Third season of popular food show ‘A Bite of China’ faces fierce criticism

In his review published in the Guardian six years ago, British journalist Oliver Thring called Chinese documentary A Bite of China season one "The finest food TV ever." In 2012, the seven-episode TV show became a sensation after it aired on China Central Television (CCTV) and went viral online both at home and abroad. It was soon dubbed a "landmark of the Chinese documentary industry," and was followed by an equally popular season two in 2014. What Thring may not have been able to imagine at the time would be that this very same show would one day become the target of a storm of criticism and suspicion during its third season. To get more a bite of china, you can visit shine news official website.

Troubled third season

A Bite of China is a documentary series delves into the rich culture and history surrounding Chinese cuisine. In addition to introducing audiences to a large variety of mouth-watering dishes from across the country, the documentary also pieces together a bigger picture of Chinese society by explaining the origins of these dishes and how they are made, the relationship between people and food and a bit of Chinese philosophy. The first and second seasons were great successes, with the broadcast rights for the latter being licensed in more than 35 countries and regions for $350,000 an episode even before the second season aired on CCTV in April 2014. English versions of both seasons are available on Youtube, where they have received numerous likes from audiences all over the world.

"This is the best TV show I've ever seen about food. I'd hazard it's the best one ever made," wrote Thring in his review.

However, this past glory seems to have hit a hiccup as the third season, which started airing on CCTV on February 19, has been seen by viewers as a huge disappointment. On Chinese media review site Douban, A Bite of China season three has a low rating of 4.4 out of 10, far lower than the first season's high 9.3/10 and the second's 8/10.

Complaining and criticizing the latest eight-episode production has already become something of a trend online. Criticism has mainly focused on two aspects: inaccurate or controversial content and the method of storytelling. For example, in the second episode, the documentary mixes up ma la tang and chuan chuan xiang, two different types of local spicy dishes in Sichuan Province; in the third episode, when making a traditional dish that called for Asian sea bass a largemouth bass was mistakenly used instead.

What's more controversial is the notion described in the episode four that "medicine and food spring from the same origin," which advocates the practice of integrating traditional Chinese medicine into dishes without mentioning the risks involved. One item on the show that has received the most criticism is the home-made "traditional Chinese medicine lipstick," which various domestic media outlets such as Phoenix Weekly and the China Business Journal have pointed out seemingly use so-called "three no" materials - materials bought online that do not list production dates, licensing info or the company address of the material maker.

As for the storytelling aspect of the show, the new season has focused more on the life stories of individuals than food. Criticism reached a peak after episode five aired a segment in which an in-depth introduction to traditional shuai mian, or "hitting noodle," was sacrificed to focus on the personal story of a rural chef who struggles to make a living in the big city so his daughter can receive a better education. This was followed by another story of a mother diagnosed with a rare incurable disease who tries to live life to the fullest by preparing an exquisite and complicated breakfast every day for her kid.

Segments such as these are commonplace in the new season, and have sparked debate online as to whether the program can still be considered a food documentary anymore.

"It's surprising that a food documentary would ignore the food itself," netizen Qing Que commented on zhihu.com, a popular Quora-like Q&A platform in China. Qing's comment received 9,000 likes and hundreds of replies.