10 EXOTIC FOOD CULTURES WE BET YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF

Written by Mayella Vasquez | Edited by: Jessica Tishue

Food has the power to transport us into new cultures, ideas, and traditions. Today we are giving you a passport to 10 food cultures around the world.

Because there is much that a meal teaches us about a country’s geography, heritage, and community. 

 

Whether you are from Brunei or Costa Rica–or from anywhere else–food tells the story of who we really are.

Join us as we explore and appreciate these 10 nations’ through their food culture.

1: BRUNEI

 

Fish and rice are staples of this Southeast Asian country. Bruneian cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbors India, China, and Malaysia and as in those Asian cultures, food tends to be spicy.  As a result, in Brunei, food is often enjoyed alongside coconut water or tea.

The influence of the Islamic religion is predominant in Brunei and is expressed in their dishes. Their food must be Halal–or permissible by Islamic Law–thus pork and alcohol (which is banned in the country) is not a part of their meals.

Regarding food etiquette, when invited to someone’s home for dinner, it is customary you bring high-quality chocolate or fruit. It is considered disrespectful to gift anything made with pigskin, or ingredients that are not ‘halal,’ like gelatine. 

Often, Bruneians do not invite foreigners into their homes for dinner, so it is a great honor if they do. It is polite to greet the oldest person and to wait to be told where to sit. It is taken as a personal offense to decline any food or drink offered. Also, you are expected to start eating until the host invites you to do so.

The food is served buffet-style on a dish in the center of the table. Using your left hand to touch food is considered extremely disrespectful because it is regarded as an unclean hand. It is customary to eat with your fingers, so always use your right hand to eat or pass food; if the plate is too heavy, use your left hand to support your right wrist. To signify, you are done eating, place your fork and spoon face down on the plate, crossed over. 

If you loved learning about Brunei, and would love to try their food, here is  a video on how to make Ambuyat.  Being that savory Ambuyat is a one of their national dishes,  this will surely give you a taste of their culture.

2: BHUTAN

Bhutan is one of the smallest countries in the world, but also a nation that profoundly respects its traditions and culture. Thus, though there are modern influences, Bhutanese food culture is rooted in their heritage.

In a Bhutanese (traditional) household, you sit on the ground with your legs crossed and eat with your hands. Usually, the mother of the house will serve the food. A prayer is offered, and a small portion of food is put aside and dedicated to the spirits and deities.

An intriguing part of Bhutanese cuisine, that sets it apart from most Asian countries, is the use of cheese in its dishes. Dairy is not a common ingredient in other Asian countries but is central to the traditional Bhutanese dish, Ema Datshi.

The Ema Datshi is a chili and cheese (from cow or yak’s milk) dish commonly served with rice. Since Bhutan is a Buddhist country, most of its dishes are centered around the use of cheese sauce and peppers

Here is a recipe for Ema Datshi.  This chili and cheese dish will make you feel as if you stopped by Bhutan for lunch.

3: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Culture in the UAE, stems back to the legacies of the ancient civilizations that lived in these places such as, the ancient Bedouin tribes and the pearl harvesters.

These ancient influences are expressed in their food culture today. The national speciality is an ancient recipe that dates back to Bedouin times–stuffed camel. The animal’s interior is filled with chicken, sheep, and goat, and is cooked for twenty-four hours over charcoal.

In UAE food etiquette it is rude to give alcohol, items related to dogs, and knives as gifts. It is polite to arrive fifteen minutes late and eat without utensils and with the right hand. If you are left-handed you are expected to use utensils.  Some families may prefer to eat on cushions on the floor. And it is rude to decline more food.

These are 10 dishes from the United Arab Emirates to try, a great and delicious way to learn about their history.

4: CURAÇAO

The Caribbean Island of Curaçao has a food culture that is influenced by the history and variety of people that have settled in the country.

Thus, much of the country’s traditional food is a fusion of predominantly Dutch recipes influenced by ingredients native to the Island, and of African, Venezuelan, and Indonesian culture.

Keshi Yena:

Keshi Yena is considered the signature dish of Curaçao because it represents the fusion of Dutch and Caribbean culture, so characteristic of the Island. The meal is believed to have been made by Dutch West Indies slaves who stuffed the leftover rinds of Gouda or Edam with meat table scraps.

Dutch Sweets:

Dutch desserts such as Stroopwafels, Poffertjes, Oliebollen are typical on the Island.

Arepas:

The Venezuelan dish is standard on the Island. Arepas are traditional Venezuelan pitas. The Curaçao twist is that the bread is stuffed with the spices grown on the Island, and with ingredients used in the other multicultural cuisines, like dutch style herrings, or Stoba.

Iguanas:

Iguana meat, or as the locals call it “tree chicken,” is commonly found in stew.

Two of the dishes are Yuana Stoba or Sopi Yuana, but iguanas are also eaten fried, like chicken wings.

Looking for an excellent spot to try Iguana soup and other Curaçao cuisine? Check out Jaanchies Jaanchies is in the scenic northwestern tip of Curaçao.  They are a great place to eat delicious local dishes and have been an main attraction on the island for more than 60 years.

5: BRAZIL

The ingredients found in the Amazon Rainforest, and the dishes made by the indigenous tribes that live there, are central to Brazilian cuisine. For example, Farofa, which is found in almost any Brazilian recipe, is made with the cassava root found in the Rainforest.  Additionally, the hundreds of fish species, acai, cocoa, cashews, cassava root, corn, and numerous fruits, are other examples of the ingredients the Amazon provides.

Thus, preserving the Rainforest and the traditions of its people, is the goal of a new movement known as “Rainforest to Table.” Their aim is to make the indigenous ingredients accessible to everyone and bring awareness to Brazil’s indigenous communities.

These indigenous ingredients are met with influences of Portuguese imports such as pigs, cattle, and coffee, and African influences. Their national dish, Feijoada, is a black bean stew, that was brought by African slaves but contains pork, brought by Portuguese conquistadors. This plate alongside Pão de queijo, Moqueca, and Vatapá are other traditional Brazilian dishes.

If you’d like to eat Brazil’s national dish, check on this video on how to make Feijoada.  This hearty bean based meal undoubtedly will transport you to Rio de Janeiro.

6: COCOS (KEELING) ISLANDS

The Island is an external territory of Australia but inhabited by many people of Malay origin, known as Cocos Malays. Culture on the Island is a fusion between Malaysian and Australian tradition.

The Island is abundant in coconut trees, thus the name Cocos island, and this plant is included in many of their recipes.

Check out this blog to learn how to make dishes enjoyed by many Cocos Malays like Ayam Begana (Chicken Begana).

7: RUSSIA

Russian culture has traditions that stem back a thousand years and is still exhibited in the etiquette of their food culture.

Orthodox religion also has a significant influence on Russian traditions and dictates what it is eaten throughout the year. During Lent, for example, meat, poultry, and dairy are not consumed.

In Russia, it is an honor to be invited to someone’s home for food or drinks, and it is rude to decline an invitation. Bringing the host/ess wine or fruit is polite.

It is customary to be served large portions of food.  This act is part of Russian food culture, and is a way of trying to demonstrate that there is an abundance of food in the house and that there is enough food for you to eat. It is polite to leave a little food left over on your plate to assure the host that they have provided enough food. Repeatedly being offered more food is expected, to politely decline you can complement the food and reassure the host that it was a satisfying meal.

Pancake Culture: Pancakes are a part of Russian tradition and were thought to represent the sun. Today this tradition is remembered in Maslenitsa.  This is a week dedicated every spring to celebrate the sun and the end of winter.

Drinking Culture: Shots of Vodka are served between courses, and a toast is always accompanied.  During a toast hold up your glass and keep eye contact with the person making the toast.  At some point during the meal you will also be expected to make a toast. Toasts can be short or long. One of the most common is За здоро́вье (to your health). It is customary for a man to pour drinks for the women next to him.

Some Russian’s also believe that Vodka can cure minor cold, and can cure a hangover (a term known as “opokhmelitsya”).

The association between Russia and Vodka is a point of conversation for many Russians.  Here is an article that discusses the history of Russian drinking culture and how the place of Vodka is changing in Russian society.

8: NIGER

Nigerien cuisine recipes (not to be confused with Nigerian cuisine) are often passed down orally from mother to daughter. The food influences in Niger come from European and Arabic traditions. The country was once a French colony like its neighbor Algeria (also a former French colony where Arabic is spoken), which explains the fusion between both cultures.

The country suffers from chronic droughts.  Foods that are resistant to drought and can grow in poor soil like millet, is a part of the staple diet.  Millet is often served alongside goat or camel milk.

Rice and meat are saved for special occasions. And most Nigerien recipes are spice-free and mainly use salt.

Tea is part of daily life. Tea is ceremonially served in three rounds with sugar being increasingly added.  It is said that the tea is at first “bitter as death,” then “mild as life,” and lastly “sweet as love.”

When arriving at a home, clapping your hands is expected to announce your arrival. Men, women, and children usually eat apart.  And it is also unusual to not offer to share food with someone who you are sitting across.

 Nigerien dishes  such as Acheke, Salaat and Jure, are some of the cuisines you will find in this country.  If you’d like to be transported to Niger from home check out this video to learn how to make the Acheke.

9: Costa Rica

Costa Rican recipes often consist of fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside rice with fresh seafood, or meat.

Their national dish is the Gallo Pinto, a breakfast dish that is shared between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans. Casado is another traditional Costa Rican dish. Casado means “married” so multiple foods such as rice, beans, salad, tortillas, fried platano, maduro, and meat (beef, pork, chicken, or fish) are served on a plate and eaten together.

Gift-giving is an integral part of Costa Rica culture, and  wine or sweets are good items to give. Coffee or fruit is abundant in the country, and it is not usually given as a gift.

If you are invited to a Costa Rican house, it is customary to arrive fifteen minutes after you are expected. Once you arrive, wait to be seated by the host, and do not begin to eat until everyone is seated. The host might say “Buen Provecho” to invite everyone to start eating. It is rude to decline food and as a result it is best to try a bit of whatever is offered.

If you’d like to learn about Costa Rican tradition and experience their culture these 10 Costa Rican recipes will help.

10: HAITI

While the food in most other countries in the Caribbean have  Spanish influences, Haiti is set apart by its French roots and its use of strong pepper flavoring.  There are several dishes native to Haiti because of the unique ingredients on the Island.

One example is Djon-djon rice made of Haitian black mushrooms. The stems color the rice and then the caps and lima beans are eaten as a topping.

Additionally, being that Haiti is a tropical island, fruits, such as, avocados, mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, and guava grow in abundance. And they are often used in fruit juices or shaved iced (fresco).

The two main religions of Haiti are Catholicism and Vodou. Those who practice vodou celebrate the harvest festival in November.  Catholics celebrate the Day of the Dead. On this day, the dead are memorialized on an altar. Food is left as an offering on the loved one’s grave or where they used to eat on the dining table. After the food is offered, then the rest of the family begins to eat.

Some Haitians observe Manger-Yam, a day where they celebrate yams and recognize their importance in the rural Haitian diet. The day is celebrated with dancing, singing, eating, and drinking.

Words alone cannot describe the Carribean and French influences that Haitin food culture is based on.  Instead trying this  Pain Patate Recipe  is the best way to understand Haiti’s unique food culture by experiencing it.

Food is a powerful way to explore the world.  Every country’s food culture has something wonderful to understand and learn about how food can be enjoyed.  We hope you enjoyed learning about these 10 countries if you did check out…

Related Articles

Follow us on social Media.

Written by Mayella Vasquez

References:

Brunei
https://www.webcitation.org/6AGjX2p0P?url=http://www.ifood.tv/blog/cuisine_of_brunei#
https://www.goway.com/travel-information/asia/brunei/food-and-drink/
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/brunei-guide

Bhutan
https://www.bhutan.travel/page/our-traditions-culture
https://asian-recipe.com/religion-food-culture-1400
https://www.drukasia.com/bhutan/bhutan/others-information/food/

UAE
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/uae-guide

Curaçao
https://www.carnival.com/awaywego/travel/caribbean/top-10-things-to-eat-in-curacao
http://www.bbc.com/travel/gallery/20190115-a-melting-pot-made-of-cheese
https://www.curacao.com/en/activity/jaanchies-restaurant?cat=food-and-drink

Brazil
http://www.outwardon.com/article/brazilian-food-culture/
http://www.newworlder.com/article/4957/amazon-cuisine-can-spark-a-new-rainforest-to-table-movement
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/brazil-guide
https://www.brazilevisas.com/traditional-brazilian-food/

Cocos (Keeling) Island
https://www.sbs.com.au/guide/article/2018/04/09/australian-islands-where-two-diverse-cultures-co-exist-side-side-0
http://travelbystove.blogspot.com/2012/10/recipes-from-cocos-keeling-islands.html

Russia
https://traveltips.usatoday.com/russian-food-etiquette-15140.html
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/russia-guide
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/russia-guide
https://www.expatica.com/ru/lifestyle/food-drink/russian-cuisine-104066/
https://www.etiquettescholar.com/dining_etiquette/table-etiquette/europe-e_dinner_etiquette/russian.html
http://vodkaphiles.com/blog/12-vodka-myths/

Niger
https://diningforwomen.org/customsandcuisine/customs-and-cuisine-of-niger/
https://diningforwomen.org/?unonce=d8fbbdd595&uformid=5079&s=uwpsfsearchtrg&cmf[0][metakey]=country&cmf[0][compare]=1&cmf[0][value]=+Niger&skeyword=
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHl35WB1vOc

Costa Rica
https://www.govisitcostarica.com/blog/post/most-popular-foods-costa-rica.aspx
https://www.commisceo-global.com/resources/country-guides/costa-rica-guide

Haiti
http://www.foodbycountry.com/Germany-to-Japan/Haiti.html