Celebrity chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay explains at the beginning of the episode that he attempts to explore the culinary tradition of Southeast Asia, including places like Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, as he wants to induct himself into these kinds of cuisines.
Each of them has a unique taste and cultural heritage. So while the Vietnamese believe in the thought, ‘Eat everything, waste nothing’, the Cambodians are seeing a food revival decades after they faced a famine and were compelled to survive on wild animals, bugs and insects after they were externed to the jungles by the Khymer Rouge.
Ramsay stays in each country for a week, meeting local chefs and cooks, trying out secret recipes and finally preparing a lavish banquet for his ‘mentors, as he prefers to call them. He starts off his culinary quest at Vietnam by meeting the local chef, who likes to use fresh produce in her recipes and then visiting a restaurant that specialises in serving snake cooked in seven different ways. The patrons prod Ramsay to start off his meal by having a drink — a concoction of wine andthe snake’s heart, which is still beating. Ramsay downs thedrink, but not before swearing profusely. Then he proceeds to chomp reluctantly on the snake’s innards and bones that are deep-fried. During the next 30 minutes, he meets a duck lady who is known for preparing the best ducks in Vietnam and a broth lady who makes lip-smacking broths. Ramsay also goes fishing with a local chef on a bamboo boat and sees how to prepare stuffed squids.
On his visit to Cambodia, he travels the country side that is even today inhabited by 30,000 locals, attends a wedding, rustles up some beef kebabs for the guests and learns how to make a sweet dish out of pounded rice and honey. Later, he goes hunting for a tarantula, sees how the locals boil them and then fry them. Ramsay tries to be brave and gulps the fried tarantula. While he likes the fried legs, he spits out the bile. Ramsay has his own prejudices while visiting the countries. The colonial gaze is evident when he boards a bus in Vietnam and swears how it is sweltering hot at 35 degree celsius not before wondering how the locals believe in the ideology of not wasting anything. But during the course of his journey, though at times he is repulsed by the local fare, he does appreciate the hospitality of the locals, their urge to experiment and how they are happy despite having limited resources. The episodes prompt you to laugh out loud especially when he attempts to flirt with the duck lady to get out her to share her secret recipe and learns how to ride a bamboo boat shaped like a bowl.
The acclaimed restaurateur shows his mettle when he deftly adds his own twist to local recipes and serves them to chefs and royalty at an elaborate dinner. There are some heart-rending moments when he interacts with the Cambodian villagers and asks a 17-year-old orphan to assist him as a sous chef when he prepares dinner aboard a ship for the Cambodian royalty. So, if you are game for watching diverse cuisines that are a far cry from the usual fare, then Gordon’s Great Escape is the right choice for you. But be careful to stifle a yelp when you see some ‘wild’ catch. After all, we did warn you.
Premieres on December 8. Gordon’s Great Escape will air every Saturday at 8 pm on TLC