(Yicai Global) July 10 -- A barbecue-themed food documentary titled Chinese Barbecue recently aired on video website Bilibili. Unlike other food documentaries, Chinese Barbecue might be the first one that warns 'you need to watch through your fingers' at the start, since some of its dishes are so dark, they may only be served at night.
This documentary has logged 12 million plays in a mere three weeks.
A Bite of China took the lid off the market for food documentaries in China in 2012. Most food docos following that notable one, however, merely copy its model, which is to glorify delicious foods.
Differing from the lively style of other documentaries of the same kind, Chinese Barbecue was mainly filmed at night at sidewalk snack booths. By depicting diners' gorging themselves in front of the camera, it conveys a keen sense of realism.
This documentary aims to capture the folksy air of streets with ordinary people, said Wang Hailong, its general producer.
"Barbecue is a very common food in China, yet we have not seen any food documentaries on this topic specifically since their advent," Wang told Yicai Global.
The production team has been working on this theme since 2016. They have visited over 20 provinces and over 500 barbecue stands throughout the country. To arrive at the original form of Chinese barbecue, they omitted items like roast duck, teppanyaki, and other latecomers and exotics.
To find the kind of 'pure' barbecue booths, the producers also went deep into small towns and even villages.
The second episode, Darker than Night, impressed the audience the most with the ingredients of 'dark cuisines.' For instance, terrifying ingredients like silkworm that 'has been barbecued all its life,' pig eyes that are '100 times better than juicy beef balls," barbecued pig brain in Chongqing, and grilled live seafood in Guangdong aroused heated discussion after the documentary aired, but this content had almost been deleted at the start.
"In fact, we did not intend to film anything macabre at the very beginning, but to film more familiar ingredients in our life," said Wang. He found, however, that these cruel and unusual fixin's often represent the most authentic daily lives of locals.
The content in the video's second part, Darker than Night, nears the lunatic fringe of food documentaries. In Chen's view, however, it embodies the true meaning of documentary. "If you regard some ingredients as 'dark,' it is because of your lack of life experience," he said. Exactly. Documentaries help people broaden their views and transit frontiers.
Since Chinese Barbecue aired, the grilled pig brain stall in this documentary has shut down.
In cities, barbecue booths disappear almost in direct proportion to the rate of newly-opened chain restaurants. When beer and kebabs also become the product of glitzy restaurants' production lines, people begin to miss the flavor of that first bite of sizzling barbecue at sidewalk booths, however heinous their ingredients.
Editor: Ben Armour