Check out these binge-worthy shows that are well worth your time
Food has been an indispensable part of the human experience since the beginning of time. In addition to being necessary for nourishment and existence, it is a marker of culture and their timeless and ever-evolving traditions. Dishes everywhere are made with care, and are full of unique personalities, and social influences. People around the world have one definite thing in common: we all must eat. And some of us have the privilege to make the food delicious and the experiences enjoyable.
Food strengthens communities with its unrivaled ability to forge connections between people. To quote the late Anthony Bourdain, “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” Whether waking up with roommates over breakfast in a cozy diner booth or sharing steaming bowls of the Filipino Sinigang on cold mornings with friends — I have always felt closer to people after eating with them. Most recently, I have been grateful for the lockdown because it has given me and my family more time to make dishes for and with each other. However, on the downside, the pandemic has made it impossible for us to step out for that warm bowl or cuppa together.
Thankfully though, when we can’t travel anywhere to eat, we can turn to our screens! Cooking shows have decidedly stood the test of time – providing culinary windows into societies, stories, and cultures. Documentaries and competitions alike, these shows usually leave viewers with snippets of new knowledge, and delightful insights for their hearts and kitchens. So without further ado, here are my top recommendations for shows currently streaming on Netflix and Hotstar:-
Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat
Based on Samin Nosrat’s cookbook, the series takes a close look at salt, fat, acid, and heat – four fundamentals of cooking that can make or break a dish. Viewers will gain an in-depth understanding of these elements by embarking on a gastronomic journey to four countries: Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the U.S. Whether Nosrat is tasting different kinds of salt, intently listening to olive farmers, or cooking with her mother — she is always curious about food and those who make it. This curiosity goes hand-in-hand with her cheerful demeanor and desire to make food accessible to all. On a more personal note, I also appreciate her ability to follow taste and intuition rather than simply sticking to recipes, a skill I am trying to pick up from my mother and best friends.
Nadiya’s Time to Eat
If you’re looking for inventive and easy recipes, this show is for you! Host Nadiya Hussain is bubbly and refreshingly honest while offering kitchen hacks for stress-free and time-efficient cooking. Her experience as a mother of three children and as a former homemaker equips her to share her tips and tricks with busy cooks, especially parents and professionals. We see her visit people’s homes to teach them how to prepare simple yet delicious meals, and factories and farms to learn more about how ingredients are produced. For those who know Hussain from The Great British Baking Show, you’ll be happy to hear that her penchant for desserts makes an appearance in this show too.
Street Food: Asia
All over the world, street food welcomes everyone with its convenience and affordability. This series brings viewers to the streets of Asian cities in order to showcase delectable foods and learn more about their ties to community, tradition, and family. If you’re looking to break away from cooking contests, look no further! Street Food: Asia is a lot slower and deeper in the stories it tells about various street treats and how they have thrived and adapted over the years. If you like this one, be sure to check out its second volume, Street Food: Latin America.
Particularly relevant in the age of “Insta-worthy” posts, Ugly Delicious encourages people to look beyond aesthetic appeal and keep their minds open to a variety of foods. Unlike many hosts that hone in on fancy feasts alone, chef David Chang highlights the more conventionally tasty ones that don’t look like they were plated by a 5-star chef. For me, the most mouth-watering dishes were tacos, pizza, Bánh mì sandwiches, and Kerala-style duck curry. The first season looks at where food comes from, how and why it is prepared in specific ways, and what it means to people. The second season takes this a step further by delving deeper into the role of food in breaking down barriers and identifying shared experiences across cultures.
The Chef Show
Fans of the movie Chef (2014) will love this show that reunites director and actor Jon Favreau with Roy Choi, a well-known American chef who trained and consulted with Favreau for the film. The delightful duo learn from famous chefs, cook with celebrities, and even recreate a few dishes from the film. Favreau’s goals with The Chef Show were to present genuine depictions of people cooking and to share the experience of getting to learn about food from chefs. Having achieved this, there is no doubt that this show will satiate your appetite for food with its cooking displays and riveting conversations.
Think Willy Wonka’s factory meets an enchanted garden as the setting for this quirky cooking competition. In each episode, the judges (“Food Gods”) invite three cooks to make dishes from ingredients they forage for themselves. Vying for the “Golden Apple,” each contestant must present exciting and creative twists on popular recipes. The two rounds I found especially enjoyable to watch were when the judges challenged the contestants to reinvent barbecue and to make innovative dishes with strawberries. It was fun to try to apply some of the knowledge I gained from Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat to understand the intricate dishes made by the contestants on this show.
This beloved cooking show brings together the best home chefs in Australia to compete for the title of Masterchef. The show is my family’s personal favourite, and we have been watching it for many years now. Not only does it teach viewers about cooking techniques and dishes, but it also acquaints us with the contestants — who are they as individuals, and what makes them tick? Unlike many fast-paced and ruthless competitions, Masterchef Australia curates a team of honest and encouraging judges who focus on helping the cooks learn and improve.
Gourmet Goes Tribal
People across the world, and even within India, often do not know about the sheer varieties of food cooked and consumed in different parts of India. Colombian-Hungarian chef Pablo Naranjo Agular hoped to remedy this through his show Gourmet Goes Tribal, which follows his journey through the country as he visits people and tribes to learn recipes, flavours, and cooking techniques. From bustling street vendors of Kolkata to monasteries in Arunachal Pradesh to the hills of Nagaland, Agular is enthusiastic about expanding his knowledge and growing his connections with cooks of various cuisines. This show provides a fantastic opportunity to learn more about culinary customs outside of city environments!
Late Nite Eats
If you have ever felt your stomach rumble at night, you’re not alone. The pull of food is so strong that it doesn’t stop even in the wee hours! This show is excellent for those of us who enjoy cooking or ordering takeout at night. Chef Jordan Andino takes us on a tour of the late-night food scenes of North American cities all the way from Memphis, Tennessee, to his Canadian hometown, Toronto. Viewers will get to watch Andino tasting all sorts of night-time specialities and learning the stories behind each of them.
Calling all spicy food lovers! This show follows Tyson Mayr, traveler and culinary daredevil, as he travels all over Asia in the pursuit of hot delicacies. He puts his taste buds to the test with a good-natured and lively spirit that makes for an entertaining watch. Each dish packs a punch and teaches Mayr and viewers about a new variety of chili pepper. Plus, we get to learn about the unique history of spices and their roles in different communities! Mayr’s search for deadly spices takes him and the viewers to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok, Manila, Szechuan, and Tokyo.
By opening doors to new recipes, techniques, cultures, and stories, each of the shows feed my passion for food and for learning. These culinary geniuses have reminded me of the powerful ways in which cooking can facilitate creativity and togetherness.
What are your favourite shows? Let us know in the comments below!