secret ingredient

4 Things Secret Ingredient Has Been Doing Right, So Far

Let them cook. They're on to something here.

Anyone thinking that Secret Ingredient would just be a product placement-ridden show is missing out on a surprisingly solid K-drama.

Related: Stars Sangheon Lee and Julia Barretto Tell Us What’s Cooking In Upcoming Series ‘Secret Ingredient’

It seems that “cross-cultural production” has been the newest buzzword this year. But more than just a phrase to add in marketing campaigns, it, if done properly, signals that the production smartly combines different elements of different cultures to make for a project that delivers. That seems to be the case for Secret Ingredient, the cross-cultural series from Unilever Nutrition and Viu. 

The show stars Sang Heon Lee, who plays Ha-Joon, a Korean man who has it all, which he suddenly leaves behind to find some answers and hopefully, rekindle the past. His journey for answers leads him to meet Maya, played by Julia Barretto, and Chef Arif, played by Nicholas Saputra, who offer him a fresh perspective on life and teach him forgiveness, understanding, and acceptance. 


On the outside looking in, Secret Ingredient looks like a conventional cooking drama featuring Philippine, Korean, and Indonesian actors and sponsored by a multinational corporation. But dig deeper into its recipe, and you’ll find a show that promises a solid viewing experience. Curious to know if this show is worth your time? Here are some of our takeaways from our preview of the first two episodes. 



One might think that featuring so many nationalities in one cast for a show that needs strong chemistry to work might be a difficult task. But Secret Ingredient makes it work, thanks mainly to its three lead stars. Julia Barretto shines as Maya, the determined OFW working as a chef in Jakarta looking to have a better life for herself. She is joined by Sang Heon Lee’s Ha-Joon, the well-meaning rich boy, and Nicholas Saputra’s Arif, the headstrong executive chef of the restaurant Maya and Ha-Joon work at. 

Together, they make for a trio who play off each other’s energies. It’s like a study of contrasts between Ha-Joon and Arif, with the former giving golden retriever energy, and the latter radiating black cat energy. Maya, meanwhile, is caught in the middle as she anchors both of them away from their worst tendencies. 



Secret Ingredient is a regional K-drama through and through, which means the usual trappings of the genre like love triangles, CEOs in hiding, paying off debts, and more. But the show also surprises with how much of an edge-of-your-seat experience it can be. Every episode of this six-episode series ends on a cliffhanger, leaving you wanting more to know what happens next. 

In all that, the show opens up potentially interesting plot lines like Maya trying to pay off her debts back home and the reason behind Ha-Joon’s disappearance. It’s a heartwarming escape that sizzles with teases and twists. And with even bigger revelations coming later in the season, Secret Ingredient has a lot more up its sleeves. 



No food show can work if the food doesn’t look any good. Luckily, Secret Ingredient got the memo on keeping audiences fed with mouth-watering shots of various dishes. From fast-paced and hectic scenes of cooking in a restaurant kitchen to the more serene cooking in more homely settings, the show doesn’t disappoint when it comes to giving the viewer something to look at. 

Some of the food shots will have you wishing you could smell the screen, with a particular rice dish at the end of episode one that is sure to get tummies grumbling. It should also be noted that since the show is in collaboration with Unilever Nutrition Southeast Asia and Indonesia, there is noticeable product placement in Secret Ingredient, though, for the most part, it doesn’t come off as intrusive.  



As Viu’s first regional K-drama, Secret Ingredient has been flexing in its marketing campaign that it blends the cultures of the Philippines, South Korea, and Indonesia into its story. And, for the most part, it works. So far, this cross-border tale finds a sweet spot in featuring each of the three countries’ cultures, such as using Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia, and Korean in the script and using meals and ingredients from each region. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, we could really be in for a delectable culinary journey that proves love comes in all flavors. 

Secret Ingredient is now streaming exclusively on Viu, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday.  

Photos courtesy of Viu

Continue Reading: The New Movies And Shows Coming Your Way This April 2024