There are an almost infinite number of cooking movies about Asian cuisine to watch. With a few notable exceptions, few Western documentarians have even scratched the surface of the huge range of flavors and stories Chinese regional cuisines have to offer in mainland China. Thankfully, this is changing, particularly with the rise of Chinese-produced documentaries that offer an insider’s perspective on cuisine and identity. Here are seven Chinese cooking shows we recommend for online streaming, whether you want to escape or learn something new.
1. A Bite of China
The first season of this groundbreaking documentary from China’s state-run CCTV aired in 2012, and it was the first to broaden the breadth and production value of such documentaries in the country. The result was well received by Chinese diners all around the country. The documentary, which was shot in over 60 places around China, provided a much-needed window into the diversity of Chinese regional food. Each episode travels from Inner Mongolia’s grasslands to Hainan’s islands, highlighting the history and production of well-known delicacies like mapo tofu and Shaoxing wine, as well as lesser-known (but nonetheless extremely Chinese) foods.
2. Flavorful Origins
Flavorful Origins, produced by China’s Tencent Video, was the first foreign platform-produced documentary to be syndicated on Netflix. And it’s easy to see why if you watch it. The 20-part series is a lushly produced love letter to Chaoshan’s specialty cuisine in southeastern Guangdong province.
Despite its visual similarities to other Netflix favorites like Chef’s Table and Salt Fat Acid Heat, this Chinese food show was praised for quietly focusing on the regular farmers, store owners, and family-run stalls that make up southern China’s storied food industry, rather than artists or celebrity chefs. (We recommend watching it with subtitles in its original Mandarin). If you love this show, you can also read our recommendations on Chinese movie chef competition for more options.
3. The Search for General Tso
This video looks at the roots of General Tso’s chicken, the archetypal Chinese-American “chop suey” meal. General Tso’s chicken spread across the United States during a time when Chinese immigrants needed to carve out a culinary niche in order to survive — “that looks like frog, not chicken!” a woman exclaims when she sees a picture of the dish — and was considered “authentic” by even well-traveled Americans.
Jennifer 8. Lee, a former New York Times writer and author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, is the host of an in-depth look at an innovation influenced equally by Asian and American tastes.
4. Lucky Chow
Okay, so this series isn’t entirely about Chinese food, but the episodes that are are really worth watching. This show focuses on modern versions of traditional meals and showcases a who’s who of culinary experts and entrepreneurs from across the world. Each episode focuses on a particular area, industry, or theme distinct to Asian foods and identity.
Lucky Chow, which is hosted by Chinese-American entrepreneur Danielle Chang, who oversees the popular pan-Asian culinary event Lucky Rice, also takes a broad view of how ideas are transferred between the motherland and the diaspora.
5. Once Upon a Bite
Unfortunately, this one is only for Chinese speakers – at least for the time being. Following the conclusion of Season 2 of A Bite of China, visionary director Chen Xiaoqing parted ties with CCTV (which may explain why Season 3 isn’t as good as the previous two). Tencent would later poach Chen and commission him to produce his own TV show for their video streaming platform.
Chen, a self-proclaimed foodie, devotes equal time to food and people in his new Chinese cooking show, which, unlike Bite of China, draws interesting connections between Chinese farming and preparation methods and those in nations such as Spain and France. Even if you don’t understand Chinese, the beautiful scenery and food in the Tencent Video adverts are worth watching.
6. Breakfast in China
Sadly, like Once Upon a Bite, this viral Chinese cooking series from 2019 is only available in Chinese. These 35 five-minute episodes focus on the most important meal of the day, and how it’s prepared and enjoyed in locations across China, from Wuhan hot and dry noodles to Guangdong congee. The filmmakers accomplish this by visiting a business in each location that specializes in a famous local dish and interviewing both the proprietors and their ardent patrons. In the first episode of the show, one resident exclaims about his favorite noodle store, “I’ve eaten here every day for almost ten years!”
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7. MasterChef China
MasterChef China is a Chinese chef TV show that debuted in 1990 as a spin-off of the original British MasterChef. Joyoung and Zwilling are the show’s sponsors. In the show, contestants from all around China participated. It’s a stage where regular people may fulfill their culinary fantasies and demonstrate their passion for food and cooking. Weekly eliminations and team tasks are among the challenges that the candidates must face. The main judges of MasterChef China are Fairmont Peace Hotel Executive Chef Steven Liu, prominent host and “Professional Eater” Cao Kefan, and musician Jonathan Lee Tsung-sheng. The first season premiered on Dragon TV on July 29, 2012.
We believe that all of the above-mentioned Chinese cooking shows are sufficient to improve and simplify your cooking on a daily basis. So, instead of wasting your time and energy, go watch these cooking shows and give it your all in the kitchen. Also, don’t forget to visit Thecookingmovie to read new articles about food and cooking everyday.