit under 40,000 recipes from 20 cuisines. This amounted to 6,714 ingredients. Here are the five most used ingredients in each cuisine:

Most Used Ingredients

Brazilian

British

Cajun Creole

Chinese

Filipino

salt

salt

salt

soy sauce

salt

onions

all−purpose flour

onions

sesame oil

garlic

olive oil

butter

garlic

salt

onions

lime

milk

green bell pepper

corn starch

water

water

eggs

butter

sugar

soy sauce

0%

25%

50%

Indian

French

Greek

Irish

Italian

salt

salt

salt

salt

salt

sugar

olive oil

onions

all−purpose flour

olive oil

all−purpose flour

dried oregano

garam masala

butter

garlic cloves

unsalted butter

garlic cloves

water

onions

grated parmesan

olive oil

feta cheese crumbles

ground turmeric

potatoes

garlic

Korean

Jamaican

Japanese

Mexican

Moroccan

salt

soy sauce

soy sauce

salt

salt

onions

salt

sesame oil

onions

olive oil

water

mirin

garlic

ground cumin

ground cumin

garlic

sugar

green onions

garlic

onions

ground allspice

water

sugar

olive oil

garlic cloves

Spanish

Russian

Southern US

Thai

Vietnamese

salt

salt

salt

fish sauce

fish sauce

sugar

butter

olive oil

garlic

sugar

onions

all−purpose flour

garlic cloves

salt

salt

all−purpose flour

sugar

extra−virgin olive oil

coconut milk

garlic

sour cream

large eggs

onions

vegetable oil

water

Brazilian

British

Cajun Creole

salt

salt

salt

onions

all−purpose flour

onions

olive oil

butter

garlic

lime

milk

green bell pepper

water

eggs

butter

0%

25%

50%

French

Chinese

Filipino

soy sauce

salt

salt

sesame oil

garlic

sugar

all−purpose flour

salt

onions

unsalted butter

corn starch

water

sugar

soy sauce

olive oil

Indian

Greek

Irish

salt

salt

salt

olive oil

onions

all−purpose flour

dried oregano

garam masala

butter

garlic cloves

water

onions

feta crumbles

ground turmeric

potatoes

Jamaican

Japanese

Italian

salt

soy sauce

salt

onions

salt

olive oil

water

mirin

garlic cloves

garlic

sugar

grated parmesan

ground allspice

water

garlic

Korean

Mexican

Moroccan

soy sauce

salt

salt

sesame oil

onions

olive oil

garlic

ground cumin

ground cumin

green onions

garlic

onions

sugar

olive oil

garlic cloves

Spanish

Russian

Southern US

salt

salt

salt

sugar

butter

olive oil

onions

all−purpose flour

garlic cloves

all−purpose flour

sugar

e.v. olive oil

sour cream

large eggs

onions

Thai

Vietnamese

fish sauce

fish sauce

garlic

sugar

salt

salt

coconut milk

garlic

vegetable oil

water

It’s somewhat interesting. Soy sauce and fish sauce take the top spots in the Asian cuisines, whereas salt is the main seasoning ingredient elsewhere. You see oregano in Greek and garam masala in Indian.

However, overall, this view covers more general ingredients. Salt is used in a lot of cuisines. So is soy sauce. What ingredients are more specific to certain cuisines?

I calculated the relative usage of each ingredient for each cuisine. More specifically, I calculated the percentage of recipes that used an ingredient in a cuisine and divided it by the usage among all other cuisines. For example, in the results below, sweetened condensed milk showed about 22 times the usage in Brazilian recipes than the other cuisines.

Most Cuisine-Specific Ingredients

Brazilian

British

Cajun Creole

Chinese

Filipino

sw. cond. milk

milk

andouille sausage

hoisin sauce

cooking oil

coconut milk

heavy cream

creole seasoning

oyster sauce

bay leaves

lime

baking powder

cajun seasoning

sesame oil

oil

tomatoes

unsalted butter

celery ribs

corn starch

fish sauce

onions

flour

celery

peanut oil

soy sauce

0

20

0

4

0

120

0

40

0

12

Indian

French

Greek

Irish

Italian

shallots

feta cheese

garam masala

baking soda

grated parmesan

unsalted butter

feta cheese crumbles

ground turmeric

potatoes

fresh basil

large eggs

cucumber

cumin seed

buttermilk

e.v. olive oil

all−purpose flour

dried oregano

tumeric

baking powder

olive oil

butter

fresh lemon juice

green chilies

milk

grnd. black pepper

0

3

0

80

0

150

0

8

0

20

Korean

Jamaican

Japanese

Mexican

Moroccan

allspice

sake

Gochujang base

corn tortillas

couscous

ground allspice

mirin

kimchi

salsa

chickpeas

thyme

rice vinegar

toasted sesame seeds

flour tortillas

ground ginger

fresh thyme

soy sauce

sesame seeds

black beans

ground cinnamon

dried thyme

scallions

sesame oil

avocado

ground coriander

0

50

0

120

0

1,000

0

250

0

140

Spanish

Russian

Southern US

Thai

Vietnamese

beets

buttermilk

extra−virgin olive oil

lemongrass

fish sauce

fresh dill

baking soda

dry white wine

fish sauce

beansprouts

sour cream

baking powder

red bell pepper

coconut milk

lemongrass

potatoes

vanilla extract

fresh parsley

peanuts

cucumber

flour

milk

tomatoes

lime juice

rice vinegar

0

80

0

20

0

4

0

40

0

20

Brazilian

British

Cajun Creole

sw. cond. milk

milk

andouille ssg.

coconut milk

heavy cream

creole sng.

lime

baking powder

cajun sng.

tomatoes

unsalted butter

celery ribs

onions

flour

celery

0

20

0

4

0

120

French

Chinese

Filipino

shallots

hoisin sauce

cooking oil

unsalted butter

oyster sauce

bay leaves

large eggs

sesame oil

oil

all−purpose flr.

corn starch

fish sauce

butter

peanut oil

soy sauce

0

3

0

40

0

12

Indian

Greek

Irish

feta cheese

garam masala

baking soda

feta crumbles

ground turmeric

potatoes

cucumber

cumin seed

buttermilk

dried oregano

tumeric

baking powder

fresh lemon juice

green chilies

milk

0

80

0

150

0

8

Italian

Jamaican

Japanese

allspice

sake

grated parmesan

ground allspice

mirin

fresh basil

thyme

rice vinegar

e.v. olive oil

fresh thyme

soy sauce

olive oil

dried thyme

scallions

grnd. black pepper

0

50

0

120

0

20

Korean

Mexican

Moroccan

Gochujang base

corn tortillas

couscous

kimchi

salsa

chickpeas

tstd. sesame sds.

flour tortillas

ground ginger

sesame seeds

black beans

grnd. cinnamon

sesame oil

avocado

grnd. coriander

0

1,000

0

250

0

140

Russian

Southern US

Spanish

beets

buttermilk

e.v. olive oil

fresh dill

baking soda

dry white wine

sour cream

baking powder

red bell pepper

potatoes

vanilla extract

fresh parsley

flour

milk

tomatoes

0

80

0

20

0

4

Thai

Vietnamese

lemongrass

fish sauce

fish sauce

beansprouts

coconut milk

lemongrass

peanuts

cucumber

lime juice

rice vinegar

0

40

0

20

*Only ingredients that were in at least 10% of available recipes are shown.

Now we’re getting somewhere. The French recipes use relatively more shallots and butter; the Greek recipes use more feta cheese; the Moroccan recipes use more couscous.

Combine the two measurements, and you can quickly spot the ingredients that are both common and unique.

 

All in all, the data confirms my experiences with certain cuisines. For the ones I haven’t tried much of yet, it’s nice to see what I might be getting into later on. Filipino pork belly, here I come.

Notes

  • As usual, I used R for analysis and data preparation. The bar plots were also made in R, edited in Illustrator, and then exported with ai2html. The interactive scatterplot was made using D3.js. I used a force-directed graph as a form of jitter to reduce overlapping.
  • The cuisines and ingredients collections are limited by the dataset. Each observation only contained an ingredient list and the cuisine, so it’s hard to say what each category covers. Main dishes? Beverages? However, the recipe count hopefully reduced some of the possible noise.

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