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Updated: May 17, 2013 10:55 IST

Master of spices

Zeenab Aneez
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Travel and taste Bobby Chinn
Travel and taste Bobby Chinn

Celebrity chef and presenter Bobby Chinn tells us what to expect from his latest series

So this time round, you’re travelling to Africa, Italy, South America and Europe. What are the highlights of the trip?

I think Peru for culinary adventure was one of the greatest. And the quality and the level of chefs in this show — the renowned, world-class chefs — was something that we weren’t able to track in the first couple of seasons. Zanzibar was a seriously difficult show to shoot, because we had to really look for food stories, but you have a really, fun, light show in Zanzibar. Each one has a different feel, so Sicily was fantastic for multicultural; Italian food influenced by Greeks, Spanish and Arabs. The Portuguese were really insightful as far as the incredible rich history they have — a very interesting place indeed. So it was something we’re all very proud of. It’s a very fun installation.

You just wound up your series on Asian food and you’re considered an expert on Southeast Asian cooking. What makes the food of the region so special?

Well, I think that Asian cuisine and the interpretation of it between, say – Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam and the influence of the Indian, the Chinese, the Peranakans, Nyonya, is very interesting. You have a cuisine which heavily influenced by spices. And then you look at a country like Vietnam, which is uniquely different from the rest of them, yet there are similarities with them and the Cambodian and Laotian cuisine. It’s very democratic in the sense thatanyone can cook it and make it, and it’s generally healthy. So it’s interesting to know all these techniques and see the influence of the French and the Portuguese.

Which Indian city did you find the most interesting in terms of food?

Amritsar. They made the most incredible white gravy using poppy seeds, milk, cashews, all the nuts and finished it with rose water. I was so taken aback by how many times this was used and the whole process. That was very good. But even a simple daal, to me, is breathtaking.

And what did you take back from your experience with food in India?

The ratios. There was a scene that we had to film in Chennai and it was a lot of pressure, because obviously there’s an entire film crew and I had to make Indian food (idlis and sambar) for people to actually eat it. So I hung out at The Taj, and watched them cook for a couple of hours. And it was so refreshing to watch a person just instinctively know how much to throw in of one thing or the other; they add just a little cumin, coriander, some turmeric, some ground masala, and stir it all in. And after I observed it, I did it myself on film, and I was like, I’m not going to be afraid. And it tasted really good.

You’re known to break rules in the kitchen, what would you change about Indian food if you had to serve it in your restaurant?

I would remove butter and ghee. I would sous-vide; I would use sous-viding techniques. I would be making spiced bases sous-vide, and then having those on hand to finish dishes. I’ve given this a lot of thought, because I want to actually put more Indian dishes on the menu, because I like it so much. But I want to make it light and healthy.

Back to the new series, what was the strangest thing you ate on the show?

It was in Iquitos, in the Amazon. I don’t know what it was, but whatever it was, it shouldn’t have been eaten. Tt was like a huge silkworm, and the guy told me it doesn’t – it tastes like foie gras and it was fat and oily but it’s like a worm. It was thicker than my index finger; it was like two index fingers put together, maybe three. Just a round thing put on a skewer and grilled.

World Cafe will start on May 27, 2013 and air Monday to Friday at 10 p.m. only on TLC.

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