Gary Mehigan: “My frame of reference has changed”

English-Australian chef Gary Mehigan is the host of new food and travel program, Far Flung, but lest you put him in a box, he says the show is him with no frills.

Words by Imagine TV Network

"It's my take on travel," Gary Mehigan says, when asked to describe what the essence of Far Flung was. "Maybe people have seen me on MasterChef and assume I'm a particular type of cook... [Far Flung] is my view, my idea about food... It's me with no frills."

The six-episode television program sees him  making a road trip to Southeast Asian countries like India, Vietnam, Laos, South Korea and Hong Kong. In each of the places he visits, he pops by their local markets and tries his hand at cooking the local dishes.

Image credit: FYI

Mehigan describes Hong Kong as a melting pot of many cuisines and says the city-state brings to mind custard tarts, roast goose and dumpling noodles. That was also where he had his first experience drinking snake soup and he describes the mild and fibrous meat as a cross between pork, turkey and chicken.

In the fifth episode of the series, South Korea is featured and he mentions trying gochujang, a fermented red chilli bean paste, mung bean rice cakes and soondae, pork sausages filled with sweet rice and vermicelli noodles made from sweet potatoes.

As part of the filming, he joined a cooking contest during the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival in South Korea, and recalls his team's bibimbap creation. "Honestly, I think [the locals] were really impressed, he says.

What his team did, he explains, was a classic bibimbap dish with some variations but he shares that he did not expect the other contestants to present re-interpretations of the bibimbap dish. "They were rolling it like sushi, or making it like a fritter... We thought that what they would was the perfect classic Jeonju bibimbap in every restaurant I've eaten."

Image credit: FYI

Trained at The Connaught and Le Souffle in London, the 48-year-old chef shares about an experience he had 23 years ago when he was just starting out. "One of the turning points for me as a chef was when I first went to work... in a little local hotel. I remember the chef cooked pan-fried calf liver."

The liver was cooked in a bit of lemon juice and sage and was "beautiful," he says. The taste was in contrast to the dry, "sawdust" texture he remembered from his schooling days. "I have loved calf liver ever since," he adds. It is a strange story but a beautiful one, he remarks.

His passion for the "world of food" is one of the reasons he adores traveling. "Even though I've been cooking for 30 years now, there's so much to learn... And I've barely scratched the surface," he says.

He proclaims Vietnamese food as one of his favorite cuisines and says it ticks all the boxes in terms of flavor. "The thing I love particularly, I suppose, would be the Vietnamese tacos I had in Saigon." The other thing he absolutely loves is cà phê đá, Vietnamese iced coffee.

In another episode, he tried wasp honey and ate wasp larvae at the Luang Prabang Market in Laos. The larvae, he says, tasted creamy and had floral notes to it. Such exotic dishes are not meant to "shock" the viewers, he adds.

Looking back at the months spent on the road, he says, "My frame of reference has changed... "My favorite dishes right now are Southeast Asian dishes."

Far Flung with Gary Mehigan premieres on 27 January 2015 and broadcasts every Tuesday at 9pm on FYI (StarHub TV Ch 404), previously known as Bio.

 

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