Food is a source of enjoyment, and nourishment and also brings people closer through sharing. With increasing globalization, we have been introduced to different cuisines and dishes. A cuisine evolves on the availability of raw food materials available in the region. It may differ from region to region but is clubbed together under a broader geographical location. For example, French, Italian and German food dishes are categorized under Continental cuisine while Japanese, Malaysian and Thai food items are categorized under Oriental cuisine. Food items categorized under a same cuisine are similar but may taste different too as they feature the same type of cooking but with ingredients used depending on the availability in a particular region.
Orient means east in Latin and was used collectively for East Asian countries. These include Japan, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and others. Oriental cuisine in general encompasses the cooking practices and ingredients of these regions and countries. Predominantly noodles, rice, fish, poultry, fresh vegetables & fruits, dry nuts like apricots and plums, and spices are used and preparation includes boiling and stir-frying dishes. Fermented items like kimchi and pickled products and sauces are also used.
Continental refers to the European continent and thus Continental cuisine means the recipes originating from here especially the Mediterranean regions encompassing France and Italy. Other regions include Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Greece. Predominantly meat, beef, poultry, fish, fresh herbs, olive oil, seasonal fruits & vegetables and lard and olive oil are used. Preparation techniques include baking, frying, boiling and roasting food. Pastries, pies, stews, rolls and baked items are mainly consumed.
Main Differences Between Continental and Oriental Dishes
Now that we have clarity about these cuisines, let us know more about the differences between them.
Use of Spices Vs Herbs
Oriental food recipes use generous amounts of spices like turmeric, chilies, cumin seeds and cinnamon for preparation. Continental cuisines also use them to some degree but the emphasis is more on using fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, parsley, mint, thyme and oregano.
Oriental food usually takes less time to cook as the fresh ingredients are boiled and stir-fried. Emphasis is on food being light, crunchy and fresh with generous amounts of fresh vegetables. Continental food takes much more time to prepare, as food is served in courses and entrées, and more baked and elaborately prepared items are served.
Use of Sauces
Oriental food recipes have sauces as part of the dishes and are termed as curries. These are eaten as a part of the meal. The sauces here are of thin consistency, hot and are easily absorbed by the accompaniments of bread and rice. In continental cuisine the sauces are cold and used as seasonings or condiments. Or they are used as a separate side dish depending upon the meal and the nature of sauce.
Oriental cuisine is prepared mostly through boiling and stir-frying while continental cuisine employs roasting and baking techniques.
Carbohydrates and Proteins Used
Oriental food uses rice and wheat as carbohydrate sources. For proteins the emphasis is more on poultry, mutton, fish, legumes and pulses. Continental food uses wheat, rye, corn and potatoes for carbohydrates and pork, beef, fish and poultry as main protein source.
Oriental preparations are light and considered healthier than their continental counterparts. This is due to use of more carbohydrates and meat in continental food preparations.
So, these are some of the key differences between continental and oriental food. A cuisine is developed as per the climatic conditions and food resources available and alters with the introduction of other ingredients and influences over time. It may also incorporate influences from 2 distinctly different cuisines to create unique delicacies like American chop suey and Indian Manchurian recipes.