The influx of recipe websites and the army of food blogs has generated a plethora of data about personal preferences, cooking methods, ingredient substitutions and geographical information. And a number of researchers are attempting to use this data to build taste graphs and to beef up recommendation algorithms, as we’ve written about in the past.
On of the latest research projects aims to map the relationship between Chinese cuisines and regions. Researchers at the Beijing Computational Science Research Center in China recently published a paper and mapped their findings. The team culled the Chinese recipe database, Meishijie,which contains 8,500 recipes made with almost 3,000 ingredients.
The variation in preparation, cooking methods and, of course, ingredients between chinese cuisines is vast, but the team set out to discover what factors determine the links between these cuisines and whether geographical location or climate a larger deciding factor in cuisine cross-over.
To create the map, they grouped individual recipes by origin and then created a web that links recipes, ingredients and regions, categorizing them into different cuisines. Next they developed a system for measuring similarities between cuisines, focusing non-basic ingredients to see their patterns of distribution among cuisines and regions.
The following is a summary of their findings.
1.) The northern three provinces are lumped together into Dongbei (Northeastern) cuisine, Sichuan and Chongqing make up the (Sichuan) cuisine. GanSu, QuingHai, HingXia and SanXi fall under XiBei (Northwestern) cuisine. But generally each region has its own culinary style.
2.) The cuisines of Hong Kong and YunGui differentiated significantly from each other and from all of the other cuisines. “This may reflect the facts that ethnic minorities have historically resided in the YunGui region and that Hong Kong was ruled by the British Empire and Japan for more than 100 years,” says the team.
3.) After looking at data regarding cuisine similarities between regions with comparable climates they found that “the geographical proximity, rather than climate proximity is a crucial factor that determines the similarity of regional cuisines.” Meaning that people are most likely to take their recipes with them when they migrate and modify the ingredients as the climate and agriculture require. According to their findings, the probability that recipes of a certain cuisine will appear in another region is proportional the the geographical distance between the two regions.
Read more about the report on the MIT Technology Review.