Fresh Off The Boat was a YouTube cooking show hosted by Eddie Huang. In 2015 Eddie Haung’s book of the same name was turned in to a sitcom on ABC and for legal reasons they had to change the name of the cooking show to Huang’s World, which is what I will be reviewing today.
Huang’s World is a truly interesting cooking show. The aforementioned host, Eddie Huang, mixes political and cultural discussions with food and travel. Each episode Eddie and his crew travel to a different city or country, like Jamaica or New York or Taiwan, and they explore the culture of that area through the lens of food.
Eddie Haung comes from and immigrant background and that really shines through in the show. He seems to love to hear and show the stories of people from different cultures. In the seventh episode of the second season, Eddie travels to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan, located in southwestern China. In Chengdu Eddie visit’s Yu’s Family Kitchen, a local Chengdu restaurant, while he’s there Eddie sits down to a dinner with the head chef, Yu Bo and discusses the state of Chengdu. Throughout the episode Eddie takes us around Chengdu and shows us the enthusiastic industrial expansion of Chengdu by it’s government and voices some concern about what that expansion is doing to the culture and traditions of Chengdu. When Eddie sits down with Chef Yu Bo, Bo expresses some concerns of his own,
“I don’t think China is fusing well now. It has its issues. I am witnessing the slow loss of memory and tradition. I feel frustrated. Let’s drink. To frustrated to talk about it.”
The entire episode is about the industrial expansion of Chengdu and people’s thoughts on it. In the beginning of the episode, Eddie and a friend, Rabbie, go to Jinli, a tourist center that replicates parts of the old city of Chengdu. Eddie disparages the need for such places and expresses remorse over the fact that so much of the culture and tradition of Chengdu is being torn down to make way for modernization.
At the end of the episode, Huang talks about the Chinese Identity,
“What’s important for the future of China is that we maintain the string, the through line from the beginning of our culture and civilization to the future. And it doesn’t mean no outside influence, it doesn’t mean build a wall, it just means don’t forget who you are.”
Protecting cultural traditions is an important cause to Eddie and is a common theme on the show. Huang gives people on the show a chance to be honest about their lives. Almost every guest featured on Huang’s world seems to be as authentic as possible. No matter what shape their lives are they open their door to Huang and you get to see their world through his eyes.
In season two, episode two, Eddie goes to Detroit and visit’s Allen Hill, a man staying in an abandoned Packard Plant, living off of food donated at a soup kitchen and homemade “mystery meat” and yogurt. In season two, episode five Eddie travels to Shanghai and meets Qiuxiang Wang, a street food vendor who shows him her apartment where she prepares food (grilled skewers) for her business. Qiuxiang Wang works for eight hours to prepare her food during the day and then sells it for the next eight hours over night. In the first episode of the first season, Eddie goes to the San Francisco Bay Area and hunt’s rabbits with a biker gang and Eddie gets a close up look at killing animals.
In all of the episodes of Huang’s World we get to see how people different from us and different from each other get to live. But not everything on the show is perfect. Sometimes I feel like Eddie is a bit too militant on social issues and a bit too enthusiastic to seek them out and discuss a solution. Sometimes while watching the show you just enjoy seeing the different cultures without railroading a social issue into the episode.
But overall the series is great. One of the most fascinating parts of the show is that it is not just a periodical. It’s not just a television show that gives you a new city every week to explore, although at first it seems that way, but over the course of the three season series a narrative develops. The narrative of a man stuck between two cultures (Chinese and American) struggling to create an identity, unsure of how to balance the two cultures or of which side to land on. A man who uses this television show to explore different cultures and find out what is important about life so he can bring it back home and become a more well rounded person. And, the culmination of this struggle and this search when, in season three, episode eight when Eddie travels to China and is brought to tears by the taste of, the most famous Hunan dish of all time and the most seminal dish in his life, Red Cook Pork.
When this moment happened, in my opinion, the show went from good to great, the show went from and eight to a ten. Because before the moment, the show was about a charming man who explores fascinating culture, but after this happens the show is personal and emotional and there is something very real for the audience to connect to.
Please go watch this series even if you didn’t read this entire blog post, it is fascinating, it is emotional and it is very entertaining. I’ve been following Eddie Huang’s career for a while now and I love almost everything he does.