I saw a post on the internet recently that said, “You can control white people by giving them cheese.” Another Tumblr user responds, “Cheese is so good tho.” Victini, the original poster, responds, “I got one.”
For me, I think it very likely the way you can control me is by East Asian food. Or East Asian music. Or East Asian languages. Or two free flights to East Asia. Or all of the above. If you narrow it to South Korea, all the better for you.
After two semesters in South Korea, a piece of my heart is forever nestled into that corner of the world, and wherever I go, that little piece will always be there waiting for me to come back. East Asia holds a special place in my heart, so when flipping through Netflix options after having finished The Great British Bakeoff, there was no resisting this tempting show title, despite the fact that I have a personal dislike of excess facial hair.
It turns out it was an amazing find. The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure is one of many shows hosted by Dave Myers and Si King, two men from the north of England that remind me a little bit of Merry and Pippin– goofy, down-to-earth guys with a passion for really good food. And not only that, but they are also amazing chefs who make the creation of mouth-watering top-notch food look as easy as a walk in the park.
In Asian Adventure, Dave and Si (also referred to as Kingy) seek the source of the Asian cuisine that has become so popular in the UK (and in America as well.) Their journey begins in Hong Kong, where they sample street foods and visit a multi-generational family in a tiny high-rise apartment for real, homecooked Chinese food. The following two episodes feature Thailand– first Bangkok, and then the more rural seaside and mountain regions. Their adventure takes them to the rice paddies of rural Thailand and to a small village of the Lisu people, where they learn about how rice is cultivated in the sloping mountains, try local dishes, and encounter a giant tarantula.
The final three episodes move further East. Two episodes feature Japan– first up is Tokyo, where they visit with sumo wrestlers and try their hands at making sushi. Next, they bike to Mount Fuji where they try homemade noodles, and further south to Kyoto.
Finally, the moment I was on the edge of my seat waiting for: South Korea. Here they try classic dishes such as bibimbap and Korean barbecue, and go behind-the-scenes with one of my favorite Korean fast foods: Korean fried chicken. (There is nothing like crispy Korean fried chicken, which can be delivered to you at any time of the day or night, and which I enjoyed many nights sitting on the floor of my dorm room with my roommates, Miso, Suah, and Eunsol.) They also enjoy something straight off my bucket list: making homemade kimchi with a seasoned and experienced ajumma to guide them. One day, Melanie, one day.
Needless to say, one of the charms of the show was getting to travel vicariously throughout the six, all-too-short episodes. It feels like for an hour, you’re on the other side of the world with them, exploring all those countries have to offer and filling up on some of the best cuisine on the planet. And they bring their experience into reach of stuck-at-home viewers with their amazing recipes. Si and Dave are amazing cooks who, periodically throughout the show, cook up tributes to the people and places they’ve encountered, demonstrating recipes step-by-step in a way that makes me feel like I can really just run over to the Asian market, grab some ingredients, and make something at least almost as good.
It’s also so refreshing what normal, down-to-earth people the hosts are. They are far from queasy, need-everything-to-be-sanitized-and-Westernized tourists. They want to know what daily life is like for the people they meet, and where the food we take for granted comes from. In all their interactions, there is a charming curiosity and a loving respect and admiration for the people they encounter.
My only complaint was that the show was far too short. I’d love to see a sequel featuring more Asian countries (I would love to explore the world of Vietnamese food some more!) and more rural corners of South Korea (or just make a whole entire series about Korea, I won’t complain!) But luckily, there is more to the Hairy Bikers. We’re now embarking on another series on Netflix, where the bikers adventure across Europe, Asia, Africa, and the U.S. to find the perfect chicken and egg recipes. I’m anticipating some experimental chicken recipes to be featured on this blog soon…