This has been bugging me for ages. Is there a convenient word or phrase to express the idea that two food items can be traced back, culturally, to a common ancestor, or that one is derived from another?

For example, tonkatsu sauce is a kind of Japanese version of Worcestershire sauce, even though they're quite different in taste, texture and purpose. And tempura shares a common ancestor with fish and chips, namely Portuguese cuisine.

These relationships are quite surprising, so I'm looking for a word to describe them. If we were talking about words I'd say they were etymologically related, and if there's a similar word for food, some example sentences would be

Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta are not ____ related


Tonkatsu is ____ descended from schnitzel and sauerkraut.

I'd be quite happy with a phrase that's not specific to food and can also be used to describe cultural practices, architectural styles etc.

One could use "culturally" or perhaps "memetically" in the blanks, but neither feels quite right to me. "Gastronomically" almost seems like it should fit, but gastronomy refers to cooking food rather than studying it, so I think it's not quite right either.


11 Answers 11


In the domain of Art or History, the word provenance is used to trace a custodial path back to the ultimate origin for an item or event.

Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta share no provenance.


Tonkatsu's provenance descends from schnitzel and sauerkraut.

x, y have seperate origins but share a provenance after the noodle-incident when their mixed lineage occurred.

x, y have a branching provenance that happens to trace a shared lineage to the exact same origin!

It accords to describing food in the sense that a certain culture has custody over a technique, style, or set of ingredients via their focusing on developing or refining it.

"In archaeology and paleontology, the derived term Provenience... refer to the location where an item was found. Provenance covers an object's complete documented history. An artifact may thus have both a provenience and a provenance." Provenance (science) -wikipedia

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    I like this suggestion! I associate 'provenance' more with concrete artefacts than cultural traditions, but I think it would be understood.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jun 11 at 7:49
  • provenance is good. It is also used of texts with multiple versions.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 11 at 15:07
  • Manuscripts, I should say.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 11 at 17:41
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    I can't support this answer, I'm afraid. Yes "provenance" is a valuable word, which, relates to the general topic under discussion. But it simply has nothing at all to do with the literal question asked. Thus, in the example sentences "Tonkatsu is ???????? descended from schnitzel and sauerkraut." the word "provenane" is of no help at all. Conversely in these example usages "Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta share no provenance." there's no connection at all to culinary issues; that example could be about any topic (cars, whatever).
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 12 at 13:45

As your food examples are in a culinary context, I would suggest using the adverb culinarily. Here is the definition from Cambridge:

in a way that is connected with cooking or kitchens

I've also found many examples with the phrase "culinarily related", and here is one of them:

Instant noodles’ culinary parent, ramen, is culinarily-related to Chinese la-mian and exemplifies the once-rich historical cultural exchange between China and Japan.8

8. Barak Kushner, Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen-Japan’s Favorite Noodle Soup (Global Oriental, 2014).


However, you can also get away with using no additional words:

Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta are not related.

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    The word sounds rather strange, perhaps even a bit naughty, but it’s spot-on. Good answer. Commented Jun 10 at 15:50
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    I don't think this quite works - it could equally mean related in terms of cooking technique, role in a meal, or region of origin.
    – aantia
    Commented Jun 11 at 15:33
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    Agree with @aantia, this is a bit too broad to connote similarity of origin specifically. In the example sentence, it's not the "culinary" part that's doing the heavy lifting - it's the use of the word "related" which indicates the common ancestor. You could eliminate both instances of "culinary" from that sentence with almost no change in meaning (aside from being less explicitly figurative). Commented Jun 11 at 19:42
  • I like this, but I'm not able to find any other examples "in the wild" besides the one you quote. There are several google hits, but the other ones all seem to saying "related to food" in a slightly ungrammatical way, rather than meaning "related in a culinary way".
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jun 12 at 4:26
  • @N.Virgo While it may not be a common word and not all examples are a perfect fit, I thought it added a colorful touch. Additionally, the adverb is directly related to food and cooking, and I've found a very similar example to yours.
    – ermanen
    Commented Jun 12 at 6:40

They're historically related. They share a common history.


Culinary Heritage

UNESCO maintains a list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity which includes various food cultures. For example, an author talks about Mexico's submission:

What is being submitted as Mexico’s culinary heritage is a tradition said to stretch back 3000 years of dishes based on maize, beans and chiles, as exemplified by the rural cuisine of Michoacan. Words such as old, authentic, community-based kept cropping up.

and there's a substantial research literature.

So you would say things like:

Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta share no culinary heritage

  • To note that 'culinary heritage' is usually used when talking about that of a country, not a food. But I don't think that's a stretch to use it that way, eg 'pizza has a culinary heritage originating in Italy' Commented Jun 12 at 13:07

Some suggestions,

  • Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta are not originally related.
  • Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta come from different gastronomies.
  • Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta have different origins.


  • Gastronomically speaking, Tonkatsu has emerged from schnitzel and sauerkraut. (emerge - To come into existence: a period when many new life forms emerged) TFD

Examples from the web:

  • "gastronomically speaking, chiu in East Asia, is the nearest equivalence of wine in Europe."

gastronomy: the art or science of good eating, culinary customs or style, Chinese gastronomy

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    I guessing "originally" in this context wouldn't be taken as "associated with origination", but instead more "previously", (e.g. "not originally related ... but they are now.") "gastronomies" would be more talking about food cultures, rather than origin. (e.g. Tonkatsu and schnitzel also come from different gastronomies.) "has emerged from" only works if the line is direct. It doesn't quite work If they're related through a common ancestor (e.g. tempura didn't emerge from British fish & chips, though they both derive from the same Portuguese techniques.)
    – R.M.
    Commented Jun 10 at 20:34

I would argue that, at least in the two examples you have given, you don't need any word at all. What you have there are two perfectly valid and coherent sentences:

Despite their similarity, ramen and pasta are not related


Tonkatsu is descended from schnitzel and sauerkraut.

There is no need for a special word there. Descent and relation suffice. Don't overcomplicate things, just use standard words. We all understand that related or descended here doesn't imply a blood relation. Nobody will think that sometime in the past, a gorgeous schnitzel fell for a sexy saurkraut and a few months later had a burbling bundle of tonkatsu.

We regularly use such words to describe any number of different types of links between two things. Ideas, concepts, countries, theories, gadgets, cars, anything can be related to or descended from one another.


It's not quite what you're looking for but as a pragmatic answer I think I would go with "evolutionarily". Not evolutionarily related obviously means that they didn't evolve from each other and they didn't evolve from the same root. This gets at the more general principle underlying the option of saying "memetically"—which is also apt.

"Historically" would also work.


A previous answer used a pun but I don't think puns like "Oh these dishes are actually both forks developed from the ancient Chinese dish, woo-nah" will help the understanding.

For quick comprehension, it might be better to just say something like the two foods are derivatives or developments of a prior ancestor dish.


Borrowing from genetics, you could perhaps use the word phylogenetically.

phylogeny (noun) (from Merriam-Webster)

3 : the history or course of the development of something (such as a word or custom)

The first two definitions of the word are more specific to genetics, but this third one indicates that it can also be used in a more metaphorical sense to refer to the figurative evolution of just about anything.


In evolutionary biology we use "homologous" for structures that share a common origin even if they became quite different in function over the evolutionary history of related species. eg: mammalian inner ear ossicles are homologous to some reptilian jaw bones https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_mammalian_auditory_ossicles

... and we use "analogous" for structures that come from different evolutionary origins but end up serving a similar purpose and even looking alike eg: bat wings vs. bird wings vs. flying insect wings

a bit more on the subject: https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolution-101/the-history-of-life-looking-at-the-patterns/homologies-and-analogies/

IMHO this is a pair of words that you may be able to use successfully for your intended purpose, whithout leaving too much room for ambiguity, while talking to people who don't know their exact meaning in evolutionary biology

They're not specific to that subject, and "analogous" is quite commonly used in several contexts

Since "homologous" isn't as commonly used and its exact meaning might be a bit more opaque, you may want to phrase sentences contrasting both terms instead of using it alone eg: "this dish is homologous to that, not just analogous" "this other dish, on the other hand, is analogous to that, but not truly homologous"


I think this is technically impossible - food items can not be traced back to a common ancestor with anything like the precision with which words are traced back.

Since words are arbitrary and in normal must express meaning express meaning efficiently we're pretty much required to use words with the meaning and sound combination understood by the community, so meanings and sound can only shift gradually, making it possible to trace them over time.

Food items are not like that. People can and often do make up completely new dishes and serve them successfully. Diners do not have to share the understanding of where the food comes from to enjoy it.

So the new dish is often created within a single mind, with lots of new thinking and combining ideas from potentially many dishes, methods and ingredients that they learned of in many places. It's often impossible to trace that historically in any definite way.

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    Sorry, but this just isn't true at all. I gave several examples in the question. Yes, individual people do make up meals, but they almost always have some precedence in culture. Another example is chicken tikka masala, a British dish whose origins can clearly be traced to India. Even if not every dish can be traced back to its origin, many of them can.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Jun 11 at 11:00
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    Kind of silly to suggest that it is technically impossible to understand the origins of something like American Chinese food. Commented Jun 11 at 13:13
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    The other side of the comparison asserted here isn't true either - there are plenty of words whose origin is entirely obscure or hotly disputed, and which may have been invented out of odd combinations, mistakes, or maybe just someone's wild imagination. Just look at the proposed etymologies of "OK", and note that the one now most widely accepted is a deliberate misspelling. Humans are endlessly creative; sometimes, you can work out what influenced their ideas, other times it's a mystery even to the inventor themselves.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Jun 11 at 15:45
  • There may be exceptions but I still think it's generally much harder to innovate words than dishes and therefore easier to trace the history of a word. OK is a very unusual case. Most words in English afaik can be traced back directly to an old Germanic / Greek / Latin / other root or two thousands of years ago because they only evolved gradually.
    – bdsl
    Commented Jun 11 at 19:03
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    @bdsl I really don't see the difference. Recipes aren't invented by people who have never eaten any food before, or by picking ingredient names and cooking instructions out of a hat. They are created by combining and adapting existing techniques, ingredients, flavour combinations, etc. And words don't start with one simple root, and evolve in a linear fashion; they are adapted and combined in much the same ways. If you look at a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, you can clearly trace it back to Neapolitan pizza, and to flatbreads. But it seems the origin of the word pizza is slightly uncertain.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Jun 11 at 19:54

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