Long before the popularization of foodie culture, Martin Yan was a TV trailblazer, captivating public television audiences with his culinary skill and kitchen charisma.
Martin visits the adorable giant pandas at the Research compound in Chengdu and helps with the feeding. Fascinated by all the bamboo surrounding Martin attended a bamboo banquet at a bamboo-themed restaurant, where he learns how to harvest young bamboo. He follows the bamboo theme and visits with artists who use bamboo as an artistic medium.
Martin explores the new township of Tianfu, a model city in development that will be the model of future cities in China. As high tech industry is a main draw in Tianfu, Martin visits some of these new software developers, and a Mao Chai restaurant, the popular choice for lunch among many new tech workers. That evening Martin samples the molecular gastronomy of chef Huang atop a Chengdu high rise. He rides off in one of the city's popular 'shared' bikes.
Hot Pot, Anyone?
Hot pot is almost a religion in Chengdu. On this episode Martin explores several of Chengdu's estimated 30,000 hot pot restaurants. He show cases them by their unique features and themes. He also goes into the street and asks the general public how they truly feel about hot pots.
Outside of Chengdu there are several well known tea plantations. Martin explores the local tea cultivation process, samples different types of popular brews, attends a tea serving ceremony, and visits the oldest tea house in People's Park in Chengdu. In the studio Martin cooks up dishes that use tea as an ingredient or flavoring agent.
The Voice of the Mountain
Sichuan is mountainous. Outside of Chengdu many ethnic minorities reside up in the mountains for centuries. Mountain music is a popular instrument used to express local culture and record local history. Martin meets up with Mr. Zhang a famous mountain singer and learns about the life and cuisine of the mountains.
That Which Sustains Life
The origin of Chengdu can be credited to Dujiangyan, a set of levies that diverted the Min River over 2,000 years ago. Martin visits this UNESCO historical site and saw first hand how the water had created the fertile farmland which eventually gave rise to the city of Chengdu. He enjoys the abundance of fruits and vegetables by visiting local farms and orchards.
Poetry in a Cup
Wine making or baijiu making in China goes back thousands of years. Martin visits a famous Chengdu distillery for a close up look on how Chinese baijiu is produced. He narrates famous Chinese legends connected to the culture of wine. For a more contemporary look he attends a typical Chinese banquet and shows the popular Chinese drinking games and toasting.
Hot, Hot and Extra Hot!
If there is only one word to describe Sichuan cuisine, that word is hot. Martin dives into the world of chili peppers and chili bean paste by visiting the world's largest bean paste factory and the world's biggest chili market. He puts the chili peppers to good use at a chili banquet and later explores the hottest restaurant in Chengdu for a midnight snack.
In Chengdu, a snack is called a small bite, or 'xiao chi'. But a 'xiao chi' is really a lot more than just a simple snack. It can be an appetizer, a street food, but it can also be a cleansing of the palate between courses, or when you assemble many on them on a table, they can make a fabulous banquet. On this show Martin takes small bites but tells a big story.
There are 230 million children under the age of 15 in China. On this show Martin meets up with many talented ones from Chengdu. They are future opera divas, poets, pop singers, sculptors and of course, chefs! Chengdu, the next generation, is front and center on this episode.
Fine Art, Fine Food
The art scene is thriving in Chengdu. Martin tours an artist community and sees first hand how local artists create ceramics and file paintings. To add his personal touch he added an encrusted chicken in the community kiln. For a taste of true culinary art he visits the home restaurant of Chef Lan, lauded as the best chef of Chengdu.
Back to Roots
Many small family farms around Chengdu have turned into chic bed and breakfast places. They are popular with many of Chengdu's residents who can trace their roots back to the country. Martin joins a farming family for dinner at their house. He rolls up his sleeves and learns about authentic farmers cooking.
One Belt, One Road, One World
The New Silk Road Railway connects Chengdu to Western Europe by high speed train. This is the 21st century version of the historical silk road, which opened China to the west and vice versa a thousand years ago. Martin samples some of the new food imports from Spain and Denmark, and marvels at the tremendous scale of China's industrial projects.