Born in Guangzhou, China, Martin had his formal induction into the culinary world at 13, as an apprentice at a top Hong Kong restaurant. He has since captured the hearts of millions of fans by spicing his cooking with a personal ingredient: wit.
Ancient Lijiang - A Journey Through Time
Below majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain lies a gem of a town called Lijiang. Martin explores the town on foot and samples some of the local peoples' best breakfast dishes in the great outdoors. Next he meets Mr. Li, the curator of the local museum, who is an expert on the Dongba civilization. Wishing to experience local customs, Martin accepts an invitation to attend a wake honoring Mr. Li's departed mother. At the funeral, family, friends and neighbors practice native memorial rituals and bring offerings. Everyone joins in a special ceremonial meal, in which a specific number of offering dishes must be presented. Martin's Cooking Tip: Pantry Items.
Kunming - The Gateway to Eternal Spring
Martin begins his exploration of "Hidden China" at Kunming's colorful flower markets. He admires the migrating birds that seasonally congregate in great numbers along the shores of famous Dianchi Lake. He then pays a visit to The Yunnan Nationalities Village, where he experiences the diverse cultures and lifestyles of the Bai, Yi and Dai tribes. He discovers exotic culinary pleasures, like the Yi Rice Noodle and Lamb Stew dishes he helps prepare, and learns how to brew spirits from corn. Martin ventures into the beautiful natural surroundings of this mountain country as he joins the local people on a mushroom hunt. He then enjoys the fruits of their labor, sampling wonderful, wild mushrooms. Martin's Cooking Tip: Garlic.
A Rock Legend
Martin retraces the footsteps of European cultural explorer Josef Rock, who documented the life of the Naxi people. Martin interviews descendents of locals who Rock befriended and who were his neighbors when he lived in the region. Martin visits a local village, to view popular Naxi arts and crafts, like papermaking. In discussions with local residents, Martin learns about the architectural, religious and cultural history of an ancient culture that's still alive and practiced by the local population. Martin's Cooking Tip: Chinese Chef's Knife.
The Wind and Water of Quilin
Long referred to as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World', Quilin, which lies along the banks of the misty Li River, is a destination known for its spectacular limestone hills. Martin pays tribute to this scenic wonder, visiting the river at different times and settings. During the day, he fishes with the aid of Cormorants ... an unusual local fishing technique ... and then shares his catch with local friends at an impromptu picnic lunch by the river. At night, he sails the river again and experiences all the colorful lights that transform Quilin into a romantic spot. Outside Quilin, Martin visits with rice farmers and learns about their planting and harvesting practices. Martin's Cooking Tip: Ginger.
Yangshuo - The Hidden Gem
Tracking down an old friend, Herbert, a transplanted native of Holland, Martin visits the quaint enclave of Yangshuo. Herbert has established a cozy bed and breakfast hotel here and he invites Martin along on a bicycle tour of the town. Soon Martin finds himself amidst many international visitors, for Yangshuo has become a popular tourist destination. At Herbert's bed and breakfast, the guests are treated to a cooking class, in which they learn how authentic local dishes are made. Finding himself in his culinary element once again, Martin is only too glad to lend a hand with the cooking and teaching. Martin's Cooking Tip: Steaming Techniques.
For All The Teas In Western China
Yunnan Province is well known for its tea production. Martin visits the famous Pu-erh tea region and gains some 'hands-on' experience at the tea plantations. In addition to picking tealeaves, Martin discovers how tea and tea products are processed and packaged. He learns to make the famous 'tea cake' - a brick of tea compressed into a round shape, which is then labeled, stamped and aged. At the tea museum, Martin views many historical teacakes and learns about their value and social significance. Finally, a local chef shows Martin how tea can be used as a cooking ingredient. He tastes and comments on two fabulous local tea dishes. Martin's Cooking Tip: Wrappers.
Yunnan - South of the Clouds
In this episode, Martin samples the many cultural treasures of Yunnan. He visits a Buddhist temple, where daily prayers are still taught in an ancient tribal "Dongba" script ... a form of hieroglyphic writing. He learns the secrets of local winemaking and then explores Yunnan's streets to taste its legendary street snacks. Afterwards, he visits the local Musuo community. He shares in their singing of local songs and learns about their intricate weaving techniques. Martin's Cooking Tip: Mushrooms.
The mythical paradise of Shangri-la truly exists and, in this episode, Martin Yan finds it. In his journey to this remote corner of Western China, he experiences a little heaven on earth. Here, spirituality infuses everyday life. Throughout the town, he finds many shrines and prayer wheels. He pays a visit to the renowned Song Zanlin Temple, a spectacular compound that overlooks the entire town. At the temple, Martin visits with the head Lama and witnesses first-hand the life of the monks who reside there. Then he explores the surrounding countryside and pays tribute to the rich Tibetan culture, with its amazing arts and crafts. Returning to town, he is greeted with a fabulous Tibetan banquet, featuring famous local dishes, such as grilled yak, leg of lamb and potato pancakes. Martin's Cooking Tip: Rice & Bean Noodles.
A Day In Delightful Dali
Martin experiences everyday life in enchanting Dali, a town in northwest Yunnan Province surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, with a lake in its center. It's the home of the Bai ethnic minority, with their unique cultural heritage. First, Martin visits the town square and joins in a local chess game. He then tours the Three Pagodas, a famous landmark that traces back to the Tang Dynasty. For more local color, Martin visits a Bai family and shares a special, traditional meal with them. Finally, he strolls back to the town square to join the locals for evening festivities, which includes songs and dances. Martin's Cooking Tip: Asian Citrus.
The Ladies of Lugu Lake
A land where women rule is not just a legend: it's an every day reality in the Musuo villages surrounding Lugu Lake. After a visit to this spectacular body of water, at 6,000 feet above sea level, Martin visits a local household and meets with three generations of Musuo women. He witnesses their tea making customs, sips their famous yak butter tea and shares snacks with family members. He then learns about and witnesses the coming-of-age ceremony of a Musuo girl. Later, Martin is invited to attend a special annual tribute to Heaven, Mountain and Water, during which he tastes specially aged pork and local spirits. As night falls, he joins his hosts to dance the evening away. Martin's Cooking Tip: Stir-Fry Techniques.
Exploring The Naxi Culture
Visiting the picturesque old town of Shuhe, China's most ancient village and one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites, Martin comes face to face with the gentle Naxi people and marvels at their peaceful existence. He visits a local family and helps make dinner, using common local ingredients such as blood sausage and wild mushrooms. To learn about the complex Naxi religion, Martin first attends a 'Wind Ceremony' upon a hillside. He then joins local priests in prayer on the banks of the Lijiang River, where they solicit a blessing from the water deity. As a reward for all his piety, Martin is invited to a 39-course Naxi banquet that lasts throughout the night. Martin's Cooking Tip: Tenderizing Beef.
Life In Shangri-La
Martin continues his exploration of Shangri-la, experiencing the journey of a typical pilgrim. He visits arts and craft shops to examine the works of noted local Tibetan artists and craftspeople. At the suggestion of a local shop owner, Martin visits a nearby village, which specializes in making the region's celebrated Black Clay Pottery. Martin then joins local farmers as they harvest their crops and follows them to the market, where all kinds of fresh farm products are on display. Back in town, Martin joins everyone for the nightly dance ritual at the town square. Martin's Cooking Tip: Exotic Fruits.
A Cultural Mosaic of Southwestern China
In this episode, Martin experiences daily life with several of the minority communities that make up the interesting cultural mosaic of Southwestern China. In the town of Dali, he follows the graceful steps of Bai dancers and learns the intricate nuances to their performances. In the picturesque mountain retreat of Shangri-la, Martin gets his hands muddy as he learns about the region's famous Black Clay Pottery. In Kunming, the largest market for exotic mushrooms in the area, Martin gets back to his culinary element and snatches up local harvests for his next feast. Martin's Cooking Tip: Chinese Smoking.