Steamed hams from The Simpsons. Imaginary pies from Hook. Meat tornadoes straight outta Pawnee, Indiana. What’s actually in these fictional onscreen wonders and can we have them in our real lives?
Yes we can. Brooklyn-based chef, cookbook author, and longtime YouTuber Andrew Rea has spent years finding ways to recreate iconic dishes from pop culture on Binging with Babish, one of the best online spots for you TV and movie fans to see your favourite fabricated foods come to life (and learn how to make them yourself).
While there’s more than pop culture recipes on the channel (check out the basics videos for handy, straightforward cooking tips), the very best BWB recipes are those that have been born or popularised in a particular TV show or movie. He usually makes a faithful version of that dish before offering his own interpretation.
We’ve rounded up our favourite BWB recipes that don’t exist outside the fictional realm they’re taken from, or that are inextricably linked to a TV show or movie. (While the Schitt’s Creek “folded” enchiladas” are actually an excellent recipe, and the Croque Monsieur from Brooklyn Nine-Nine conjures up beautiful memories for Raymond and Kevin, we’re going to leave those out this time). We also left out video game recipes, but these for sweetrolls from Skyrim, the cake from Portal, and the backpack recipes from Spider-Man are just so damn smart.
In case you’re wondering, the title Binging with Babish is a nod to fictional White House counsel Oliver Babish from Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, a character whose name Rea uses as his username on Reddit, where he regularly interacts on the popular r/bingingwithbabish subreddit with other users about what to cook on the show, and the equipment and ingredients used.
So here we go, whether you’re ever going to make them or not (or whether you actually should), here are the best recipes from Binging with Babish. Most of them are wildly unhealthy and we’d like them all, thanks, lathered in Szechuan Sauce.
1. Meat Tornado from Parks and Recreation
In case you’re not acquainted with the apparently fatal burritos from Pawnee’s Big Head Joe’s, the fictional restaurant in the fictional Indiana setting of Parks and Recreation, allow this Ron Swanson-tempting recipe to introduce you. Legend (or Andy Dwyer) has it this heaving cylinder of edible doom, weighing in at nine pounds, “literally killed a guy last year,” so maybe don’t try this one at home.
The thing that makes this recipe so excellent is that Rea enlisted an expert in the form of physician nutrition specialist Dr. Michael Rothkopf to learn exactly what would make a burrito that could kill a man. Essentially that’s all we know about the dish, so everything in Rea’s “meat cage match” is painstakingly calculated for ultimate juiciness, spiciness, and ability to induce a cardiac arrest.
It’s not the only artery-clogging dish associated with the show’s moustachioed Parks Department head that Rea has cooked on the show — Ron’s favourite J.J.’s Diner breakfast “The Four Horse-Meals of the Egg-Pork-alypse,” the bacon-wrapped turkey leg named “The Swanson,” and his defiant Turf ‘N’ Turf are here to make a meat-shaped triangle of your boring, balanced food pyramid. In fact, the very first official BWB video was a Parks and Rec burger-off posted in 2016. And yes, there’s an ode to calzones (including those in the low-cal-calzone-zone), just for everyone’s favourite Ice Town clown.
2. Ram-don from Parasite
“What the hell is ‘ram-don,'” the dish that stopped the show in Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, with the specific cooking-to-driving time directly seared into our pounding hearts? Requested without instructions, the dish is thrown together as a sirloin steak atop packets of instant noodles.
Ram-don isn’t a classic Korean dish, but rather one invented by Parasite translator Darcy Paquet. As the LA Times reports, “Those fluent in Korean would tell you that the housewife in the movie is actually directing her maid to prepare a popular Korean quick food, jjapaguri, a word so hard to translate that for the English subtitles Parasite translator Darcy Paquet chose instead to invent a name not known in any language but that would merge the words ‘ramen’ and ‘udon.'” In a film that confronts class tension and the glaring wealth gap, the dish ram-don itself is the embodiment of this clash. Director Bong told the Times, “This is something kids like, regardless of the rich or the poor. But the rich wife couldn’t stand her kid to eat this cheap noodle so she adds sirloin topping.”
What makes this BWB video so damn good is that he not only makes a version like the one in the film with packets of store-bought Neoguri and Chapagetti instant noodles with a piece of very expensive Korean Hunu sirloin, but also makes a version from scratch. Here’s how we made it too!
3. Pudding skin singles from Seinfeld
It’s one of George Constanza’s more, uh, creative ideas: “pudding skin singles.” This wobbly delicacy manifests in Season 9, episode 4 of Seinfeld, when George attempts to combine his passions: sex and food. And his portable creation is exactly what it sounds like: the skin from the top of a stovetop-cooked chocolate pudding, separated using an Exacto knife, and encased in plastic, as one would a piece of plastic cheese.
Want one or not, Rea has come up with an actual recipe for this debauched creation. “I doubt that there will be a practical or non-disgusting use for these but that is kind of the essence of George Constanza’s ideas,” he says. In a series of videos, Rea recreates several dishes from Seinfeld, including the infamous boardroom-triumphing calzones and Elaine’s muffin tops and in fact, all the soup for you. Next!
4. Steamed Hams from The Simpsons
Mmmm, steamed hams, one of the world’s greatest memes, and most iconic foods from The Simpsons. If you’re unfamiliar, they’re diabolically repurposed Krusty Burgers, slyly presented by Principal Skinner to Superintendant Chalmers as a “family recipe.” This video isn’t technically Binging with Babish, as it’s a team-up with Alvin Cailan for The Burger Show — “We’re steaming burgers like a couple of true sociopaths!” — but look, we’re counting it anyway.
It’s not the first iconic food from The Simpsons recreated on BWB, with Marge’s dessert dogs, Homer’s moon waffles, the artery-crushing Good Morning Burger, the immortal Ribwich, Ned Flanders’ tempting hot chocolate, and Principal Skinner’s stew all getting their own moments in the Springfield sun.
5. Harley Quinn’s perfect egg sandwich from Birds of Prey
It was one of the few things we loved about 2020: Harley Quinn’s egg sandwich from Birds of Prey, cooked in a gloriously lusty montage. “What a way to start my new life: the perfect egg sandwich,” she says, awaiting her bodega-made prize. “Bacon, egg, cheese, just a dash of hot sauce — not too much, Sal! Wanna taste that cheese.” But it’s not just any ol’ sandwich, folks. As Mashable’s Angie Han wrote in a roundup of stuff we loved last year, “It’s the only thing in the world that can set Harley right in the middle of her breakup-induced hangover — and its destruction on the pavement, just minutes later, becomes the unthinkable tragedy that finally wakes her up to the peril she’s in.”
From where Rea is standing, the egg sandwich onscreen looks like it’s made on ciabatta, an Italian white bread, so he makes this from scratch (as is his way). He mentions that Margot Robbie is allergic to chicken eggs — a fact she offered up while surviving fellow YouTube show Hot Ones — so the sandwich is made with duck eggs instead. The fact that Rea tries to crack two eggs at once just like Sal does in the movie is one of the obsessive little details that make these videos so good.
6. Krabby Patty Supreme from SpongeBob SquarePants
Rev up your fryers for this one. Rea has spent plenty of time recreating the foods of the fictional undersea city of Bikini Bottom — Bubble Bass Burger, the Three-Day Potato Salad, and of course, the Krabby Patty — but the towering, king-size ultra Krabby Patty Supreme is one that fans have longed to jump out of the screen and into their mouths. The quad burger, featured in the SpongeBob SquarePants Season 3 episode “Just One Bite,” comes with the works. It’s double-batter fried ON A STICK, people.
And that’s exactly what Rea makes in this episode, even faithfully squirting a bottle of mayonnaise straight into his mouth like the bold customer in the show. If you’ve never seen a quad burger deep-fried with batter “the consistency of paint,” welcome. It’s so, so bad for you. But the cross-section shot of the completed burger is worth its weight in oil.
For more hectic burgers and sandwiches, check out the much-requested Bob’s Burgers ep, the bright red Broodwich from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the incredibly ambitious White Castle order from Harold & Kumar, or the extremely cheesy Sloppy Jessica from Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
7. Imaginary Pie from Hook
Rea’s recipes of onscreen foods always require a little imagination, but this one truly wields it. If you’ve seen Hook (and shame on you if you haven’t), you know what ends up happening to this pie and because of this pie, and it’s entirely up to you whether you let that happen at your own dining table (shiiit, I just grew up).
The “Imaginary Pie” from Steven Spielberg’s 1991 Peter Pan film was one of the ultimate onscreen foods of my own childhood, and watching all those Lost Boys teach Robin Williams how to visualise (and fling) a fantastic feast got one heck of a workout on our VCR. Rea figures this iconic pie is just whipped cream and food colouring in a butter pie crust, but of course, he takes it to the next level.
If you want more movie pie inspo, there’s a whole spectacular video of the pies from Waitress.
8. The Grey Stuff from Beauty and the Beast
“Try the grey stuff. It’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.” That’s all we get from Beauty and the Beast‘s Lumière in the cornerstone musical number “Be Our Guest,” in which a hungry Belle gets more than a glass of water and crust of bread for dinner. Well, really, in the sequence, The Grey Stuff is actually one of the only things Belle actually eats (well, tastes), from a tray of canapés.
“Now, I know the folks at Disney said to their animator, ‘Frank, just draw us a plate of appetisers, OK? Nobody is going to agonise over it 30 years later on a big TV trying to figure out what each element is so just put some appetisers on there, we don’t care if they don’t make sense,'” says Rea, about to do exactly that. After deconstructing Lumière’s entire animated plate, Rea decides The Grey Stuff is most likely foie gras or chicken liver mousse. However delicious that actually sounds to you really depends. Belle seemed to like it.
9. Flaming fire flakes from Avatar: The Last Airbender
“Flaming fire flakes, hot.” Absolutely not heeding this blatant warning, fearless eater Sokka stuffs a bunch of flaming fire flakes into his mouth in Avatar: The Last Airbender. It does not go well. Fire flakes are a Fire Nation snack in the show, from the monarchy helmed by the Fire Lord, one we first encounter in Season 1, episode 16, “The Deserter,” when the Aang Gang heads to the Fire Days festival.
So, how do you make them? It’s not just about mixing Corn Flakes with cayenne pepper (though he does do that and “milk offered no improvement”). Instead Rea uses a recipe from ChefSteps for a spicy fried puffed rice cracker. Perfect snack to watch Fire Nation theatre with.
10. Cheesy Blasters from 30 Rock
You’ll have to thank MeatCat for this 30 Rock-inspired recipe, which makes its triumphant appearance in Season 4. Literally, the dish is served at a fancy restaurant called Season 4. Liz Lemon sings the recipe at the table: “You take a hot dog, stuff it with some jack cheese, fold it in a pizza — *mimes some form of guitar* — you got Cheesy Blasters!”
If this recipe sounds simple, not a chance. Do you use the middle of the pizza for one Cheesy Blaster? A whole pizza? Here’s a taster of how seriously we’re taking this ungodly creation: “I later found it more effective to butterfly the hot dog entirely and place the cheese into its gaping maw, covering for maximum meltage.” Of course, this is BWB and one of the main features of the show is trying the recipe out using the ingredients specified by the characters, then when this usually results in some horrifying creation, Rea makes his own version. And then MeatCat, the Cheesy Blaster mascot, flies away on his skateboard, presumably.
It’s not the only food from 30 Rock that’s been visualised on BWB. Liz Lemon’s dreams of having a sandwich named after her are finally realised, as are those of the unparalleled Teamster Sandwich.
11. Rachel’s English trifle from Friends
Rachel Green’s traditional English trifle from Friends would probably have been perfect if it hadn’t been half-trifle, half-shepherd’s pie. For this video, Rea starts off making Rachel’s version, which we know from Ross Gellar, “tastes like feet.” Honestly watching the ladling of hot ground beef across a perfectly lovely looking trifle base of ladyfingers, jam, custard (made from scratch, of course) and raspberries will induce an audible groan from any viewer. Then, it’s time for a version you won’t spit out, which subs in cornbread for ladyfingers and other good ideas.
12. Troy’s casserole from Community
Creating a “good version” of something that you’re not even sure know how to make a version of is one hell of a challenge, but this video is a deconstructionist foodie’s delight. Troy Barnes’ casserole from Community is described thus: “Bagel Bites in a deconstructed Hot Pocket reduction with Doritos glaze,” foods you may have unfrozen and cooked separately but maybe not together?
“I know that Troy was just screwing around but how does one make a ‘Doritos glaze’ or most confoundingly deconstruct and reduce a Hot Pocket?” says Rea, before making an unbelievably stunning version of exactly this from scratch. For more Community food, check out the Abed Nadir favourite: buttered noodles.
Honorary mention: Peeps in the chili pot from The Good Place
Chidi told you to put the Peeps in the chili pot and mix it all up. So Rea did.