Chūka Ichiban! (meaning "China's Number One") is a manga and anime (the latter known as Cooking Master Boy in anglophone countries) about a Chinese boy named Liu Mao Xing, who aspires to be a great chef like his mother. The story is set in a fictional Imperial China where cooking is taken seriously. It is entirely possible to be banned from cooking just by losing a competition, even if your dish was of adequate quality. Chefs of varying degrees of proficiency are recognized and awarded by the Empire, and the most coveted title of all, the Supreme Master Chef title, is Mao's penultimate goal.After passing the grueling and highly competitive Supreme Master Chef examinations, Mao gets qualified for the title and decides to travel China in order to improve his cooking skills more. however, things take a dark turn as the Underground Cooking Society, an evil organization trying to take control of China through Culinary proficiency, begins a search for seven magical cooking items. Now Mao has to get the items first before the society lays a hand on them and eventually use them to control China.
Chūka Ichiban! provides examples of the following tropes:
Actually, I Am Him: To avoid unwanted publicity, Mao covered his Supreme Master Chef's seal with a white cloth and only reveals it when somebody asks him whom he really is. The people just realized that they just met the youngest Supreme Master Chef in China.
Book Ends: Mao and Shou An's rivalry started with the former defeating the latter in a cooking match with tofu as the main ingredient. They settled the score one and for all using tofu again as the main ingredient.
Boring, but Practical: Mao's cooking prior to the Super Chef tournament (and even occasionally after this) is mostly this way, it doesn't have much going for it in appearance, but has tremendous taste. The best example of this is his plain (but incredibly firm) noodles.
Sanche. He left Guangzhou to return to Shanghai in order to make amends with his estranged father. He fought alongside Mao and company against the Underground Cooking Society when Mao and the gang visited Shanghai.
Also in Shanghai, Shou An resurfaced again to exact revenge on Mao for stripping him of his senior chef status.
Fei also counts, disappearing after the Supreme Master Chief competition with Mao but showing up at the end of the anime as the Final Boss.
Chaste Hero: Mao, until he realizes that he loves Mei Li too.
Shell. Because this is a show about cooking, it's surprising that only Shell can actually kick butt in the physical sense.
Leon can also hold his mettle over attackers pretty well (given that he is on the run from the Underground Cooking Society), but his disdain for violence prevents him from actually being one.
Chekhov's Gun: A heavy, black, apparently worthless stone that comes from Mao's kitchen tools turns out to be a special stone that when put on boiling water, alkalizes the water in order to create firmer noodles.
The Chosen One: Shan An and Leon battled for the right to possess the Seven-Star Knives, as there can be only one existing set in the world. Shan An cheated and demoralized Leon so badly that he almost gave up, but Luo Xie's spirit appeared and chose Leon to be the wielder of the set.
Clean Cut: And how! Leon cuts a giant water buffalo into perfect cuts of meat without shedding blood or bruising the meat (he later does this to a squid too, also cutting the water apart)
Shan An cuts what appears to be a swordfish open, extracting the eggs, then seals it up. And then it flops back into the water as if nothing happened!
Dark Is Not Evil: Aapplies to an ingredient. In one episode, Mao and company visited a town where the main industry is raising poultry, and one particular restaurant is shunned and hated by the townsfolk for raising "cursed" black chickens for food. Mao recognizes the birds for what they are, uses them for cooking, and reveals to the town that the "cursed" birds are actually the rare breed of Chinese Silkie.
Distaff Counterpart: Shan An for Leon. She shares his seven star knives, and both of them specialize in seafood, and use Clean Cut techniques.
The Supreme Master Chef's seal is a dragon coiling around the Chinese character for "super".
The Dragon represents Mao himself, while a dark steed represents the Underground Cooking Society, as evidenced by their seals.
Yeah, Dragon Dumplings. Mao made one with the ability to fly unaided, using two different types of dough for the wrapping.
Embarrassing Tattoo: Leon's hand was tattooed with the Underground Cooking Society symbol when he joined. After his redemption, he crossed out the tattoo to show his disassociation from the the Society.
Equivalent Exchange: The rules of Yang Spring Restaurant are (originally) that whenever a new high-level chef enters past the original four, another must leave.
Food Porn: Chūka Ichiban! doesn't just take liberties around overly extravagant garnishing, They even give them extremely impossible characteristics. Majority of those cases, however, are explained by science. Examples include:
On one episode, When Mao and company stayed at a house of a rich jade merchant where the chef was slowly poisoning them with addictive Red Mushrooms, Mao made them a "Rainbow Rice Porridge" to wean them from the addiction.
This is central to Mao's battle against Fei in the Forbidden City. He, Shell and Leon agreed that they create their dishes in such a way that they can introduce the Emperor of China to healthy eating habits.
Insane Troll Logic: Some of Mao's dishes appear to involve copious amounts of this. For instance, for a noodle making test, he starts smashing rocks, boils them in water, then cooks grain in the pan, only to not add any water to the dough. Instead, he uses lye water extracted from the "rock" to make incredibly stretchy and strong noodles.
Knife Nut: Leon wields the Seven Star knives, a set of seven kitchen knives made by the blacksmith Lu Xie.
Large Ham: Shell. He introduced his "Golden Cut Pork Dumplings" with the Golden Ratio flashing before him.
Late to the Tragedy: The setup of the first episode. Mao is out picking mushrooms, and wants to show the rare herbs he's found. He opens the door to find the place ransacked by thugs, and everyone beat up.
Love Allegory: Several examples (see the page for more information).
Mundane Made Awesome: While in the end, it's a show about Chinese cooking, it is handled as a typical Shonen action manga/anime.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: During Shou An's battle, Shan An sabotages Mao's tofu in order for Shou An to win. It later gives him an inspiration for panda Ma Po Tofu. Adding insult to injury, Shell & Shirou thank her for the idea.
Opposites Attract Revenge: Chou Yu and Li Hua, who had their ultimate falling out when they competed for the hand of Mei Ga, Mei Li's mother. Only shown in a flashback, but their hatred moved on to sixteen years.
Mao's cleaver was originally used by his mother. Mao modifies the knife over the course of the series, such as having tiny holes put on the knife to make it more flexible.
The old, torn cookbook can also qualify.
Please Don't Leave Me: Mei Li to Mao when he decided to travel China to home his cooking skills. When Mao read Mei Li's farewell letter, he is, of course, anguished, but it turns out that Mei Li snucked in the boat to accompany Mao on his quest.
Power Glows: Every time Mao unveils his food, it is obscured by a golden light, which fades to reveal the dish in question.
Redemption Equals Death: Shou An after his final battle with Mao. At least not before he hands Mao the missing half of his Mother's cookbook.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: In the Dumpling Brothers arc, one of the two brothers shoos away an old man wanting a second plate, saying "you'll drive away the customers!" The man turns out to be a reputable food taster, and does in fact do just that, by giving Mao's dish high praise.
Serious Business: In Ancient China, superior culinary skills means extreme political power.