Food shows take a lot of time and effort to make their visuals compelling, because no matter how flowery the language of the narration is, audiences can't taste the food. The best way to make the dishes the shows profile appealing is to make it look as appealing as possible. 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.
The reverential tone of the show may remind you more of a nature show than food TV. Chaoshan's lush beauty is in sharp focus here, including images of mountains, rivers, rich soil and pristine waters. It's a pastoral vision of China rarely seen in American food media, typically preoccupied with soaring skyscrapers, bustling dim sum parlors, and street food.
In the episode on fish balls, an entire family is pictured pounding the lizardfish into paste and moulding them into fish balls together. In the beef hotpot episode, a young apprentice watches on anxiously as his master samples his sliced beef cuts. These people clearly treat their food with respect, and that attitude is contagious.
These ingredients often come from the sea in Chaoshan. One episode features a local tradition of eating marinated raw seafood, such as colorful flower crabs steeped in a bath of vinegar, salt, chiles, and cilantro.
Another episode looks at the ancient Teochew tradition of preparing thinly sliced raw fish (we learn that the practice was later exported to Japan, becoming what we now know as sashimi).
Plump, freshly harvested oysters are left to ferment in the sun, concentrating their briny essence and lending complexity to stir fries and stews.
Everyone who watches Flavorful Origins will surely have a different set of favorites. The episodes Tofu Cake , Hu Tieu and Brine are my picks, because they feature the foods I craved most while watching. But I was also fascinated by the processes depicted in Marinated Crabs, Olives and Fish Sauce.