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Prepare to Drool: Chinese Food Documentary “Flavorful Origins” Hits Netflix

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Whether or not you’ve salivated over A Bite of China, or the more recent Once Upon a Bite, get your eyes and taste buds ready for Flavorful Origins, a Tencent-produced documentary that’s now streaming on Netflix.

The 20-episode culinary documentary series highlights the regional cuisine of Chaoshan in southeastern Guangdong, China. First released on Tencent Video on February 5, to coincide with Chinese New Year, it was syndicated and released on February 12 on Netflix — making this the first-ever documentary series produced by a foreign video platform to do so.

Each 10-to-15-minute episode presents one local specialty, from marinated raw crab and motherwort herbal soup to deep-fried Mandarin oranges and hu tieu rice noodles. Most of these dishes are served at roadside stands and in family-run restaurants around the area.

Beef hotpot

I’ve been ordering Chaoshan food for the past three days since watching the show, and am seriously considering booking a trip to taste some of these local specialties for myself.

And it’s not just Chinese viewers like me reacting this way. The sights and sounds of Chaoshan cuisine are blowing minds on Twitter:

Images: Twitter

Plenty of English-language websites have also endorsed the series as certified food porn.

“Food shows take a lot of time and effort to make their visuals compelling,” begins a review on Decider, “because no matter how flowery the language of the narration is, audiences can’t taste the food.

Flavorful Origins has the ‘food porn’ thing down. Slow-motion close-ups. Long shots that show details in a food’s texture. Lusciously-shot scenes of people cooking the ingredient into tasty dishes.”

Beef meatball and hu tieu

Fish skin

A dutiful student of Chinese food porn will see a familiar name in the credits of this new series. Chen Xiaoqing, the director of the first two seasons of A Bite of China — the good ones — and 2017’s Once Upon a Bite, is listed as a producer on the show.

This documentary director — who left CCTV to become Vice Chief Editor of Tencent Video last year — lent his signature quality control to the show, making sure that it’s about more than just food.

Chen Xiaoqing filming on-site

“Many Chaoshan immigrants often drive hundreds of kilometers back to Tongkeng, just for the taste of home,” the show’s narrator says during the show’s second episode. This line perfectly sums up Chaoshan people’s obsession with food and hometown, as well as ancient beliefs about the relationship between humans, nature, and time that local people still hold.

Chaosan family eating hu tieu

Good news for anyone who’s already binged Flavorful Origins, season 1: they’re hard at work producing a second season, which just wrapped filming in Yunnan.

Header image: Netflix

Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van