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Netflix’s ‘Street Food’ Is Even Better Than Its Sibling ‘Chef’s Table’

Streaming recommendations for the weekend and a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news

This post originally appeared on April 26, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.

Welcome back to Friday. I’ve got notes on three things to watch this weekend, including the best food show of 2019, so far. Here’s what’s new and good:

Take a tour of Asia’s greatest dining cities with Street Food

Martin Westlake/Netflix

The remarkable thing about Street Food, a new series from the creators of Chef’s Table, is how it manages to retain the best qualities of its predecessor while also breaking new ground. Each episode focuses on one chef who rose to culinary stardom by cooking highly personal cuisine, while also zooming out to show how they fit into a greater food scene along with other local vendors. The dazzling food photography and razor-sharp storytelling are all there, but each chapter is about half as long as a Chef’s Table episode and the action feels livelier thanks to zippy graphics and sporadic bursts of local pop music from the vaults. Some moments of the show are heartbreaking, while others are so uplifting, you might find yourself hovering a few inches above the ground.

Although the older, more buttoned-up series remains one of my all-time food TV favorites, I’m convinced that Street Food is actually the better show.

Compared to Chef’s Table, Street Food covers a greater range of human experiences in each episode. Around 35 vendors in 9 Asian cities are profiled — most of whom operate carts, market stalls, or streetside food stands. My guess is that everyone who watches will generate a different list of favorite dishes and chefs. Personally, I loved watching Bangkok superstar Jay Fai — arguably the most famous person featured on the series — make her lauded crab omelet, and seeing Osaka legend Toyo prepare blow-torched tuna at his streetside izakaya. The Delhi story features dazzling footage of Dalchand Kashyap making a chaat recipe he learned from his father, while the Ho Chi Min City episode tells a tough, but ultimately inspiring story of how a chef named Truoc built a better life for her family by mastering the art of sautéing snails.

While Chef’s Table has been criticized in the past for its lack of diversity, this new show features zero white guys cooking or talking, and six of the episodes feature female chefs as the main stars. Each installment has at least one local expert offering context, but most of the storytelling is done by the chefs themselves. Last spring, Chef’s Table creator David Gelb told Eater that he and his crew, including Street Food co-creator Brian McGinn, were taking actions to create a more diverse viewing experience, and this series, along with the last two seasons of Chef’s Table, show that they made good on their promise.

Street Food has a surprising connection back to Gelb’s first major hit Jiro Dreams of Sushi: Many of the stars have been plying their craft for decades. Jay Fai and Toyo are still running their kitchens will into their seventies, while Mbah Lindu, a 100-year-old gudeg vendor in Yogyakarta, has been cooking on the street for 86 years. All of these chefs take pride in their work and are well-respected within their communities. Like Sukiyabashi Jiro, many of the kitchens on Street Food also feature multiple generations of the same family cooking together.

A few of these episodes contain ominous warnings from both the chefs and experts about impending regulations that could encroach upon the livelihoods of these vendors. Considering how many hardships these cooks have endured to get where they are today, it’s devastating to think of any of these businesses getting wiped out by new regulations. My guess is that the show will add significant fuel to the conversations about how to protect street food communities around the world.

All nine episodes are now streaming on Netflix.

Streaming recommendations du jour

Netflix/I Think You Should Leave Now

I Think You Should Leave Now With Tim Robinson, “Has This Ever Happened to You?”

Watch it on: Netflix

The gist: This new 15-minute long sketch show from former SNL writer Tim Robinson and the Lonely Island guys is bawdy, loud, perfectly stupid, and outrageously funny. The pilot includes a job interview at a coffee shop that goes spectacularly off the rails, and a birthday party that devolves into all the guests eating paper gift receipts. But the best sketch, by far, concerns three friends trying to write the perfect sassy caption for their brunch Instagrams. I haven’t laughed this hard at anything on TV in a long time. SNL alum Vanessa Bayer and Walking Dead star Steven Yeun are two of the featured players.

At Home With Amy Sedaris, “Thanksgiving”

Watch it on: Amazon, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes

The gist: Amy Sedaris sees the world a bit differently than all the other cooking and crafting experts on TV, which perhaps explains why the comedian decided to air her first-ever Thanksgiving special in April. During this particularly entertaining — and at times creepy! — episode of At Home, Amy gets a lesson in turkey tenderizing from a masseuse (played by Ana Gasteyer), and she watches a manic bird-carving tutorial from frequent guest Tony the knife man (David Pasquesi). But it’s the last third of this episode, when Amy’s holiday gathering is attacked by a group of deranged turkeys, when the action really kicks into high gear.

In other entertainment news…

Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something comforting but also approximately vegetable-oriented to make, consider peeping Priya Krishna’s recipe for “saag paneer but with feta” from her book Indian-ish.