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One self-professed “diehard” chicken fan said the rankings lost all credibility for him when he found out that India’s butter chicken had placed 53rd out of 100 traditional dishes. Photo: Getty Images

Indian cuisine’s world No 5 ranking leaves a bad taste in Indians’ mouths: ‘our food is perfect’

  • Many in India find it unpalatable that their country’s cuisine is sandwiched between Mexican and Japanese in a rundown of the world’s best foods
  • Some say it’s racism while others blame it on ignorance of India’s myriad range of regional cuisines – or is it just a lack of promotion?
A contentious ranking of global cuisines by a self-professed “world atlas of traditional dishes” has caused India’s foodies to boil over – despite placing the country fifth globally.

Some on social media hotly contested that “ignorance” and “racism” were to blame for India’s cuisine ranking below those of Japan, Spain, Greece and Italy – which took the No 1 spot – in the Taste Atlas Awards 2022 list.

Other spicy takes said that India – much like China – does not have one single, unified cuisine, but myriad regional variations across the country that make dishes from one area “entirely different” from others.

Chinese cuisine, for reference, ranked 11th on the list – just above Brazilian.

For New Delhi-based freelance chef Sanjay Sharma, India’s many and varied cuisines would have ranked higher – if only more people knew about them.

“French and Japanese cuisines have far less diversity and complexity,” he said. “Indians have such a rich array of dishes yet we fall behind in promoting and showcasing our food at the international level which is why not enough people know about it.”

Taste Atlas, which was founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in Bulgaria, says its rankings are based on “audience votes for ingredients, dishes and beverages”.

Below India on its list were the cuisines of Mexico, Turkey, the United States and France. Thai cuisine placed 30th, behind “English cuisine” in 29th. Ranked dead last, in 95th place, was Norwegian food.

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“This is a list you’d come up with if you’d never eaten Indian food,” charged one social media user, with another pointing out: “There’s nothing you can call ‘Indian’ cuisine. Our Kannada cuisine is entirely different from Gujarati or Punjabi cuisine.”

There are at least 50,000 type of regional cuisines in India, according to Owaize Ahmed Khan, executive chef at the Radisson Hotel in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, adding: “Indian culinary diversity is mind-boggling.”

“Our food is the perfect blend of taste, flavour and aroma,” he said. “We should’ve been ranked among the top three, if not first!”

Indeed, many Indians found the No 5 ranking difficult to digest, with several on social media pointing to the plethora of Indian restaurants in countries around the world and the cuisine’s popularity with Hollywood A-listers and other top celebrities.

Only one Indian dish – Shahi paneer – made it into the Taste Atlas’ top 50 best traditional foods from around the world. Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP

Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lady Gaga are all avowed fans, while Indian actress Priyanka Chopra launched a high-class eatery last year offering “timeless Indian fare in New York City”.

Many Indians also found Taste Atlas’ 2022 ranking of the 100 best traditional foods from around the world unpalatable as it only included one Indian dish – Shahi paneer – in the top 50, at No 28. This dish of paneer (cottage cheese) fried crisp with onions, tomatoes and green peppers and served in a gravy crafted from cashew paste, tomato and spices is a perennial favourite in India, often served at parties and get-togethers.

Butter chicken, which “diehard chicken” fan Kabri Singh from Delhi called “India’s favourite dish” and said was a “must have at all weddings and parties”, ranked 53rd. “These rankings just lost all their credibility for me,” Singh said.

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Meanwhile, the ranking of Chinese cuisine at 11th on the Taste Atlas list disappointed some in India, who extolled their love for China’s food in spite of the political differences that exist between both countries.

“After Indian, my favourite is Chinese cuisine,” wrote one Indian social media user. “Clearly the list has been compiled by people who’ve never tasted our delicious Chinjabi (a portmanteau of Chinese and Punjabi) noodles and spring rolls.”

A 2019 survey by the National Restaurant Association of India found that Chinese cuisine was the country’s second-favourite type of food, after North Indian.