The flavors of 7 world cuisines, visualized

When you think of your favorite dish, you probably think of a particular taste: sweet, sour, savory or maybe spicy. But for people with synaesthesia – a perceptual phenomenon affecting about 1 percent of the population – this may not be the case. Individuals who experience synaesthesia may associate sounds with shapes or feelings, colors with words, and even tastes with sounds.

We’ve applied the same concept to nine different cuisines to discover how we might visually experience food from some of the world’s most popular culinary travel destinations.

1. Australian cuisine

Australia’s sunny climate means that the sizzling sound of a meal cooking on the BBQ is a familiar part of a summer gathering. Fresh seafood like shrimp is complemented by native meats like kangaroo, or even emu. Leafy greens and a wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies lend a colorful touch to these dishes from down under, while popular desserts like pavlova offer a unique texture.

2. Ethiopian cuisine

The cuisine of Africa’s oldest independent country is a feast for the senses, with pungent berbere – a mix of spices like fenugreek, ajwain and ginger – lending an intense aroma to many dishes. Stews such as wat and tibs are commonly served on spongy injera flatbread alongside several condiments and dips, giving each meal the characteristic combination of bright colors like yellow, red-orange and green.

3. French cuisine

Made famous by Auguste Escoffier, French cuisine is one of the classics of European cooking. Velvety sauces thickened with a butter and flour roux and red wine-braised meats make French specialties like coq au vin indulgently rich. A simple color palette of yellows and browns belies the intricacy of the country’s renowned pâtisserie dishes, including the famous croissants, with their distinctive layered, flaky texture.

4. Hawaiian cuisine

The tropical abundance of the Hawaiian archipelago makes for a riot of color. The pinks of raw tuna and the bright hues of fresh vegetables are instantly noticeable in many local dishes, including the trendy fish salad, poke. Desserts are no less vibrant – shaved ice is often flavored with delicious tropical fruits like pineapple and lychee.

5. Indian cuisine

Indian cuisine is as diverse as the subcontinent itself. But from Punjab down to Tamil Nadu, you’ll consistently find a love for fragrantly spiced food. With the warm aroma of garam masala and the sharpness of ginger, dishes like dal bhat, or rice with lentil stew, certainly pack a punch. The intense oranges and yellows of side dishes like sambar enliven even simple snacks, such as dosas.

Explore Mumbai for a weekend

6. Italian cuisine

Few cuisines can claim such a following as Italy’s, with its emphasis on savory, herby flavors using just a few fresh ingredients. Red, white and green aren’t just the colors of the Mediterranean country’s flag — they’re also the classic palette of many dishes thanks to widespread use of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil. Texture is key, with pasta being kept al dente for dishes like ragù alla bolognese.

Take me to Italy

7. Japanese cuisine

Delicate and refined, Japanese food emphasizes fresh, nutritious ingredients. Mainstays like tuna, salmon, scallions and seaweed are key to dishes like sushi, with light pinks and greens making for a pleasing display. Saku-saku describes the crunch made when biting into tempura, or battered, deep-fried vegetables and seafood – a sound that fans of this cuisine are surely familiar with.

So there you have it: a visual culinary tour across five continents and seven countries. Perhaps you’ve seen some of your favorite food in a new light – or maybe you’ve got some inspiration for your next vacation. What might your country’s cuisine look like?


Nomads World. (2017) Australian food you should try.

Jamie Oliver. (2014) Australia’s top 10 favourite dishes.

Houston Press. (2013) Here, eat this: a beginner’s guide to Ethiopian cuisine.

Migrationology. (2017) Ethiopian food: the ultimate guide for food lovers.

Buzzfeed. (2014) 17 delicious Ethiopian dishes all kinds of eaters can enjoy.

The Spruce. (2017) A brief introduction to French food and cooking.

Hawaii Magazine. (2016) 20 Hawaiian dishes you must try when travelling to the islands.

Serious Eats. (2014) Going to Hawaii? 10 must-eat local specialties.

Buzzfeed. (2014) 13 delicious Hawaiian foods you need to eat right now.

MIT Technology Review. (2015) Data mining Indian recipes reveals new food pairing phenomenon.

Your Guide to Italy. (2017) Italian cuisine.

SBS. (2013) Key ingredients: Japanese.

CNN. (2017) Which country has the best food?

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