A love of food is integral to all cultures. It is difficult to find someone who is not passionate about their national cuisine. This love of food is what brings us together in a shared experience at the table.
Authentic food tells a story of where the people came from, what they have experienced, and sometimes even tells of where people are going. To taste someone’s food is to have a window into their culture. This is why we’ve put together this list of 5 food shows which are worth a look. It is by no means extensive however they are accessible; you can find most episodes on YouTube at the time of writing. This list is in no particular order and is really meant to be a starting point more than any definitive list.
1. Food Safari
Food Safari is the oldest show here and one that sparked my interest in expanding my knowledge of food. The host, Maeve O’Meara, takes you around Australia exploring examples of the episode’s featured culture right on our doorstep.
Each episode takes you into the home of one of the chefs of the featured cuisine to showcase simple recipes that we can easily prepare at home. The show takes you through the commonly used ingredients and spices of the cuisine, followed by Maeve meeting the chefs and exploring some recipes and cooking techniques of the cuisine, and finally, presents a mouth-watering overview of the desserts you can try.
Overall, this show is an easy way to learn about many different cuisines and how food draws us together. It showcases the diversity we have in Australia that gives us a unique opportunity to appreciate people of different cultures through a love of food.
2. Luke Nguyen’s Vietnam
Moving out to Asia, Luke Nguyen presents a show that takes you around his home country of Vietnam and displays the well-known staples of his homeland. This show stands out from the many other series’ featuring Southeast Asian cuisine because we find Vietnamese food so accessible here in Sydney and the way Luke hosts his show, it feels like we are touring with a local. He regularly cooks dishes local to the region featured in the episode on footpaths and markets so you feel part of the rush of the crowds.
He starts off Season 1 by taking us from Ho Chi Minh city, up the Mekong River and east coast to the historic town of Hoi An, then in the second season, starts halfway up the coast at Hue, touring the northern territory of Vietnam. His show explains familiar dishes like pho rice paper rolls but also shows us more regional dishes and street food like lemongrass & chilli snails and char-grilled black chicken.
A must see if you’re thinking of travelling to Vietnam or even if you just want to learn more about Vietnamese food and culture than just going down to your local Vietnamese restaurant (which is probably still going to be really tasty).
This Netflix documentary is based on and hosted by renowned food writer Michael Pollan, also known for his other documentaries such as Food, Inc., The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. In this four-part series, Michael takes you through the core origins of food using the elements, fire, water, earth and air, as the theme for each episode and how each of these basic elements are instrumental to how we know cooking today.
Michael takes us back to where cooking came from by evoking memories of families cooking together and going right back to our evolution. The show’s core message is that cooking is in the heart of humanity and is not something we should lose to the corporations. It plays in well with Michael’s message that anyone can cook and enjoy food with their loved ones. Is there anything more special than that?
4. Strictly Dumpling
Mike Chen is the ever-cheerful host of Strictly Dumpling, an American-based foodie YouTube channel that takes you on Mike’s adventures exploring some Asian staples. This channel has a great mix of food adventures, recipes and random thoughts that make it a pleasure to watch. You might even learn a thing or two about Chinese cuisine!
Most of Mike’s videos are based in New York and offer a unique window into the Chinese food culture in the city. His videos feature well known eateries as well as the lesser-known food court and street food affairs. Regardless of what his videos feature, they’re always guaranteed to get your mouth watering.
5. Huang’s World
The most interesting of the list is probably Huang’s World. This show is hosted by Eddie Huang who you might know from Fresh Off the Boat or his restaurant Baohaus in New York. This series takes you with him on his travels around the world. What sets this show apart from possibly any other is that he focuses on the people and the quirks of the culture. He ties this back to the commonalities we all share and of the human condition through food.
It is really interesting how he uses food as the medium with which to communicate with different cultures regardless of beliefs, religion or political outlooks; at the end of the day, what ties him to the other side of the world is the food and the shared experience.
If you don’t check out any of the other shows here, I highly suggest watching some episodes of Huang’s World as an adventure of not just food but a side of humanity that is rarely addressed beyond short press clips. It helps that Eddie has no problems saying it as it is.
- A Bite of China
- Destination Flavour: Japan
- Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma (A bit of anime fun)
I hope you find at least one or two shows in this short list that are appealing to you. It’s always great to learn a new thing or two about not just the importance of food to the sustenance of mankind but of how food can tie people all over the world together, irregardless of the distance between us.