The five “Parts Unknown” episodes you have to watch

Anthony Bourdain
June 13, 2018

Netflix announced today that although Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain’s travel show on CNN had been scheduled to leave the streaming service on June 16, in the wake of his death last week, they would keep the episodes indefinitely.

Currently there are eight seasons, each with eight one-hour episodes available. That’s a lot of binge-watching to contemplate. There are two ways to choose if you don’t want to plow straight through. The first is to pick based on places you would most like to visit or return to. The other is to watch what are arguably the series’ greatest hits. These episodes evoke a deep sense of place, explored with Bourdain’s particular style of ferocious curiosity and desultory cool. They’ll all leave you hungry for more of everything, but especially Bourdain himself.

Beirut, Season 5, episode 8

Anthony Bourdain on Beirut: 'Am I wrong to love this place?' (Parts Unknown)

Watching Bourdain stride through Beirut speaking earnestly with locals, swiping hummus, it’s tempting to see the city as a proxy for the man. It’s riddled with contradiction and contrast—devout Christians and Muslims from many different sects, young people puffing away in hookah bars and grinding at nightclubs, metal bands, and refugees, mainly Palestinian and Syrian, all call this place home.

The Bronx, Season 4, Episode 2

Anthony Bourdain: 'The Bronx is a magical place' (Parts Unknown)

Sometimes Parts Unknown feels more like a geopolitical travel show than a food show, and that is not the case when Bourdain visits the Bronx. He eats his weight in cuchifritos—a traditional Puerto Rican pork preparation that roasts and fries pretty much every piece of the pig.  It could have been a little cringey to think about Bourdain, as a punk rock fan and white dude of a particular age, interviewing hip hop luminaries, but it works.

Hanoi, Season 8, Episode 1

Bourdain and Anderson talk Vietnam, dining with Obama

Bourdain loved traveling and eating in Asia. And Asia loved him back. He starts the episode in Hanoi on a scooter, navigating the city’s thrumming tangle like he lives there—which is to say, barely avoiding collision from moment to moment. Along the way he stops to get noodles with a fan and fellow American, Barack Obama.

Sicily, Season 2, Episode 5

Sicily: Strangest snorkel trip ever? (Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, Italy)

Second season:  Sicily, a place he admitted he had never been able to enjoy. A chef took him on a memorable snorkeling trip to catch seafood, Bourdain pointed out to both the audience and the chef himself that he could clearly see the man’s associate throwing frozen cuttlefish and octopus into the water —“I’m no marine biologist, but I know dead octopus when I see one,” he said without humor.

South Korea, Season 5, episode 1

Korean barbecue with strangers (Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown: South Korea)

Korean food culture is remarkably rich and varied, from delicate royal court dishes to barbecue to Seoul’s intense drink, snack, and karaoke scene. Most travel shows that visit South Korea focus on a couple of dishes that are likely foreign to Western viewers and make a big deal over them—silkworm pupae, ferment skate wing, and of course, dog. Bourdain instead focuses on Korean people, what, where, how they like to eat.

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