September 08, 2021

Mapped: The colour palettes of Asia's favourite foods

Research has shown that color is the most effective sensory cue* when it comes to imagining the flavor of food, inspiring to uncover the color palette of each country’s typical lunchtime meal

By scraping a reputable restaurant review site to find the most dominant lunchtime dishes for each country, then analyzed the color hues of each of the most popular dishes, and now can reveal all. 

This research is part of a larger study into the color palettes of lunchtime dishes around the world:


Over in Lebanon, their food colour palette contains a range of beige and brown tones as well as orange and purple, which can be credited to their love of bright pickles, chickpeas and meat - their most popular dish is shawarma. 

Japan’s dominant dish of sushi lends itself to the reds, greens, and whites in their national palette. From rice to seaweed and fillings of avocado, fish, and even tofu, the choice of flavors and colors in endless. 

Indonesia has a heavily green and beige toned food palette, showing how many dishes are frequented with herbs, spices, vegetables, and poultry. Their most popular dish bakso is a great example of this - a meatball soup with vegetables and noodles to accompany the broth.

Iran’s most popular lunchtime dishes include the flavourful chelow kebab and colorful biryani, making up Iran’s palette of warm reds and yellows as well as green earthy tones. This is unsurprising taking into account how both popular lunch dishes include meat, colored spices and vegetables such as tomato.

Afghanistan’s food color palette is made up of an array of colors from red and orange, to green and brown with their most popular lunchtime dish being Kabuli pulao. This national and aromatic dish made from rice, lamb, and jeweled with carrots as well as raisins, is the perfect example of Afghanistan’s food color palette in one dish.

Color palettes around the world 

Across the pond in the United Kingdom, kebabs and fish and chips pave the way for colours such as red, green and white. Kebabs are often accompanied by salads packed full of tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, as well as seasoned meat. Fish and chips is England’s most iconic meal and a seaside staple, especially when paired with mushy peas. 

Canada’s typical color palette is filled with reds, pinks, and yellows due to the nation’s love of meat. Peameal bacon and smoked meat sandwiches are their most notable lunches and contribute to the pink, red, and orange tones of the color palette.


  1.’s investigation into local cuisine seeks to uncover the color hues that most dominate the lunch palette of countries around the world. 

  2. Content analysis of over 3 million uniformly distributed restaurant reviews from 151 unique countries sourced from a reputable restaurant review site was performed to sufficiently satisfy the requirements of this global study. 

  3. An internal dataset containing an exhaustive list of global cuisines was referenced to identify the most frequently mentioned dish for each country within our sample. During this phase, specific preference was given to dishes suitable for lunchtime meals and to those whose primary colour could be unambiguously distinguished. 

  4. A color palette generator was used to distinguish the most prominent hues in the images of the dishes formerly identified. 

  5. The resulting dataset offered insight into each country’s most consumed lunchtime meal and its typical colors of it.

  6. Data was collected in June 2021 and is accurate as of then.

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