Ethnic Foods – What Are They, Really?

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The other day a friend, who is also into gourmet and ethnic food cooking, asked me to list what I considered as the Top 10 Ethnic Foods. And it gave me pause, because I had to stop and think:

Just what is “ethnic” food, really?

If I were asked to define ethnic foods, I finally came to think, I would first have to take into account all the ethnic food types, the many ethnic food groups, and really, when I started to think globally, the idea of being able to select, prioritize, and list ethnic foods in a “Top 10” category became impossible.

(Image Attributed to Author: Urnanabha)

Why, you ask?

Because what is “ethnic” food to me, living in The Great Lakes Region of the USA, is not going to be the same as someone living in Asia, or Africa, or Australia, or South America, heck—even someone from another region within my own country would consider some of the foods I eat regularly as “ethnic” and visa versa for me.

How about referring to The Random House Dictionary’s definition of “ethnic”:

“Pertaining to or characteristic of a people, especially a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.”

So here again, it is important to remember that what you or I might consider as ethnic will depend on where we come from and what particular culture, religion, language, or the like that we share with others in our specific culture.

If an Englishman were to sit down to breakfast and be served a typical breakfast I might have,consisting of scrambled eggs, hashed brown potatoes, Canadian bacon, pancakes, toast and jam, and coffee, he/she would consider that as an authentic ethnic American food experience.

ethnic foods

(Photo Attributed to Author: Carlos Menendez, San Juan)

Ethnic Foods, Continued …

Conversely, if I was served a breakfast of Macaroni and Cheese and red beans, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, and fried potatoes, I would be having, to me, an authentic British foods ethnic breakfast experience.

ethnic foods public domain

In closing, the reason I put this post up for all our valued readers to understand that this site is all about “Ethnic Foods R Us”—implying that no matter where you live, what culture you are from, your food is “ethnic” to others around the world, and theirs is ethnic to you.

And we are all one huge, globally connected family, brothers and sisters united in (among many other ways as well) our common love of good eats.

public domain

People in every land and every culture and sub-culture are fond of mealtime. And for those people all over the world who love to experience what peoples of other cultures like to eat, who consider other cultures as inviting to learn about and to befriend and embrace, this site is for you.

My Best Always, Your Friend,

Marvin D Wilson (aka “The Old Silly”)


Please, if you have a comment, by all means leave it. Any suggestions for inclusions in any of the pages 0n this site, be it a recipe you’d like, a specific ethnic foods culture you would like to know more about, whatever – The Old Silly is here every day, and loves to engage with and respond to our readers.


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20 thoughts on “Ethnic Foods – What Are They, Really?

  1. Enjoyed this article, and perspective. I’m a Great Lakes region, mid-western American, and never stopped to think that the foods I consider “normal” would be quite different and “ethnic” to people from other countries – heck, even for people in different regions of the USA!

    Love this site – I have a flair for trying new recipes, so I will be back, for sure.

    • Bob thanks for the comment. It does make you stop and think about what is “ethnic”, doesn’t it? Glad you found us, and you are invited back as soon and often as you wish!

  2. I’m an ethnic food enthusiast, and I also live in the Great Lakes region! (northern Indiana to be specific). Yeah, I’m originally from the Philippines and we always considered fried chicken and hamburgers to be “American”, even though in reality, hamburgers are actually German. I’ve been exposed to many ethnic cuisines like North Indian and Middle Eastern (Levantine to be specific). As for Mexican, Chinese and Italian….well..I didn’t mention those because they’re so typical to American cuisine today.

    • Yes I agree. To Americans, especially those of us living in cosmopolitan cities, there isn’t much we don’t have access to when it comes to “ethnic” foods.

  3. Hello, Marvin,
    Great article on ethnic foods. Thanks for clarifying the definition and making me realize that there is no way to make a Top 10 of Ethnic Foods.
    Thanks for making me realize that my food is ethnic to others and the opposite. Yet, we are all one big family 🙂

    • Ilina, you are most welcome. Thanks for the visit and comment, and be sure to help yourself to any of the “ethnic” foods from cultures all over the world.

  4. Hello there!
    I love your website and I am a big fan of ethnic food. I always love to try new kinds of food from around the world. I usually check images and recipes on pinterest and various food blogs so that I try cook ethnic dishes.
    But your post provided so much useful and interesting info!
    I really appreciate the effort you put in your post and I can’t wait for more posts.

    • Thanks, Katerina. I have put a lot of work into this site, so it feels so nice when someone like you appreciates it. Be sure and sign up to subscribe to our newsletter, you will get special offers and notifications, okay?

  5. Hi Marvin.
    I never given any thought to what is “ethnic” food to me,
    When I think of Italian food, my mind sees pasta in every form imaginable.

    However, an authentic British foods ethnic breakfast took me aback a little, I had no idea those dishes are served as part of a British breakfast. I guess I need to book mark this site and start a new learning experience.

    Kind of sad really, since I know every beer style that every country in the world brews as part of their heritage.

    I have book marked your site to allow me an easy means of getting back here.

    Thank you for a great introduction to Ethnic food.


  6. Hi! What a great website! I really enjoyed your take on ethnic foods in relation to where you live. A good example of that is that I live in Alaska; here, staples in our diet include moose, caribou, salmon, and halibut. That certainly can’t be said about most areas of the world. I’ve bookmarked your page, it looks fantastic. I’m looking forward to perusing it at my leisure.
    I just retired from a 23 year career in the grocery retail field, most recently being a produce department manager for many years. Your content resonates with my upbringing, that’s for sure! 🙂

    • Kim, thanks so much for the kind words, and your staples, ” moose, caribou, salmon, and halibut”, are all foods I love to eat, too!

  7. Hey glad I happened across this website! I love ethnic foods of all kinds. Pinterest is great, love that site too, but I like the way you provide info, history, cultural manners, etc., and the “online store” to get ingredients you might not find at your local grocery is really cool.

    I’ll be back often!

  8. Good points on what “ethnic” really means – I hadn’t really considered that what I consider a “normal” meal would be thought of as ethnic eats by someone from another culture.

    Love this site! But I can’t come here unless I’ve just eaten, hahahahaa.

  9. Hi:
    Just wandered in for a peek. You have a very attractive website, with some very interesting recipes. I love to cook, so I’ll be bookmarking this.

    • Great! Thanks for “wandering in” lol, and for sure stop back often. New recipes will be added every day, from all over the world. And if you have any favorites you don’t see here yet, just ask, we will find it for you, okay?

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