Ditch the competitive cooking shows of old; instead, binge these unlikely gems that celebrate hawker fare, spices and even, dare we say, garlic!
When one thinks of binge-worthy cooking shows, one undoubtedly envisions ticking clocks, Henckels knives, and Gordon Ramsay-style profanities. Indeed, for years, Netflix has been dominated by the likes of Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Chef.
But for those craving something different, we have selected three series that stand out in the annals of food programming, so emblematic of a shift towards more conscious and comprehensive videography.
1. STREET FOOD: ASIA (2019)
Street Food, a docuseries of nine episodes, swaps out fine dining establishments for the streets of Asia. From Taiwan to Indonesia, producer Tamara Rosenfeld partners with local journalists to highlight notable, authentic dishes. In its Singapore episode, the show features Master Tang’s Wanton Noodles, KEK Seafood’s Chili Crab, Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice, and Haig Road’s Putu Piring. What differentiates Street Food is its focus on the chefs themselves, many of them well-acquainted with the forces of poverty and despair. Apart from a rare look into local culture, then, Street Food is also a celebration of the people for whom food is survival.
To watch Street Food: Asia on Netflix, please visit netflix.com/streetfood
2. ROTTEN (2019)
Rotten, a true crime series from the producers of Parts Unknown, pivots from table to farm in a scathing exposé of the global food industry. Episode Three, titled “Garlic Breath,” reveals the garlic industry’s reliance upon forced labor of Chinese prisoners, complete with sobering details of 16-hour workdays and fallen fingernails. In ascending grimness, each hour-long episode of Rotten’s two seasons examines a different aspect of food production, whether it be honey adulteration or the overfishing of cod. Compared to the character-first approach of Street Food, Rotten steps back to comment on the corrupt and labyrinthine systems behind food.
To watch Rotten on Netflix, please visit netflix.com/rotten
3. FOOD WARS (2020)
Food Wars!, written by Yuto Tsukada, is the elevated, though raunchy, version of Hell’s Kitchen. The anime follows teenage chef Yukihira Soma at the elite Totsuki Academy, where disputes are settled with cooking competitions. Yukihira, who tends to initiate said competitions, often wins by reimagining ordinary recipes. In these scenes, the show takes care to explain, however elaborate, the techniques and flavors behind each dish. The results – honey braised beef, turmeric linguini, and kelp onigiri, to name a few – are spectacular. With its fundamental appreciation for fine cuisine, Food Wars! is one for the hedonists and gourmands.
To watch Food Wars! on Netflix, please visit netflix.com/foodwars