Have you ever wondered what the food you eat everyday can tell you about where you come from? Have you ever wondered why people from different parts of the world eat different types of food? Do you ever ask yourself why certain foods or culinary traditions are so important to your culture? There is more of a connection between food and culture than you may think.
On an individual level, we grow up eating the food of our cultures. It becomes a part of who each of us are.
Traditional cuisine is passed down from one generation to the next. It also operates as an expression of cultural identity. Each country or community’s unique cuisine can reflect its unique history, lifestyle, values, and beliefs. After all food is one of the world’s only ways of universal communication
The three cuisines we will talk about today are Balinese, Egyptian and Iraqi.
The reason we chose these cuisines is because we have relished their authentic taste.
Being Indonesian with influences of Chinese and Indian cuisines, the food in Bali has a unique identity, as with much of Southeast Asia, rice is a staple here. With Bali’s sophisticated irrigation systems, this is quite understandable. This is accompanied by vegetables, meat and seafood. The dishes are cooked in rich spices such as ginger, lime, nutmeg, clove, coriander, and shallots.
Your gastronomical experience in Bali is as enchanting and full of discovery as your cultural experience. Well, typically, a meal consists of a plate of steamed rice, and a number of main courses. Instead of eating one course at a time a la Western meals, the main courses, and sometimes including the soup, are all eaten at once. Soup is poured over the rice much like a steak sauce is poured over the steak. Desserts are mostly tropical fruits, which by themselves are enough of a feast and a reason to visit Bali!
The most popular Balinese dishes which we tasted are; Sate (or “satay”) are marinated, skewered and grilled meats, served with spicy sauce, and may consist of diced or sliced chicken, goat, mutton, beef, fish, tofu, eggs or minced blends. Nasi Goreng is Indonesia’s fried rice, one of the nation’s most notable dishes. It is pre-steamed rice stir-fried with a combination of meats and vegetables, ranging from scrambled eggs, diced beef, strips of chicken, shrimp, anchovies, lamb, crab, green peas, onions, shallots and a blend of sweet soy sauce and hot chili sauce. Mie Goreng is another staple where the rice is replaced with noodles in Nasi Goreng.
The Egypt cuisine combines elements from across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Greece and France, reflecting the diverse influences that have shaped her history. Egyptian chefs often put their own spin on these beloved foods. The cuisine makes heavy use of legumes, vegetables and fruit from Egypt’s rich Nile Valley and Delta.
Egyptian cuisine wouldn’t be the same without its bread! It’s delicious and an important part of almost every meal. During your visit, you’ll find plenty of Eish baladi (bread) to wrap up all your falafel and kebabs and dip into flavorful sauces. Ta’meya is Egyptian fava bean falafel that is fried and served with tahina and Egyptian bread. They can be eaten with breakfast, lunch, and dinner but are most often served as an accompaniment to another Egyptian fava bean dish called ful medames. Ful medames is cooked fava beans with vegetables and spices. It’s a staple in Egyptian culture and is thought to date back to ancient Egypt. If you are a meat lover then you are going to enjoy Egypt’s kebabs and kofta. Egyptian kebab is usually prepared with grilled lamb or veal while kofta is also grilled but made from minced meat. Both kebab and kofta are traditionally served with Egyptian bread, salad, and tahina.
Cheese is another important staple and is actually thought to have originally come from the middle east. Tea is the national drink in Egypt and holds a special spot in Egyptian culture. Tea is enjoyed throughout the day both during meals and in-between
Iraqi food is so strongly influenced by its neighbouring countries, Turkey and Iran, it is one of the few nations of the Middle East to lack a unique cuisine. Like the Turks, Iraqis like to stuff vegetables and eat a lot of lamb, rice, and yogurt. Like Iranians, they enjoy cooking fruits with beef and poultry. Hospitality is considered a highly admired asset to the Iraqis. Iraqis are known for being very generous and polite.
A typical Iraqi meal starts with a mezze (appetizer), such as kebabs , which are cubes of marinated meat cooked on skewers. Soup is usually served next, which is drunk from the bowl, not eaten with a spoon. For gadaa and ashaa, Arabic for lunch and dinner, the meals are much alike. A simple main course, such as lamb with rice is served, followed by a salad and khubaz , a flat wheat bread served buttered with fruit jelly on top. Other popular dishes include quzi (stuffed roasted lamb), kibbe (minced meat, nuts, raisins, and spices), and kibbe batata (potato-beef casserole). Falafel is a popular Iraqi street food available in two variants veg and non-veg. Dates make their way into many dishes, especially ever popular date and nut balls, commonly made with walnuts or pistachios, and fly off the shelves like a Middle Eastern candy bar.
This just shows that each country has their own set of traditions and different standards of food. Even though the details are different, ever country has one thing in common—they all love food.
As the world becomes more globalized, it is easier to access cuisines from different cultures.