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Culinary Asia

Premieres: Southeast Asia on Nov 5 at 8:00 pm; North Asia on Nov 7 at 8:00 pm

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A heaving pot of cultures and tradition, the myriad offerings of Asian cuisine have for years delighted people all over the world. Today, their distinct and complex flavours feature prominently across chic restaurant menus and their once foreign-sounding names are now on the tip of every well-travelled diner's tongue. But most are oblivious to how, why, or even where these delicious dishes originated. Discover what makes Asian cuisine such a huge favourite the world over, and what it means to people in the region on CULINARY ASIA.

In practically all festivals and celebrations in Asia, food is a prominent feature. More than just an all-you-can-binge series about food, CULINARY ASIA chronicles the culture and identity of a nation through its culinary history, revealing surprising origins and intriguing stories of people and places behind iconic dishes such as Japanese sushi, Korean kim chi and Taiwanese oyster rice noodles. Each episode of CULINARY ASIA takes a look at famous dishes associated with a particular country and explores the intricate mix of culture that has defined these favourites, despite colonial rule and external influences.

Step into Thailand and discover the importance of achieving a balance between the five fundamental flavours in each dish. Revel in haute cuisine from the royal kitchens of the Mughals in India and learn about the influence of religion and the British rule. In Japan, witness how the Japanese define their contemporary cuisine through ingenious recreations and reinventions, led by the principle of "Kodawari". Feel the soul of high-tech haven Korea through a fiery and sassy gastronomic trip. Follow the transformation of Taiwan's cuisine as we embark on a journey to trace the footprints of change. Savour the fusion of flavours that is Malaysia, an exotic hodge-podge of different races and cultures, influenced by migrants and colonial rule.

With its treasure trove of culture and tradition, Asia's cuisine has much to offer. CULINARY ASIA reveals the innovations and inventions that Asian cities have adopted to bring its cuisine to greater heights.

CULINARY ASIA episode descriptions:

Unknown to many, the culinary voyage of Thailand is not just spiked with sweet and spicy flavours, but a need to balance five fundamental flavours in each dish or the overall meal. With a dash of fresh herbs and spices, come savour Thailand 's culinary history with ancient recipes from a curious collection of Funeral Books. Discover the old-world secrets behind the ubiquitous Tom Yam Soup - Bangkok street-stall style, then get a behind-the-scenes look at the sport of Muay Thai and the varying tastes of regional curries that fuel its champions. In a rare twist of pace, experience Buddhist spirituality and the ancient Zen art of Thai healing through its culinary offerings.  

The most populous democracy in the world is well-known for its contagious Bollywood culture and yes, curry varieties. But is there more to Indian cuisine than curry? India explores the many foreign influences that have coloured Indian culture and cuisine over the centuries. Let your senses be your guide as India journeys though the exotic world of spices from the royal kitchens of the Mughals and learns about the influence of religion and British Raj on food. Discover a cuisine that is ever-changing, one that defies definition... readily adopts and adapts outside influences yet still manages to remain intrinsically Indian.

A country where development takes place at lightning speed, Japan is considered by many to be the birthplace of some of the most groundbreaking - and eccentric - innovations in the history of humankind. From the high aesthetics of modern architecture to brassy street culture, manga comics to instant ramen, Japanese ingenuity has changed the way we live and the way we eat. Japan is a gastronomic playground where radical innovation meets ancient tradition, and where tradition itself has evolved to stake claim to the 21st century.

Korea, the tenth largest economy in the world, has been consistently dishing out fancy mobile phones, flashy cars and cool electronics to the rest of the world. However, modern day Korea, home to the world's ninth biggest film and pop industry, is serving up a taste of its cultural heritage and recipes from centuries ago. Some of Korea's food icons bear historical roots that can be traced to Chinese and Mongolian influences, as well as one of the longest and most powerful monarchy - the Joseon Dynasty. Amazingly in recent years, modern Korean cuisine has spread its wings of popularity around the world, spinning a culinary renaissance among Koreans and others worldwide.

Also known as "Ilha Formosa" (which means "the beautiful island"), Taiwan has more than 500 years of dated history and is a food paradise with an amazing array of diverse cuisines. An immigrant society with more than 90% population being Han Chinese, Taiwanese has the good fortune of fusing the best culinary skills from mainland China's eight major streams of cooking techniques, from the hot and spicy Sichuan food to the simple rustic Hokkien cuisine. Food-loving Taiwanese have adopted a democratic and open mindset towards other influences, be it exquisite techniques of making sweet treats from their Japanese colonial masters or the use of raw ingredients from her indigenous aboriginal people.

Is it possible to define Malaysian cuisine? That's the question this episode seeks to answer as we embark on a culinary adventure across Malaysia. Along the way, discover a nation of varied races and cultures, and her history of migrants and the British colonial rule. The migrants may have brought their own recipes when they settled here but through the years, those recipes have created a fusion of flavours that is inimitably Malaysian. Prepare yourself for a banquet of Chinese favourites, signature Malay dishes, colorful Indian banana leaf cuisine, the fusion food of Peranakans and old-world Western cuisine with a twist.