It’s no secret that many of us travel to eat. From tearing into freshly baked, impossibly flaky croissants on the banks of the Seine in Paris and chowing down on sticky barbecue ribs in the heart of Texas to supping on dim sum after a night out in Hong Kong and tucking into a steaming bowl of pho on a chilly day in Hanoi, culinary experiences often form an integral part of our trips. While much of the world may be grounded for now (although things are looking a tad more optimistic these days), these Netflix shows provide the perfect fodder for planning your future foodie escapades when we all get moving again.
1. Ugly Delicious
When he’s not helming his expansive restaurant empire, Momofuku founder David Chang is crisscrossing the globe in search of culinary delights. The show sees Chang and a rotating slate of special guests – including comedians Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong – delve deep into the social, cultural and culinary history surrounding a specific dish or cuisine (fried chicken, tacos and pizza all feature). The “Fried Rice” episode, where Chang meets up with Chinese food expert Fuschia Dunlop in Beijing to sample traditional delicacies such as sea cucumber and deer tendon, is particularly worth a watch.
2. Salt Fat Acid Heat
Chef Samin Nosrat brings her James Beard Award-winning cookbook of the same name to life in this charming travelogue, where she investigates the four fundamental building blocks of flavour: salt, fat, acid and heat. Each episode focuses on a different element, with Nosrat drawing on her rich cultural and culinary experiences to bring the associated ingredients to life. Follow her as she travels to the rolling hills of Italy to examine how fats such as olive oil and salami are used in Italian cuisine and to the seaside towns of Japan to get the inside scoop on harvesting salt from kelp.
Based on the eponymous book by acclaimed writer Michael Pollan, this beautifully shot series sees Pollan travel to different corners of the globe to explore the art of cooking. Each episode is themed around one of the four natural elements that work to transform raw ingredients: fire, water, air and earth. Offering insightful social and scientific commentary, Pollan introduces viewers to cooks from all different walks of life: from barbeque pit masters in the American South and a cheese-making nun in Connecticut to the home cooks of Mumbai.
4. Chef’s Table
Now in its sixth season, this award-winning documentary profiles some of the top chefs around the globe, offering viewers a compelling look at what makes them tick. From the lush landscapes of the Amazon to the bustling streets of Barcelona, each episode offers an insight not merely into the mind of the chef, but also how various locales have inspired their creativity. For example, in season three, ramen maven Ivan Orkin reveals how his decades-long infatuation with Japan led him to open his New York operation. Other standout episodes highlight Bangkok’s Bo Songvisava; Vladimir Mukhin of White Rabbit in Moscow; and Jeong Kwan from South Korea.
5. Street Food: Asia
Forget tweezers and microplanes – this show gives viewers an unvarnished look at street-food culture in some of Asia’s top foodie cities (think Bangkok, Singapore and Osaka) as well as a few lesser-known ones (Cebu and Yogyakarta). Each episode hones in on one particular food vendor, but also dips into different establishments to paint a vibrant and holistic portrait of what everyday eating looks like in these destinations. Fun fact: following the first episode, which spotlights her to-die-for crab omelettes in Bangkok, chef Jay Fai had to create a reservation system to cater to the spike in demand.
6. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
As a follow-up to Ugly Delicious, David Chang teams up with four different celebrities – Seth Rogen, Chrissy Teigen, Lena Waithe and Kate McKinnon – for a series of culinary adventures in four cities across the globe. While the show is very much centred on food, the streetscapes and landscapes of the respective places are also given plenty of time to shine on camera – from the colourful and cacophonous souks of Marrakesh to the lush, forested greenery of Cambodia. The first episode, where Rogen takes Chang for a food-filled gander around his hometown of Vancouver, is great for laughs.
7. Restaurants on the Edge
Think of this as Extreme Makeover or Queer Eye for the Straight Guy for restaurants. In this heart-warming reality show, three culinary professionals – restaurateur Nick Liberato, chef Dennis Prescott and designer Karin Bohn – travel to some of the world’s most picturesque destinations to help struggling restaurants flip the switch before they have to shutter for good. The array of kooky establishments featured include a Jamaican-themed bar in Canada; a whimsical café in a Hong Kong fishing village; a soccer star’s seafood eatery in Malta; and a restaurant high up in the Austrian Alps.
This article was published on May 2020 and updated on 29 June 2021.