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The battle for borscht and the hummus war: how countries argue over national dishes

Over the past few decades, South Korea and China have repeatedly found themselves in a state of diplomatic tension. But who would have thought that this time countries would quarrel over sauerkraut, writes Air force.

Photo: Shutterstock

However, this is exactly what happened.

Another conflict between Seoul and Beijing began to mature after, in early December, China received an international certificate for pao tsai - a dish from the Chinese province of Sichuan, strongly reminiscent of the world-famous South Korean spicy pickled cabbage kimchi.

China's state newspaper The International Times reported that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has recognized pao tsai as the international standard for the kimchi dish industry.

Although ISO denied this information, stating that the certificate was awarded only to pao tsai and not kimchi, this caused discontent with the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture.

A war of words broke out on social networks between the defenders of pickled vegetables on both sides.

However, this is far from the first time that countries have an appetite for conflicts over national dishes.

Here are five more heated debates about the origins of the most famous foods and foods.

Homeland of potatoes

South America is considered the birthplace of one of the world's most popular food products, the potato. The Spanish invasion of South America in the 1530s brought potatoes to Europe.

When Europeans learned about the existence of potato tubers, South America did not yet have state borders.

Therefore, neighboring countries - Peru and Chile, between which there was already internal tension (spilled over into war in the XNUMXth century), simultaneously proclaimed themselves the homeland of the potato.

The Chileans took a creative approach, supporting their arguments with examples from science and art. They referred to a poem by the Nobel Prize for Literature Pablo Neruda, who dedicated a whole ode to the potato. In addition, in 2008, the country's agriculture ministry announced that 99% of all potatoes produced in the world have a genetic link to their Chilean ancestor.

The angry Peruvian authorities, periodically reminding that their plant products saved Europe from hunger, responded by showing the reports of their own experts.

They say that the ancestor of the potato is the species Solanum brevicaule, which was found off the northern shores of Lake Titicaca, located in Peru.

Santiago and Lima also argue about the origin of the alcoholic drink pisco, from which the world famous alcoholic cocktail "Pisco Sour" takes its name. This cocktail is very popular in both countries.

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"Hummus War"

Many countries in the Middle East credit themselves with the invention of hummus, a world-famous dish made from chickpea puree. But Israel and Lebanon have taken the dispute to a new level.

Both countries claim hummus is part of their historical heritage. For example, Israeli experts refer to religious records from more than two thousand years ago, which contain references to this popular dish.

In 2008, Lebanese producers filed a lawsuit against Israel over hummus, arguing that a southern neighbor had misappropriated the Lebanese national dish and made money from selling and advertising it.

Beirut also petitioned the European Union, demanding that the EU authorities recognize hummus as a Lebanese cultural heritage.

Both initiatives have failed - the EU authorities said that hummus is the property of the entire Middle East, including Israel.

A new round of the "hummus war" brought the Guinness Book of Records: over the past ten years, Israel and Lebanon have periodically set world records for cooking dishes with hummus of the largest possible size.

In 2010, the Lebanese prepared a dish of hummus weighing 10 kg. So far, Israel has failed to break this record.


Jolof is a rice dish popular with West Africans including Senegal, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon.

The recipe for this dish varies from country to country - and of course, each of them considers its own version to be the best (and most delicious).

In West Africa, everything about this dish is an extremely delicate issue.

In 2017, Nigeria's Minister of Culture and Information, Lai Muhammad, came under fire after mistakenly praising the Senegalese variation of Jolof.

In an interview with CNN, he misheard the question of which country cooks the dish best, provoking heated debate with his response.

It seemed to the minister that he had been asked about the origins of Jolof, and he replied - Senegal (it is believed that Jolof was invented by the Volofars - the ethnic people of West Africa, most represented among the population of Senegal).

The words of the Minister of Culture caused a flurry of indignation on social networks - Vice President of Nigeria Yemi Osinbajo even had to intercede for the minister (of course, he did not miss the opportunity to remind that the Nigerian version of Jolof is the best in the world).

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The scandal around baklava

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former US President Barack Obama inadvertently triggered a food conflict between Turkey and Greece.

In addition to numerous political differences, Ankara and Athens are in dispute over the origin of certain dishes that both sides claim to be their own. Among them, baklava is a dessert in the form of a puff pastry soaked in butter and honey, with a nut filling.

In 2012, Barack Obama hosted a White House dinner to mark the Greek Independence Day. The dishes for the guests were prepared by the Greek chef Maria Loi.

Later, Loi noted that the president especially liked the baklava. This caused a storm of indignation among the Turkish media, which saw support for the Greek origin of the dish.

President Obama finds himself in a delicate diplomatic situation between the two sides.

Several years earlier, Turkish producers condemned European Union advertisements that featured baklava as the national dessert of the Greek part of Cyprus.

Basmati rice

There is no shortage of disputes and conflicts between Pakistan and India, but this time rice was the source of contention.

Basmati is a type of aromatic rice with thin long grains.

Last October, India, which supplies two-thirds of all rice supplies to the European Union, demanded that the EU grant it a unique geographic name.

This means that only Indian rice can bear the name Basmati in the EU, like champagne or Parma ham.

The problem is that, according to the European Commission, Pakistan supplies the remaining third of the basmati rice to the EU.

Of course, the Pakistani authorities were not happy with the Delhi proposal.

The EU has to make a decision on this issue.

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Dolma: Armenian or Azerbaijani?

Nagorno-Karabakh is not the only subject of conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There is also fierce debate about the origin of dolma - a dish made from grape leaves stuffed with minced meat or rice.

Both countries consider this dish national: Azerbaijanis and Armenians are fiercely debating on the Internet over the right to consider this dish the property of one people.

The situation escalated after the Azerbaijani dolma was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2017.

Dolma is cooked in different countries: from Turkey to Georgia and China. The recipes are often different: for example, the Greeks put anything in dolma, except meat, add lemon and olive oil.

If you replace the grape leaf with cabbage, then you get stuffed cabbage familiar to every Russian, which, however, does not reduce the degree of discussion.

Whose borscht?

Traditionally, borscht is considered a national dish of Ukrainian cuisine. However, this first course is widely popular among many Slavic peoples, including Belarusians, Russians, Poles and Lithuanians.

In Japan, borscht is sold in tubes and is considered Russian.

Disputes over the origin of borscht are being waged between Russia and Ukraine, already mired in political conflict since 2014. Ukrainians react very painfully when they call borscht Russian.

In May 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Twitter account, Russia, posted a post about borscht serving as a symbol of traditional Russian cuisine.

"There is a theory that the name borscht comes from the Russian hogweed, from which soup was made in Ancient Russia."

The post caused a storm of discontent among Ukrainian users: some of them compared Russia's appropriation of Ukrainian borscht with the annexation of Crimea.

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In December last year, a scandal around this culinary masterpiece flared up on social networks again: the reason was the post of humorist Andrei Bocharov, who called the borscht Russian.

The post collected more than 11 thousand comments, where each side defended its right to primacy around borscht.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine intends to seek the inclusion of borscht in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

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