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Dishing up different discoveries

Updated: 2024-01-12 07:37 ( China Daily )
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Chen Xiaoqing (middle) hosts the documentary, China Beyond Tastes, for which he also serves as the chief director. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A celebrated documentary maker's new series uses a novel approach to explore the cultures and traditions behind delectable delicacies, Xing Wen reports.

Chen Xiaoqing has inadvertently become a celebrated figure among foodies.

The chief director of the immensely popular documentary series, A Bite of China and Once Upon a Bite, skillfully captures the essences of diverse ingredients and dishes, and interweaves their legacies with heartwarming human stories.

Although he's a celebrity, Chen is shy, and only recently appeared on the other side of the camera for the first time — that is, as the host of the recently aired documentary, China Beyond Tastes.

In this series, he takes viewers to locations throughout the country, including Changsha and Zhuzhou in Hunan province; the Chaoshan area in Guangdong province; Kashgar in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region; and cities in Zhejiang, Yunnan, Shanxi and Shandong provinces.

"Food not only satisfies our palates but also represents the rich cultural history behind it and the unique customs of a particular region," says Chen, who also serves as the program's chief director.

The series is alternatively known as My Gastronomic Guide in Chinese. Chen says he uses the term "guide" here, because it can refer both to food and travel.

During each leg of the journey, Chen invites specialists, including chefs, philosophers, archaeologists, anthropologists, musicians, economists, documentary directors and writers, to explore not only local restaurants and streets but also farm fields and even archaeological sites.

These serve as the backdrops for engaging discussions on such topics as lifestyles, societal shifts, civilizational transformations, and the emergence and disappearance of customs.

Producer Li Jie adds that "guides "could also be other individuals who offer anthropological perspectives and could include cultural players, taxi drivers or even children at a market.

"Their diverse perspectives provide us with valuable insights into the fascinating worlds that lie beyond culinary experiences," Li says.

For instance, anthropologist Cao Yu serves as one of Chen's culinary guides in Changsha, which is known for its spicy fare.

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