Bite of China, A

Original Title: 舌尖上的中国

Food shows. They’ve been done to death.

Andrew Zimmern eating the strangest crap (sometimes literally) on Bizarre Foods; Anthony Bourdain eating my weight in cholesterol in No Reservations; other people eating and talking about how they like the food. Then there’s people cooking — Nigella talking dirty while showing us the pancetta and Gordon Ramsay cursing us all to hell.

Right when you thought there couldn’t be more concepts to cooking shows — we’re talking about broccoli or lobster ice-cream on Iron Chef, CCTV gives us A Bite of China. Foodies of the world, rejoice. This food documentary show of nearly 50 minutes an episode is as culturally educational as it is delicious to look at. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that China is a vast country with tons and tons of places to learn about food in the vast sea of ethnicities.

In the first episode alone we go through river fishes fished out of the frozen waters of a northern lake (I’m thinking it was near Russia because it seemed freaking cold), to how life is on a fishing boat, collecting different types of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, lotus roots, and a 3-year-old curated ham [pictured above]. A Bite of China isn’t only about the food, its production, and ultimately its preparation. We also learn about how a family relates to a certain ingredient, the history behind said dish, and the evolution it’s going through.

The viewer — familiar or not with Chinese gastronomy — is treated to various ingredients, ways of preparations and utensils. I love how everything, even the most delicate slicing of tofu can be done with a Chinese cooking knife… otherwise known as a Chinese cleaver, or as a Machete by me. There’s delicious shots of mouth-watering noodles of all types, dumplings, fatty (really FATTY) pork, hen (not to be confused with chicken) with the Hakka Salt-Baked Hen (Chicken), all the way to a very cottony shiver-inducing (but some say tasty) stinky tofu and the lovely fermented shrimp paste known as Haam Ha or Belacan.

My mother — ever the lover of food — is really enjoying the show, and would be looking forward to her favorite stinky food of salted fish Haam Yu, as well as all the other bizarrely wonderful things she would like to taste… or not. She really can’t get past the idea of cotton-looking tofu with a smell that can be sensed a mile away.

Anyway, A Bite of China is wonderful. Insightful and educational as a program can be. Perfect to expand the horizons, and maybe even push those little adventurers at home on a culinary journey of their own!

Plus! It’s only seven episodes long! Indeed, shorter is better [1]! I wonder if CCTV is planning a new season, though.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

You can view the non-subtitled episodes on CCTV’s A Bite of China website section. Or… you know, cough, you can Google the HD episodes because they’re so worth it.

You can buy A Bite of China on Bluray over at YesAsia — the double-disc set comes with original Mandarin, Cantonese and English audio, with English, Chinese Simplified and Chinese Traditional subtitles. You are welcome.


YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

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