After months of recommendations, I finally watched my first episode of the CCTV documentary A Bite of China (舌尖上的中国) and I was not disappointed. It’s a well-produced, professionally filmed tour of Chinese food. There are seven one-hour episodes, each going into rich detail about various aspects of the cuisine from harvest to table.
One of the first things a serious China visitor learns is the incredible diversity of Chinese cuisine, with in reality bears no resemblance to the “sweet and sour pork” dishes you’ll find in most restaurants in America. This documentary isn’t a substitute for actually trying the wonderful flavors, but it’s a must-see for any foodie.
All episodes are now available dubbed in English, viewable free in HDTV. My favorite segment from Episode 1: “Gifts From Nature” was the discussion of salt-cured Nuodeng ham from Dali.[start at the 18:00 mark]. The special salt used, high in potassium, has been harvested there for more than a thousand years and results in a rich flavor that puts Jamón ibérico to shame.
You can watch the whole series on Youtube, but you might have a better experience streaming directly from CCTV (in English) site. Chowhound publishes links to all the English stream locations, and there's even a Wikipedia entry with more references and links.