Whether you are a professional food lover or an aspiring foodie, Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat is for you. Perhaps you want to explore the world’s best culinary offerings and food traditions, or maybe you are looking for cooking inspiration. Either way, this show — or rather, journey of the senses — is for you. Because the way that Samin Nosrat savors her way through countries around the world is an experience everyone should witness and anyone will enjoy. After all, when you witness such pure, unedited culinary enjoyment it’s hard not to feel some level of joy, even from the comfort of your couch.
Netflix’s hit show is unique, special and delectable. It’s unlike any other food show on TV, starting with its host and culinary guide, Samin Nosrat. The show is inspired by Nosrat’s cookbook of the same name, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, which she released in 2017. Both her book and the show are based on the concept that if you master four simple elements in your cooking, you will be able to be a better cook and also have a better understanding of how (and why) you need to balance flavors, seasonings and texture in your dishes. The four elements — Salt, which enhances flavor; Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; Acid, which balances flavor; and Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food — are the basis for her journey and her cooking tutorials. The show is an instructional cooking show mixed with a travel show and a culinary journey. And you experience everything through the lens of Samin Nosrat’s life and culinary passions.
There is a lot that we love about this new show and each of the elements that Nosrat explores, but if we had to pick a favorite, watching her savor her way through the Yucatán to harness the power of acid is particularly appetizing and entertaining. In the third episode of the show’s first season, the episode entitled “Acid” Nosrat travels throughout the Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula to illustrate the acids (think sour oranges, salsa, lime, tomato, pickles etc.) and how those flavors can be transformative in a dish. Here are 8 things we love about Samin Nosrat’s journey through the Yucatán, and her game-changing TV food show.
She’s Challenging Traditional Gender Roles in the Kitchen
If you had to label the gender stereotypes portrayed in most modern cooking shows there’s a clear distinction between how women and men are portrayed. Female chefs and cooking TV show hosts are often well put together and demonstrating easy-to-make recipes (or recipes that they make look easy) from the comfort of an immaculate kitchen space. Think Giada De Laurentiis, Katie Lee, Ina Garten and Martha Stewart. Men, on the other hand, would go explore new culinary destinations and eat adventurous (and borderline offensive) exotic dishes. Think Anthony Bourdain, Guy Fieri and Andrew Zimmern.
Samin Nosrat is not like any of those TV hosts and food experts, male or female. She is her own version of what a female chef and TV personality should be, and she’s challenging those traditional gender roles in the kitchen. Whether she is traveling around Italy to explore fat from delicacies like olive oil, pork fat and cheese, or she is roaming around the Yucatán savoring local sources of acid such as sour citrus and Mayan honey, Nosrat does it with flair, an adventurous attitude and an approachable personality that makes you want to be her friend and enjoy good food together.
This Show Offers Cooking Inspiration and Insight You Can Actually Use
Certain foods and dishes that are considered local specialties in Mexico might not be recipes that you are going to prepare on a regular basis in your own home. We’re willing to bet that on an average day you will not be making corn tortillas and masa from corn soaked in lime juice. But that’s not really the point of the show. While Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat offers plenty of usable advice and accessible cooking tips, the knowledge you take away is more of a general understanding and inspiration than it is detailed recipes you must follow line-by-line.
The point of the show is to give you a well-rounded knowledge of these four essential cooking properties so you can incorporate that into your own cooking routine. You may have no plans to cook the traditional Yucatecan dish, Pavo en Escabeche, which is a turkey stew with pork meatballs using an all-important vinegar-based seasoning and pickled onions. But you will understand why that acidic marinade is so important, and how using pickled onions can add some tartness and refreshing spice, rather than adding an overwhelming heat.
She Explores and Enjoys Her Food Like a Real Person
Raise your hand if you’re sick and tired of watching people eat gracefully on TV, barely taking a bite before placing their fork down without getting a drop of food on their clothes or their chin. Yeah, us too. That is not how real people eat! But Samin eats how we eat. She enjoys her food, like, really enjoys her food. She laughs when something is too spicy and she cries when she cuts onions and she digs in when something is delicious and she does not shy away from messy bites. She sneaks tastes of her food using her fingers and she is extremely expressive when she smells, tastes or looks at everything. She is all of us when surrounded by delicious, pungent and enticing foods. She slurps her pasta and eats with enthusiasm and we dig it.
She Shows You How to Create Acid and How to Use (And Not Use) It
For some reason acid has a bad rap. Admit it, when you think about acidity in relation to food and cooking you immediately have a sour taste in your mouth. But that is not what acid really is and it’s not how it should be used in cooking. Acid actually adds balance to a dish. It can brighten and provide contrast if it used correctly. For example, “marinating in acid has a different effect on food than cooking in it does,” Nosrat explains. “A highly acidic marinade will tenderize meat. But if left too long, the meat will toughen up, like an overcooked steak.” She continues to say that “soaking the onions in acid takes the fire out of them, without diminishing the brightness they add to the dish.” And if you brown certain foods such as chili peppers you actually create acid and new layers of flavors.
And in terms of the acid you choose, there is a wide range of acidity even within a specific type of food. The only way to know what you are dealing with is to taste it. “Even in a citrus grove, the fruit trees on one side of the grove and the other end of the grove will taste completely different,” she explains.
The Cast of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat Represents The Diverse Community of Culinary Experts Around The World
Nosrat brings a lot of diversity to her show, in terms of her own background, the countries she visits and also the culinary experts she brings on board to help tell the story of the local cuisine. Her mission, and the heart and soul of her show, is that good cooking is universal, food brings people together and that delicious cooking is within reach for everyone. And she really communicates that motto through both her experiences in the show, the places she travels to, and perhaps most notably, the local culinary experts she features. By diversifying the kinds of people we see as food experts, from women of all ages to people of color and local chefs around the world, Nosrat is changing the way we think about what a culinary expert is supposed to look like. On the “Acid” episode, Nosrat calls on Doña Conchi, aka la abuela, to be her guide and teach her all of the local delicacies of the Yucatán Peninsula. While watching them cook together we see pieces of our family as they reveal their cooking secrets that deserve the spotlight.
Nosrat Challenges What You Thought You Knew About Acidic Foods
Despite what people may think, acid can actually create balance, not sour or unpleasant aftertastes. And the lists of foods and flavors that add acid are far longer than you might realize. According to Samin, “the list of acidic ingredients extends far beyond citrus and vinegar. Anything fermented is also acidic; that includes cheese, pickles, and beer. Most of us cook with acid without even realizing it. Think of beef stew cooked in red wine, or meatballs simmered in tomato sauce. When used as a cooking medium, acidic ingredients mellow, becoming subtle but essential flavors in a dish, while acting as a counterpoint to salty, fatty, sweet, and starchy foods.”
You Can Experience The Cultural Beauty Of The Yucatán
Something we all love about TV shows in general is their ability to transport us to another time or place. TV can be an escape, which is why travel cooking shows have gained so much popularity in recent years. And throughout the “Acid” episode of this Netflix show, we are taken on an adventure exploring the Yucatán region of Mexico. It’s a journey that is as much about the culture and the local markets as it is about the culinary traditions, recipes, and local ingredients. The focus is on acid and how it impacts food, yes, but there is so much more to experience. From Mérida to Oxkutzkab to Tixcacaltuyub, Nosrat explores several towns and areas of Mexico’s Yucatán region, what she fondly refers to as the “citrus belt of Mexico.”
She Really Loves Food, And She’s Not Ashamed To Show It
If you can’t be eating the delicious food yourself, then watching someone who truly loves to eat is arguably the next best thing. Nosrat is not shy about expressing her delight as she slurps her pasta or bites into a pungent sour orange. She is earnest and enthusiastic and witty and real. Watching Samin Nosrat savor her way through the Yucatán, and through all of her culinary adventures, is a site to be seen and reminds us of the many ways that really good food can bring joy and can bring people together.