While putting together last week’s insane love letter to Iron Chef I reviewed quite a few episodes on YouTube and thought I’d share my top five with the internet at large.
This list is by no means comprehensive or authoritative. I’ve pulled only from the fraction of episodes dubbed for Food Network in English and have used no metric more sophisticated than my own enjoyment. If you’re looking for a proper “Top” five list with statistics and pie charts showing the cultural impact of Kaga’s hairpiece, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Try Google Japan.
These are just my favourites. Episodes that I’ve watched again and again, sitting at my kitchen table prepping for dinner. If you’re digging ‘em check out the rest of the dubbed episodes available on Xacred, CZY and AllukaNanika’s YouTube feeds. Big love to everyone uploading nostalgic goodness!
Chinese Cabbage Battle – Chen Vs. Cui Yufen
Cui, a “National Treasure” trained in Peking-style Chinese cuisine walks into Kitchen Stadium, challenges poor ‘ol Chen and schools all of Japan in what real Chinese cooking looks/tastes like. Chen, rising to meet this massive challenge, cranks the enthusiasm up to eleven. The result is a perfect episode: Tense, exciting, dramatic, funny and more than a little insane. If I could choose just one battle to be on the tasting panel, this would be it.
Spiny Lobster Battle – Chen Vs. Xie Huaxian
Iron Chef Japan had many “War” story lines where a restaurant or faction of cooks would target a specific Iron Chef and send challenger after challenger at them until their honor had been regained, or something. The best (or perhaps least silly) of these was Chen’s three-episode war with Yokohama’s Hei Chin Rou Restaurant, culminating in this intense and wildly entertaining boss fight with Master Chef Xie.
Stingray Battle – Sakai Vs. Yoshihide Koga
Iron Chef Sakai always got the weirdest challengers! In this case the feckless apprentice of Japan’s most celebrated French Chef, Noboru Inoue. Though it’s a solid French vs. French fight (with a traditional ingredient! Bonus!) what really makes this episode shine is the bizarre behaviour of Inoue, who stalks the stadium during the battle, wine glass in-hand, attacking assistants and generally being a slimeball to the tasters. It’s a beautiful train wreck!
Sweetfish Battle – Michiba Vs. Katsumi Hanato
If memory serves me right, this was the very first episode of Iron Chef I watched back in College and it’s still one of my favourites. Gourmet Academy’s arch-foe Kandagawa brings in his little Romulan-looking henchman to do battle with the mighty Iron Chef Michiba. The theme ingredient is pure Japanese, as are the style taste and texture of the finished dishes. It was a great entre for me into Japanese food.
The 2000th Plate Special
A double-length battle between two teams -One all-French led by Sakai and another all-Chinese led by Chen – utilizing Kaga’s favourite ingredients: Pork, softshell turtle and bananas. During this epic contest a dragon is summoned, swords are drawn and a mountain is set aflame.
I’ve got a trip to Ontario coming up (my brother’s wedding!) which means a lot of hours clocked in an uncomfortable plane seat. The experience will be made vastly better by all the Iron Chef I’ll mainline on the way! If I unearth any other jewels in the Iron Chef back catalogue, or remember a particularly awesome episode I failed to mention above I’ll post it in the comments.