April 15, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has upended our daily lives. Like it or not, we have all become reluctant homebodies. In this period of solitude, television streaming services can be our passport to adventure as a means to escape cabin fever. Since we can’t go anywhere, the next best thing is to get whisked away by travel shows and documentaries that conjure a sense of place so visceral and profound, that you might just momentarily forget about your woes. There’s also a good dose of food porn in there to send your salivary glands into overdrive. Here are our top five picks:

Street Food

This fast-paced, stirring and, at times, chaotic Netflix series (hailing from the creators of Chef’s Table), peregrinates through a host of vibrant cities like Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai. What makes Street Food compelling is how it delves into the different cultures of each city by spotlighting, you guessed it—street food. In Singapore, Aisha Hashim revives her family’s putu piring business in Haig Road after returning from the States, whereas in Ho Chi Minh City, a woman named Truoc demonstrates the fine art of cooking snails, using traditional methods handed down by her late father. Over in Bangkok, street-side restaurant Raan Jay Fai, revered for its khai jeaw poo (crab omelet), is a tale of how gutsy seamstress turned restaurant owner Supinya Junsuta overcame poverty to build a legendary Michelin-starred joint. Street Food is not only incredibly inspiring but also lionises the people who toil endlessly for hours over hot stoves, just to feed the masses.

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

This four-episode instalment sees David Chang—the renowned chef behind Momofuku—feast his way across the globe with his A-list celebrity friends. Chang demonstrates an easy chemistry with his co-hosts, and even shares a spliff with Seth Rogen. Witness Chrissy Teigen navigate Morocco’s labyrinthine alleys, munch on lamb roasted in pits and indulge in delicious pots of Prawns Tagine from the historical Le Grand Café de la Poste, or join comedian Kate McKinnon in Phnom Penh, where she and Chang explore Phnom Chisor Temple, before sampling local eats like nom bay preap (boiled rice balls) and noum kong (Cambodian donuts) at the Central Market. 

Taco Chronicles

This Netflix docuseries zooms in on the humble taco, prepared in six different styles: al pastor, carnitas, canasta, carne asada, barbacoa, and guisado (stew). Food writer Javier Cabral hops around Mexico savouring delectable helpings of tacos al pastor, scrumptious carnitas in the state of Michoacán, mouth-watering guisados in Los Angeles, and finally shows us that the best tacos de canasta are sold by unassuming bicycle vendors found all over Tlaxcala.

Lost Cities With Albert Lin

Lost Cities is a thrilling amalgamation of archaeology, astonishing visuals and intrepid adventures. In this six-part docuseries, Dr. Albert Lin is sort of the male version of Lara Croft; he skilfully navigates an ancient lost settlement in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, explores underground Knights of Templar caves in Israel (that was used by the fabled knights as a base for operations) and searches for clues in England to unlock the secrets of Stonehenge—like it’s all in a day’s work.

Gordon Ramsay, Uncharted

Based on the resounding popularity of the show, it seems that audiences still can’t get enough of the mercurial and notoriously fiery Gordon Ramsay. Even when he is not screaming his head off at hapless apprentice chefs, Ramsay can still be surprisingly entertaining. He kayaks down the Mekong River, rides a motorcycle at breakneck speed across Peru’s Sacred Valley, performs fearless, (but pointless) stunts like dangling himself from a mango tree and travels to Morocco to unearth the culinary secrets of the Berber people. The most enjoyable moment may be when Ramsay dramatically spits out a fried caterpillar, flashing a priceless look of extreme disgust. Despite his notorious reputation, Ramsay can be endearing, and his National Geographic debut allows him to present a more well-mannered side. 

Image credit: National Geographic