top of page

Chinese cuisine TVNZ documentary features Wellington producer and foodies

Antony Young

23 Jan 2023

Many Chinese families over the weekend will have celebrated the lunar new year with family and, of course, feasting at grandparents’ or parents’ homes, or yum cha at a local restaurant. Food is very much a part of Chinese culture and colour. That was the inspiration for Wellingtonian and third-generation Chinese New Zealander Jess Wong in creating and producing, Sik Fan Lah!, a six-part television documentary that celebrates the love for food of Kiwi-Chinese across the country. The documentary will premiere next month on TVNZ TV1.

With little Chinese culture and heritage appearing on NZ screens, Wong, a first-time producer, decided to pitch the idea to both TVNZ and NZ on Air. Sik Fan in Cantonese, literally means “eat rice,” which is a common phrase to invite everyone to come and eat. The docu-series is a culinary adventure across New Zealand that shares some fabulous NZ perspectives of the Chinese love of food. Each episode is hosted by local Chinese foodies across the country. Wong, told CapitalNZ News, “A lot about what it means to be Chinese is about food. Food transcends barriers!”

Episode 2, which airs Sunday, February 19, follows Wellingtonian sisters Nat and Steph Chin, entrepreneurs and owners of Evil Twins café located on Willis Street. They visit renowned pastry chef, Vicky Young. Then head out foraging for food. Their cousin snares a blue cod on the coastline, and they then prepare a delicious seafood meal by the bay. “It was great stepping out of our comfort zone and embracing our Chinese culture. It was motivational and inspiring, meeting so many great and like-minded people that we could relate with and are on a similar pathway as us,” said the Chins.

The TV series features notable hosts, including 2022 Masterchef winner and barista champion Sam Low who reveals a special dish in Rotorua; rugby 7’s star, Tyla Nathan-Wong, on cooking with her Chinese mum; and includes an episode roasting an entire pig in a traditional Chinese earth oven in Palmerston North. Wong says roasting the pig wasn’t without its hitches. They ordered a 40kg pig only for a 65kg pig to turn up! She added, “Fortunately, it came out in one piece and tasted awesome!”

Filming during Covid presented some logistic challenges. The production team that included co-producer Abba-Rose Vaiaoga-Ioasa and director Jack Woon along with Wong travelled across the country and took it in its stride. “The hardest thing for the crew in filming with Covid restrictions was that when anyone cooked anything. We were filming it. Smelling it. But due to health and safety couldn’t eat it!”

The shows will screen on TV1, Sundays at 10am from February 12th. It will also be available to view online on TVNZ+.

For more information on the show visit here.


Screens from Sunday 12 February, 10am TVNZ TV1, TVNZ+

Episode 1

Sam Low vs. Her Highness

Masterchef and barista champion, Sam Low, follows the rumours of a newly-crowned Chinese queen to Rotorua and uncovers a secret menu in the geothermal mists.

Episode 2

A Path More Evil

Entrepreneur sisters, the Evil Twins - Nat and Steph Chin - eat their way through Wellington’s wildest land and sea produce with the help of fellow rebels.

Episode 3

Tyla’s Homegrown Challenge

In Auckland, rugby star, Tyla Nathan-Wong, powers through the physical challenges of a Pukekohe market garden and the emotional challenges of cooking with a Chinese mum.

Episode 4

Janice’s Southern Migration

Albatross educator, Janice Huang, relives the hardships of the Otago goldfields, while gorging on delicacies by migrants new and old.

Episode 5

Pig Out in Palmy

Meme queen, Abigail Masengi, heads to Palmerston North to battle towering flames and the roasting of a 65 kg whole pig in a traditional Chinese earth oven.

Episode 6

Return of the Prodigy Son

Playwright and poet, Nathan Joe, samples new takes on classic dishes and rediscovers his childhood growing up around a fish and chip shop in Christchurch.

bottom of page