Baguette, Kimchi And More: 9 Popular Foods On UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List

Food is undoubtedly an integral part of the cultural heritage of any country. There are so many family heirloom recipes that are passed on from generation to generation; or else, sadly, are forgotten with the times. Thanks to globalisation and the rapid expansion of the internet, we have come across many interesting recipes and cooking techniques from around the world. Recently, for instance, we saw how bread is made in Iceland using natural heat from the hot springs in the area. UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage is also one such list that curates and recognizes some of the wonderful food traditions and recipes from across the world.

What Is UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List?

Cities and destinations across the world are often awarded the coveted UNESCO World Heritage tag, but how does food come into the picture? UNESCO has another list called Intangible Cultural Heritage. Foods, drinks and food cultures from all over the world are included in this list to build awareness about these amazing culinary traditions.

Countries submit their requests and nominations to UNESCO after which they are selected by an Intergovernmental Committee, set up for the safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. As per the UNESCO website, “The Committee meets annually to evaluate nominations proposed by States Parties to the 2003 Convention and decide whether or not to inscribe those cultural practices and expressions of intangible heritage on the Convention’s Lists.”

Popular Foods From Around The World On UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List

Every year, UNESCO releases a set of traditions corresponding to different countries. Whether it is traditional tea processing in China or the art of making Baguettes in France, there is so much food that is part of this wonderful list. Although it is not exhaustive, it surely offers a tiny glimpse into the vastness of the culinary history of the world. So, if you are a foodie and you want to try all the wonderful foods and traditions across the globe, this list will surely come in handy.

Here Are The Top 9 Most Popular Foods On UNESCO’s Cultural Heritage List:

1. Baguette

The most recent addition in 2022 to the UNESCO Cultural Heritage List, the oblong French bread is undoubtedly one of the most popular foods in the country. In spite of its familiar appearance, there is a lot of knowledge and technique that goes into its making. The bread is crispy on the outside and soft on the outside, and is consumed daily as part of many different recipes. The UNESCO recognition has come at an appropriate time as traditional Baguette bakeries are on the decline.

2. Kimchi

Korean food has become all the rage, but the traditional art of Kimchi making won recognition in the year 2015. This fermented vegetable dish is a staple at every Asian restaurant and has a slightly sour and zingy flavour to it. The art of kimchi-making is different for every Korean household, and the recipes are typically passed on to the near and dear ones for them to carry it forward. The tradition of making Kimchi is called ‘Kimjang’ and it is said to bind the entire community together.

3. Neapolitan Pizza

Who doesn’t love a slice of doughy pizza topped with tangy Marinara and the choicest toppings? The art of making Neapolitan Pizza or ‘Pizzaiuolo’ originates in Naples, Italy. The preparation of the dough, forming the pizza with the customary rotatory motions and the subsequent baking in a wood-fired oven is all part of this wonderful process and has been recognized by UNESCO in 2017. The knowledge and skill required to make Neapolitan pizza can only be learnt at the ‘bottega’ after years of careful study and apprenticeship.

(Also Read: 6 Facts About Pizza That Will Blow Your Minds)

The art of making the original Naples-style pizza is also part of this list. Photo: iStock

4. Couscous

From its origins in Africa to the global UNESCO recognition in 2020, Couscous has indeed had a long journey. The preparation process of this humble dish is not just meticulous and detailed but is also a celebration in itself. After obtaining the cereal, the seeds are ground, rolled by hand and then steamed and cooked. The resulting grainy dish can then be cooked and paired with vegetables, meats or any other accompaniment of choice. The countries that have preserved the art of Couscous making include Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Morocco.

5. Belgian Beer

Beer culture in Belgium made an appearance on UNESCO’s list in the year 2016. Thousands of varieties of beer are produced in the country and are used not just on special occasions but also as a part of daily cooking. Brewers who have mastered this art of beer-making pass on their training to amateurs and other beer entrepreneurs as well.

(Also Read: Know Your Beer: A Comprehensive Guide To Beer Styles)

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Next time you sip on some Belgian beer, know that it is part of their heritage! Photo: iStock

6. Harissa Sauce

Another latest entrant in the 2022 UNESCO Intangible Heritage List, Harissa hails yet again from Tunisia. It is a spicy and fiery seasoning or pastes made by processing peppers. The process of making it is quite similar to our Indian achaar – the peppers are sun-dried, split, deseeded, and then washed. Salt, garlic and coriander are used to season these after they have been ground to a paste. Harissa can then be stored and used in cooking as required.

7. Arabic Coffee

The tradition of drinking coffee is believed by many to have origins in the Middle East, which is why it came as no surprise that UNESCO added it to their list as early as 2015. The coffee-making practices of Arabic coffee are being carried forward by countries such as United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Arabic coffee beans are roasted, ground to a powder in mortar and pestle and then heated on the ground with fire in a copper vessel. Serving Arabic coffee to guests is a long-standing part of the history of the region.

(Also Read: Beyond Hummus: 9 Popular Arabic Foods You Must Try)

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Arabic coffee is known to be one of the most traditional and authentic. Photo: iStock

8. Lavash

Bread-making techniques are found plentiful across the world, but Lavash from Armenia is an integral part of the country’s culture. It was inscribed in the UNESCO list in 2014 and made an appearance again in 2016’s list as part of a flatbread-making culture. The simple bread has but two ingredients and also forms a vital part of ceremonies such as weddings and birthdays.

9. Chinese Tea

Added to the UNESCO List in 2022, Chinese tea-making traditions date back several centuries. Tea consumption, tea plantations and tea sharing are a vital part of Chinese culture. There are primarily six categories of tea in China – white, oolong, green, yellow, dark, and black that are processed to make over 2,000 different kinds of tea. Tea is an important part of weddings and other ceremonies too.

As mentioned earlier, this list is in no way exhaustive and there are plenty of other foods that have earned recognition from the UN body. Mediterranean diet, for instance, is also part of the list and so is Singapore’s famous Hawker market. We definitely hope to see some Indian foods and traditions too getting the UNESCO Intangible Heritage tag in the near future!

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