Results are in for least and most paleo-friendly ethnic cuisines. Lots of votes — thank you.
No surprise for the clear winner of least paleo: Italian. With all that pasta, bread, bread sticks, pizza, and breaded meats, it's hard to avoid grain, gluten, and a big insulin spike. Maybe I shouldn't have chosen Olive Garden for our next paleo meetup. Chinese and Mexican aren't far behind. Favorite write-in: Tasmanian.
There are really two winners for most paleo ethnic cuisine: Barbeque and Brazilian. More proof that the ideal paleo meal is meat on a stick. Greek and Japanese are runners up. Have a look at the results, and then I'll give you my observations below.
- Observe that Italian and Greek are heavily divergent on the rankings, which is odd considering they are two nearby Mediterranean countries who share so much classical culture. Italian food is very grain heavy, Greek not so much. I'll speculate that part of it is because Greece is more mountainous, so it's much harder to grow grain there than in Italy. Grain-products can't be a staple of your cuisine if it's hard to get hold of. This allows us to make some hypotheses: ethnic cuisines that are paleo-friendly will be found in countries where it is harder to grow grain relative to other sources of food — mountainous locations or regions near the sea. Flat, land-locked regions and countries will have developed the least paleo-friendly cuisine.
- Clearly, as commenter Alicia points out, there is a difference between Americanized ethnic food, the type of ethnic food available in NYC/LA or anywhere with sizable immigrant populations, and traditional/indigenous ethnic cuisine as it is made in the home country. For example, Italian gets slammed, but real southern Italian food has lots of seafood and is less grain-heavy than northern Italian, as you can see from Richard Nikoley's recent trip.
- Barbeque got the most votes for most paleo, but I don't think it merits the highest honor. First, while the grilled meat is very paleo (and the act of grilling it), most of the typical sides are not: tons of sweet barbeque sauce, ketchup, macaroni and cheese, corn bread, and baked beans. But the act of barbequing is about as paleo as it gets.
- Brazilian is a great choice if you've ever been to a Brazilian steakhouse (churrascaria). However, the standard Brazilian diet is very heavy in rice and beans — so when we say Brazilian, it's actually the churrascaria format that is most paleo. That said, having been to Rio de Janeiro in the last couple years, standard lunch places have awesome paleo choices (minus the rice and beans).
- Korean is more paleo than it gets credit for in this tally. I've been to Korean BBQs that didn't even serve rice…the only breaded item were a few dumplings.
- One commenter pointed out Filipino food as particularly friendly to paleo. Forget the rice. There's Sisig (spicy pork cheeks and brain), Dinuguan (innards and blood stew), Kinilaw (like ceviche), and Inasal baboy or lechon (whole pig roast). Lots of coconut milk, and no vegetarian dishes. What's not to like? A true blue Filipina is taking me to a Filipino restaurant this week, so I'll report back.
Keep your eyes posted for future posts where I'll give tips and tricks for how to eat paleo at Italian/Mexican/Chinese/Indian/ethnic restaurants.