What Food Looks Like

In our current fast-paced society, large percentages of the population go about their day to day life without ever cook-ing food from scratch. Between getting fast food, going to restaurants, and buying ready-made frozen meals, it's easy to get by without ever stepping foot in the produce aisle of the grocery store. As a result of habits like this, many of us never encounter the ingredients themselves — the basis of the dishes we eat everyday. What Food Looks Like is a photographic diagram of the staple ingredients in cuisines around the world — an attempt at increasing awareness of what food looks like before its cooked, as well as an exploration of the similarities and differences between several cuisines. So next time you find yourself wondering how to construct an Italian meal, you know where to look.

What Food Looks Like was designed and photographed by graphic design student Christine Røde for Typography III at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA.

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TYPEKIT FACES USED: GARAMOND + PT SANS / INFORMATION SOURCE: THE PROFESSIONAL CHEF / COPYRIGHT 2011 CHRISTINE RØDE

The Staple Ingredients of Mexican Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Mexican Cuisine
Mexico Highlighted on World Map

Mexican cuisine is known for its varied flavors, colourful decoration, variety of spices and ingredients, most of which are native to the country. The cuisine of Mexico has evolved through millennia of blending indigenous cultures, and later through foreign influences after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The staples of Mexican cuisine are typically corn and beans. Corn is used to make masa, a dough for tamales, tortillas, gorditas, and many other corn-based foods. Corn is also eaten fresh, as corn on the cob and as a component of a number of dishes. Squash and peppers are also prominent in Mexican cuisine. Mexican cuisine is considered one of the most varied in the world, after Chinese and Indian.


CORN CLICK TO READ MORE

This grain has been a staple food in Mexico since long before the arrival of Europeans on the continent. Used to make flour for tortillas, tamales and a variety of other dishes, corn was already central to Mexican cooking centuries, if not millennia before the Spanish came over in search of gold. The corn-based flatbreads acquired the name "tortillas" upon the Spanish conquest of what is now Mexico, after the Spanish word for "little cakes".

TOMATILLOS CLICK TO READ MORE

They are also called "tomate verde" in Mexico (which means green tomato) and are considered a staple in Mexican cooking. Tomatillo is a member of the nightshade family, related to tomatoes. It now grows everywhere in the Western Hemisphere and is common in Texas gardens.

BEANS CLICK TO READ MORE

A good source of protein, beans of different varieties are most commonly boiled and then fried. They can be a main ingredient in a meal or served almost as a garnish.

CILANTRO CLICK TO READ MORE

Fresh coriander leaves, known as cilantro, are used both as a garnish and seasoning.

WHITE ONION CLICK TO READ MORE

This storage onion is named for the color of its thin skin and flesh. With a taste that's more tangy than sweet or sour, this is the onion of choice when making Latin and Central American dishes, especially Mexican food.

RICE CLICK TO READ MORE

Next to corn, rice is the most common grain in Mexican cuisine. The initial introduction of rice to Spain from North Africa in the 4th century led to the Spanish introduction of rice into Mexico at the port of Veracruz in the 1520s. The Spaniards later found the lush tropical climate of Veracruz region of Mexico to be a perfect growing ground for rice. From there it grew to culinary prominence.

CHILES CLICK TO READ MORE

Native to Mexico, chile peppers have been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in Mexican cuisine. The indigenous populations of Mexico first collected chili peppers from the wild, and later cultivated them for use in cooking or used them as a preservative for meat and fish because of their anti-microbial properties. Pictured here is the habanero pepper, the serrano pepper and the cayenne pepper.

The Staple Ingredients of Chinese Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Chinese Cuisine
China Highlighted on World Map

Chinese culinary arts are famous all over the world. Chinese dishes appeal to the senses through color, shape, aroma and taste. Chinese cuisine's entree normally strives for three to five colors, made up of the main ingredient, with more secondary ingredients of contrasting colors and textures; these are prepared and cooked to enhance their own qualities, with the use of appropriate condiments and garnishing, enabling to chef to present a delicious platter of fragrant delicious art. The vastness of China's geography and history echoes through the polyphony of Chinese cuisine. It is best to divide Chinese cuisine, with all the appropriate disclaimers and caveats, into that of four major regions: the northern plains, including Beijing; the fertile east, watered by the Yangtse River; the south, famous for the Cantonese cooking of the Guangdong Province; and the fecund west of Szechwan and Hunan Provinces.

GINGER CLICK TO READ MORE

Ginger is a common ingredient in Chinese cooking, with the unique tang of fresh ginger being used in everything from stews to stir-fried dishes. Ginger comes in many forms: fresh, ground, preserved and pickled. Although dried ground ginger is used in some dishes, it should never be substituted for fresh ginger.

BOK CHOY CLICK TO READ MORE

Cultivated in China since ancient times, bok choy is found in soups and stir-fries, appetizers and main dishes. Bok choy's popularity comes from its light, sweet flavor, crisp texture and nutritional value. Not only is bok choy high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium, but it is low in calories.

RICE CLICK TO READ MORE

Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China. It is most commonly eaten in the form of steamed rice. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. There is archaeological evidence of rice farming along the Yang-tse River as early as about 5000 BC.

NOODLES CLICK TO READ MORE

Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China.[citation needed] It is most commonly eaten in the form of steamed rice. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. There is archaeological evidence of rice farming along the Yang-tse River as early as about 5000 BC.

SOY SAUCE CLICK TO READ MORE

Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China.[citation needed] It is most commonly eaten in the form of steamed rice. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. There is archaeological evidence of rice farming along the Yang-tse River as early as about 5000 BC.

SOY BEANS CLICK TO READ MORE

Rice is a major staple food for people from rice farming areas in southern China.[citation needed] It is most commonly eaten in the form of steamed rice. Rice is also used to produce beers, wines and vinegars. There is archaeological evidence of rice farming along the Yang-tse River as early as about 5000 BC.

The Staple Ingredients of Thai Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Thai Cuisine
Thailand Highlighted on World Map

Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, known for being spicy. Detail and variety are important elements to Thai cooking, making the balance of the four fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal important: sour, sweet, salty, and (optionally) bitter. Thai meals typically consist of either a single dish or it will be rice (khao in Thai) with many complementary dishes served concurrently and shared by all. It is customary to serve more dishes than there are guests at a table.

FISH SAUCE CLICK TO READ MORE

Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. Called Nam Pla in Thai, is one of the basic ingredients in Thai cooking. It has a rich translucent reddish-golden brown color, and is used liberally in nearly all Thai dishes. It is often used as a marinade for fish and meat, as well as a condiment (usually mixed with fresh-cut chilies and lime juice). In fact, Thais would add a little fish sauce to their meal the same way Westerners would use salt and pepper.

BIRD'S EYE CHILE CLICK TO READ MORE

Chilies are a fundamental ingredient in Thai cuisine, providing that spice for which the Kingdom’s food is identified. The bird’s eye chili is often dried and ground, and then is placed on the dining table and used as a condiment. Prig Kee Nu can also be ground and used for chilli powder. The bird’s eye chili can be used in a paste along with garlic, vinegar and salt, which is then used in a combination of dishes and curries that define the Thai cooking philosophy.

LEMONGRASS CLICK TO READ MORE

Lemongrass is a stalky plant with a lemony scent that grows in many tropical climates, most notably in Southeast-Asia. A common ingredient in Thai cooking, lemongrass provides a zesty lemon flavor and aroma to many Thai dishes. Lemon juice (or lime) may be substituted for lemongrass in a pinch, but citrus fruits will not be able to fully replicate its particular qualities.

CILANTRO CLICK TO READ MORE

Cilantro leaves are used extensively in Thai cooking for many salads and to garnish soups. The stems and leaves are eaten raw, along with other raw vegetables like baby Thai eggplant, and other herbs and served with nam prik.

EGGPLANT CLICK TO READ MORE

Thai eggplants are green and round, quite different from the ones we are familiar with in America, where the Thai eggplants aren't readily available. However, this golf ball look-alike is one of the most famous Thai food ingredients. Thai people eat them just about as often as Americans eat potatoes. Unlike other eggplants, the Thai eggplant can be eaten raw, usually with Thai spicy dips.

RICE CLICK TO READ MORE

Rice is a staple grain of Thai cuisine, as in most Asian cuisines. The highly prized, sweet-smelling jasmine rice is indigenous to Thailand. This naturally aromatic long-grained rice grows in abundance in the verdant patchwork of paddy fields that blanket Thailand's central plains. Steamed rice is accompanied by highly aromatic curries, stir-fries and other dishes, sometimes incorporating large quantities of chili peppers, lime juice and lemon grass.

NOODLES CLICK TO READ MORE

Noodles are popular but usually come as a single dish, like the stir-fried phat thai or in the form of a noodle soup. Many Chinese dishes have been adapted to suit Thai taste, such as kuai-tiao ruea (a sour and spicy rice noodle soup). In Northern Thailand, khao soi, a curry soup with bami (egg noodles), is extremely popular.

The Staple Ingredients of Indian Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Indian Cuisine
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Indian cuisine consists of thousands of regional cuisines which date back thousands of years. The dishes of India are characterized by the extensive use of various Indian spices and herbs. Indian cuisine is also known for the widespread practice of vegetarianism in Indian society. Each family of Indian cuisine includes a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. As a consequence, it varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically-diverse subcontinent. Indian food is very heavy on spices, typically consisting of a wide array of spices from all around the country. Spices are typically heated in a pan with ghee or cooking oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavor should be added first. Curry is not a spice, but a term which refers to any side dish in Indian cuisine.

PEPPERS CLICK TO READ MORE

Indian cuisine is very spicy and uses chile peppers heavily. Bhut Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Pepper, is the hottest pepper in the world and native to India.

RICE CLICK TO READ MORE

Basmati rice frequently accompanies the Indian curries and sauces, but it can also be a dish in itself. Basmati rice is a very fragrant rice with beautiful long grains.

LENTILS CLICK TO READ MORE

Lentils, or Dal, as they are most often known in the Indian menu, are a staple at almost every Indian meal. Ranging from the most basic cooking method of simply boiling it with a dash of salt and adding a robust tempering right before serving, to a more tedious method of sautéing it various spices and vegetables, lentils have come a long from where we first knew it to be.

PEARL MILLET CLICK TO READ MORE

India is the largest producer of pearl millet. It is locally known as bajra, and is primarily consumed in the states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Pearl millet is well adapted to growing areas characterized by drought, low soil fertility, and high temperature. It performs well in soils with high salinity or low pH. Because of its tolerance to difficult growing conditions, it can be grown in areas where other cereal crops, such as maize or wheat, would not survive.

VEGETABLE OIL CLICK TO READ MORE

Most Indian curries are cooked in vegetable oil. In northern and western India, peanut oil is popular, while in eastern India, mustard oil is more commonly used. Coconut oil is used widely along the western coast, especially in Kerala; gingelly (sesame) oil is common in the south as well. In recent decades, sunflower and soybean oil have become popular across India. Hydrogenated vegetable oil, known as Vanaspati ghee, is another popular cooking medium.

GARLIC GARAM MASALA CLICK TO READ MORE

Garam masala is a blend of ground spices common in North Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It is used alone or with other seasonings. The word garam refers to intensity of the spices rather than capsaicin content. Garam masala is pungent, but not hot in the same way as a chili pepper. The composition of garam masala differs regionally, with wide variety across India. Varying combinations of these and other spices are used in different garam masala recipes in accordance to region and personal taste, and none is considered more authentic than another.[2] The components of the mix are toasted, then ground together.

CUMIN CLICK TO READ MORE

A basic ingredient for Indian cooking, these are the seeds of a plant that are used whole or powdered. They have a distinct earthy and warm flavor.

TUMERIC CLICK TO READ MORE

Turmeric is produced from the root of a plant native to Indian subcontinent and Indonesia, where it has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. In almost all the Indian recipes except the dessert turmeric is a must use ingredient. It gives the curry an attractive yellow look and a good taste. But you have to be careful while using this ingredient; too much of turmeric might destroy the taste!

CORIANDER CLICK TO READ MORE

The dried seeds of the Coriander plant (Cilantro) are ground and used a lot in Indian cooking to complement the cumin. Coriander seed powder acts as a natural emulsifier or thickener. Almost all Indian curry dishes use coriander powder.

The Staple Ingredients of Italian Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Italian Cuisine
Italy Highlighted on World Map

Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BC. Italian cuisine in itself takes heavy influences, including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and Arab cuisines. With the discovery of the New World, Italian cuisine changed dramatically in the 18th century, introducing tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers. The main characteristics of Italian cuisine is its extreme simplicity, with many dishes having only four to eight ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation. Dishes and recipes are often the creation of grandmothers rather than of chefs, and this makes many recipes ideally suited for home cooking.

OLIVE OIL CLICK TO READ MORE

Like the Spaniards, Italian dishes are almost exclusively prepared using olive oil. The olives are grown and produced within Italy and carries huge health benefits.

PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO CLICK TO READ MORE

Parmesan, known in Italy as Parmigiano-Reggiano is a cheese that has numerous uses within Italian cuisine. Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos, and eaten on its own. It is often shaved or grated over other dishes. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup. Under Italian law only cheese produced in the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena and Bologna may be labelled "Parmigiano-Reggiano."

GARLIC CLICK TO READ MORE

The Italians have devised a special role for the garlic bulb, a member of the allium family which also counts among its ranks the onion and the leek. While a great many Mediterranean recipes seem to take the presence of garlic as a given, this is not always the case in the Italian peninsula for the simple reason that its distinctive taste can sometimes detract from more shy and retiring ingredients.

PASTA CLICK TO READ MORE

Pasta is a staple food of traditional Italian cuisine, now of worldwide renown. It takes the form of unleavened dough made in Italy mostly of durum wheat (more rarely buckwheat flour), water and sometimes eggs. Pasta comes in a variety of different shapes that serve for both decoration and to act as a carrier for the different types of sauce. Pasta also includes varieties, such as ravioli and tortellini, that are filled with other ingredients, such as ground meat or cheese.

TOMATOES CLICK TO READ MORE

It would be very difficult for the modern Italian to imagine their favorite dishes without the luscious red tomato but it was only in 1554 that Matthiolus first documented the existence of tomatoes in Italy. From that point on, it still took centuries for the Italians to warm up to the New World fruit, as it was regarded as poisonous and for decoration purposes only in the beginning. In modern Italian cuisine, however, the tomato has become a staple, being used in both pasta sauces, pizzas, salads and more.

OREGANO CLICK TO READ MORE

Oregano is used in Italian dishes to flavor red sauces such as marinara, and of course pizza. It goes well with garlic and lemon in Greek dishes, and is the most noted herb when cooking lamb. It also does justice to red meats, pork, roasted chicken and Greek Moussaka or the French dish Ratatouille. Its great for marinades and salad dressings and vegetables, especially green pole beans.

The Staple Ingredients of Spanish Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Spanish Cuisine
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Spanish cuisine consists of a variety of dishes, which stem from differences in geography, culture and climate. It is heavily influenced by seafood available from the waters that surround the country, and reflects the country's deep maritime roots. Spain's extensive history with many cultural influences has led to an array of unique cuisines with literally thousands of recipes and flavors. It is also renowned for its health benefits and fresh ingredients, as a Mediterranean diet. Most of it is down-to-earth, uncomplicated food, based on the ingredients available locally.

POTATO CLICK TO READ MORE

Spanish explorers introduced the potato from South America in 1540 where it was enthusiastically cultivated long before it became popular in northern Europe and the rest of the world. The French were skeptical of it until Paramentier began his potato campaign in 1771. Versatile and able to take on many guises from simple peasant fare to elaborate, it is the staple in Spain.

OLIVE OIL CLICK TO READ MORE

The warm, sunny climate enjoyed by much of Spain makes it ideal for olive growing. Many of these olives are pressed for their oil, and the most prized olive oil is "extra virgin," made from the first cold pressing of the best quality olives. Extra virgin olive oil is used in cooking and adds depth and texture to hot dishes when added at the end of cooking. It's also used in salad dressings and sauces and for bread dipping.

GARLIC CLICK TO READ MORE

Garlic is an old ingredient, popular around the world for many thousands of years. The use of garlic in food probably originated in the Middle East and was eaten by the Greeks and Roman soldiers. It is a very common ingredient in cuisines of the Mediterranean, Spanish cuisine included.

SAFFRON CLICK TO READ MORE

In spanish cooking, saffron, an expensive and favorite culinary herb flavors and colors many dishes. It comes from thousands of crocus flower stigmas. Saffron originated in Arabia and was brought to Spain sometime in the eighth century. Since then, saffron has been associated with Spanish cuisine, although the spice is also a favorite addition to French soups and Milanese risotto.

GARBANZO BEANS CLICK TO READ MORE

Also known as the chickpea, the garbanzo is a round, golden legume known in the Old World eons before true beans found their way from the New World. There are few places where they are more popular than in Spain, where garbanzos are everyday fare and cooks argue the merits of garbanzos coming from specific areas — Segovia or Zamora, Badajoz or Cádiz. In Spain, garbanzos appear almost daily in the cocidos (one-pot meals) and potajes (thick soups) of every region. The dry legumes are soaked overnight (at least eight hours) in water, then simmered slowly until tender, about three hours. When properly cooked, chickpeas are tender but never mushy, with a delicious, nutty taste that no other dried legume has.

The Staple Ingredients of French Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of French Cuisine
France Highlighted on World Map

French cuisine is very diverse, which is supported by the French passion for good food in all its forms, France's range of different geographies and climates which support the local production of all types of ingredients, and France's long and varied history. In many ways, an understanding of the culture of French food and recipes is an understanding of France itself. Meals range from the very basic, such as the traditional baguette plus cheese plus inexpensive wine, to very elaborate affairs than can involve a dozen courses and different wines consumed over several hours. French cuisine outside of France often focuses on haute cuisine, the more elaborate style of cooking typically seen at American-French restaurants.

LEEK CLICK TO READ MORE

The edible portions of the leek are the white onion base and light green stalk. The dark green portion is usually discarded since it has less flavor. As the leek grows, this part becomes woody and very chewy. Leek has a mild onion-like taste, less bitter than scallion. The taste might be described as a mixture of mild onion and cucumber, with a fresh smell similar to scallion. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm. It's a staple in French leek soup.

BUTTER CLICK TO READ MORE

Where the Italians and the Spanish use olive oil, French cuisine is prepared with butter. The French eat up to 60% more butter in their diet than the average American, using it not only as a cooking oil, but also for creating a roux for sauces and for their pastries (think of the butter-heavy croissant).

SHALLOTS CLICK TO READ MORE

Shallots are considered members of the onion family, but are smaller than onions and look more like garlic. Shallots are used in many of the same dishes where garlic and onions could be used, and do not cause as harsh of breath odors as either onions or garlic. The French grey shallot is called a griselle and many French chefs prefer using grey shallots in their cuisine because of their strong and delicious flavor. Many of the shallots sold in the United States are imported from France.

RED ONION CLICK TO READ MORE

Alongside the shallot, onions are a staple of French cuisine. The red onion is well suited for salads, whereas for soups and other dishes, the yellow onion would be used instead.

ROSEMARY CLICK TO READ MORE

Rosemary has a bright, refreshing flavor that complements poultry and vegetable recipes. The plant thrives in full sunlight for several hours a day and must be kept fairly dry. As an evergreen, it makes an attractive tabletop decoration, as well. People who find dried rosemary too hard and spiny will appreciate the fresh leaf’s gentle texture.

HERBES DE PROVENCE CLICK TO READ MORE

Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs typical of Provence. Formerly simply a descriptive term referring to herbs typical of Provence, in the 1970s, commercial blends started to be sold under this name. The standard mixture typically contains savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and lavender flowers and other herbs, though lavender was not used in traditional southern French cooking. Herbes de Provence must be as widely used in France as ketchup is in America. They are such a great addition to any grilled meat, fish and vegetables. They flavor baked dishes as well as stews.

The Staple Ingredients of Scandinavian Cuisine

The Staple Ingredients of Scandinavian Cuisine
Scandinavia, consisting of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, Highlighted on World Map

Scandinavian cuisine has been heavily influenced by the area's history and harsh winters. Due to the long winter, the history behind the food culture is mostly based on food that can be preserved. Fresh food only began appearing on dinner tables in the 1700 century. This meant very low availability of fruits and vegetables for large parts of the year, with only fish and hunted animals being available around the year. The Vikings learned very early to smoke, dray and salt their meats and fish for longer storage. The introduction of New World discoveries made a large impact on Scandinavian cooking. Game is quite common as a type of meat, with deer and elk being found in many dishes. The cuisine is sometimes perceived as bland, as Scandinavians rarely use spices. Instead, just a dash of salt and pepper is customary.

CARROT CLICK TO READ MORE

Carrots are among the vegetables that are easily grown in the Northern climate, and so it is with good reason that you can find the vegetable in a wide array of Scandinavian stews.

YELLOW ONIONS CLICK TO READ MORE

Onions keep well in storage, making them a much used vegetable in all sorts of dishes. In addition to cooked and caramelized onions, they are also popular in form of soup as well as "crispy-cooked onions" for hot dogs.

POTATOES CLICK TO READ MORE

The introduction of the potato to Scandinavia upon the discovery of the New World made a huge impact. Before potatoes were available, scurvy was a common disease, as vitamin C deficiencies were often unavoidable during the long winter with no access to fresh vegetables. The potato however is high in vitamin C content, could be grown in the cold soil, and was easily stored over the course of the winter. Its since been adopted as a versatile staple of Scandinavian cuisine.

SMOKED SALMON CLICK TO READ MORE

The one traditional Norwegian dish with a claim to international popularity is smoked salmon. It is now a major export, and could be considered the most important Norwegian contribution to modern international cuisine. Smoked salmon exists traditionally in many varieties, and is often served with scrambled eggs, dill, sandwiches or mustard sauce. A large number of fish dishes are popular today, based on such species as salmon, cod, herring, sardine, and mackerel. Seafood is used fresh, smoked, salted or pickled.