You really, really need to watch the entire Ugly Delicious series on Netflix, if you haven’t started it already. Any devoted Netflix-ee will tell you that it feels like the network has been overrun with questionable programming in the last six to twelve months (this joke from South Park still comes up in our household and makes us laugh). But Ugly Delicious is one of the best docuseries I’ve seen as of late, if not the last couple of years. Dare I say it rivals Chef’s Table in its scope, and bests it in its commentary?
Made by chef David Chang (of Momofuku fame) and documentary director Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom and many others), each episode of Ugly Delicious focuses on a particular dish, and examines its cultural impact, historical context, and who’s making delicious versions of it worldwide. It’s a travel and food show, but not like any you’ve seen before. There’s not a ton of food porn montaging; instead, I think some of the most fascinating scenes are round table discussions between chefs, celebrities, and authors discussing what the dish means to them and their home culture.
The fried chicken episode explores a dish that can be found in nearly every culture in the world, but deeper still, how politically and racially charged it can be here in the States (while abroad, there’s no connotation with it at all other than it being delicious). Growing up in Texas, the barbecue episode was another favorite. The team explores how barbecue is viewed regionally in the states (where I grew up, it meant brisket and really good quality sausage; rarely pork and never simply grilling stuff outside), but makes the interesting point that while Americans probably wouldn’t consider something like Peking duck barbecue…it is.
There’s SO much more to these topics than what I could possibly write in a short little Wednesday post for you, but all I can say is I strongly recommend you add this show to your queue! I got Joe to watch an episode with me and he was hooked too. We blew through all of the episodes in the last couple of weeks, and enjoyed them all (his fave was the “Stuffed” episode). You don’t need to watch the episodes in order; pick your favorite food and dig in!