Flavorful Origins is a tv program that uniquely dives into the Chaoshan cuisine. Season one was released on Netflix on February 2019 with 20 episodes, with each episode looking carefully at a significant ingredient in Chaoshan cooking. The show takes viewers on a journey from start to finish showcasing how ingredients are processed, cooked, and served by the Chaoshan people in different regions. While each episode is no more than 12 or 13 minutes in length, it provides a very satisfying overview of the importance of the ingredients that inject strong flavors into many of the Chaoshan dishes.
I watched the first episode and was utterly hooked. It presented food in a visceral, but artful manner stylized like a documentary and did a very good job of creating an emotional connection to the ingredients. Viewers saw how the ingredients were harvested, then worked into various dishes. This television show was excellently edited and presented a real image of how humans turn nature into something delicious and artful. Every time an ingredient was poured, dropped, steamed, stirred, fried, boiled, or chopped, the sound waves hit my eardrums, providing maximum satisfaction and sensory overload. The camera work and editing provided a magical experience that might have left the show flat without it, so whoever approved the final edits kudos to you.
If you are into cooking shows with a twist, Chinese cuisine, and learning about other cultures, Flavorful Origins on Netflix is for you.
The first episode details how Chaoshan olives are harvested and preserved in various ways. The Chaoshan people also make juice out of the olives and it is referred to as their secret beverage. The olive is versatile as it can also be cooked into a soup and served with meat.
70-year-old Zhang Jungzhend invented a Hu Tieu dish which is a stir-fried noodle-based dish made of lard, skin-on pork, green onions, and crispy bean sprouts. Hu Tieu is made from rice grains stored for a year then turned into a liquid known as rice milk. The basic ingredient here is rice milk and spring water which is then worked and processed into Hu Tieu which looks like noodle strips.
Raw Marinated Crabs
Marinated raw crabs are Chaoshan specialties and is a tradition that goes back to over 1,000 years. This dish is made of simple ingredients; live flower crabs, rice vinegar, garlic, coriander, cilantro, green onions, sea salt, chili, and other spices.
The Chaoshan Brine is filled with spices such as cinnamon, star anise, amomum villosum, galangal, and other ingredients to create a unique flavor.
Puning Bean Paste
Puning bean paste is used in many dishes, the bean paste takes some time to make, but it’s worth the year-long wait.
Preserving radishes is an age-old tradition that only gets better with time. The process starts at harvest where radishes are sliced then left to sit in sea salt for 24 hours which reduces the water content to 60%. The radishes are then left in an open field in the sun for a week. After that, some radishes are sealed in pots for several months or even years, while others can be immediately used.
The seaweed episode is perhaps the saddest as we see the negative changes in the environment has affected the harvest season for seaweed. Freshly harvest seaweed is a rare ingredient, but very special and flavorful.
This is my favorite episode as I LOVE oysters and other shellfish dishes. Many traditional dishes are made from the Jingshou oysters. Raw pickled oysters are a hometown Jingshou dish, they also make deep-fried oysters, stream oysters, oyster pancake, dried and preserved oysters.
Chaozhou Mandarin Oranges
Chaozhou mandarin oranges are a delectable treat and eaten during the new year celebration because of its link with good fortune. The picking season for the mandarin oranges is winter, when they are made into a sticky-sweet mandarin cake.
The Hakka people traditionally make the Lei Cha tea by stir-frying mint, Thai basil, fennel, and seasonal vegetables with fresh green tea leaves. Then they grind sesame seeds into a paste adding older tea leaves, and the stir-fried vegetables. After that, it is dissolved in hot water to create the Lei Cha. The Hakka people also use their local green tea in other dishes to create a unique flavor.
Tofu Cake are made with unique filling eaten for breakfast and looks like a dessert but it’s not. The Tofu cake is also called bean curd moon cakes, it’s made with pork, roasted nuts, garlic, white wine, and fermented bean curd. Everything is mixed together, flour is added and allowed to sit for a day. The dough is then worked, stuffed, and baked.
Beef Hot Pot
This is an interesting episode as it shows the hard work of preparing beef hot pot. The process of preparing the meat is insane as the chefs are very picky about what kind of beef they use and how soon it should be processed. In the episode, you will see that the meat is so fresh that viewers see the muscles and tendons twitching as it is cut up and laid out. All the cattle used for this dish are under three years old, and the meat is processed within 4 hours of slaughter.
This episode also shows the dedication of the food preparers to the craft. The beef meatball looks very tender and is perhaps the smoothest balls I have ever seen. Okay, that was a joke! The process for making these beef balls is crazy as fresh meat must be beaten with heavy hammers into a paste. Once its pounded the paste is then turned into meatballs.
Yusheng is freshly cut up raw fish served as is or with a variety of dishes. Eating raw seafood is the best way to taste the ocean with no extra distraction. Japanese sashimi is said to have come from Yusheng.
Meal of Fish
This is another fish episode that showcases a number of simple processes for cooking seafood.
Just like in the white radish and Puning bean Paste episode making fish sauce demands a technique that has been unchanged for years. There is an art and science to making fish sauce with hilsa herring. The fermentation process can take 2 years or more, the longer it ferments the more potent the sauce.
Fish Ball and Wrapped Fish
The fish balls are made from lizardfish which is deboned and pounded to make a paste. Making fish paste is a tradition and making it by hand is an art as more and more fish paste are being machine made.
This is another favorite episode with a flavorful ingredient. The mussels for this episode are tiny thin shell mussels which is a delicacy. Fried garlic, Thai basil, and mussels are cooked together to create a signature Stir-fry Thai basil thin shell dish. The list of dishes are endless; thin shell rice spring roll, thin shells & bitter squash soup, and thin shell rice.
This is my first-time seeing galangal as I would have called this ingredient ginger. Galangal is normally called Thai or Siamese ginger and used throughout Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The galangal is used in many dishes in Chaoshan cooking giving the dishes a wonderful flavor.
Motherwort is an interesting herb, I had never heard of it before, but thanks to this episode I learned that it is part of the mint family. It is often added to dishes such as pork blood soup and vegan motherwort soup. It’s used to add an interesting flavor and cut down the grease in fatty dishes.
I do hope someone out there found Flavorful Origins are interesting as I did. I am hoping for a season two of this show.