Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure, TV review: Their Hong Kong hosts are charming, but Si and Dave's antics prove hard to stomach
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Thursday 13 February 2014
That comedy duo known as the Hairy Bikers are off on their travels once more. In Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure (BBC2), they'll be taking in China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea, to explore the origins of Britain's take-away favourites and find out what ordinary Asian families eat for their tea.
It's part of Si'n'Dave's unpretentious charm that unlike, say, Yotam Ottolenghi in the Mediterranean, or Ken Hom in China, they don't claim any specialist knowledge of local cuisine. Instead, they present themselves as enthusiastic amateurs who just love to eat. Yet there were moments in this week's Hong Kong-set episode when you wished they'd take themselves a tad more seriously.
Watching two grown men in vests preparing to cook a prawn and scallop stir-fry by singing the Hong Kong Phooey theme tune is an embarrassment to all concerned. Not least the street-food stall owner, who looked on in consternation from the corner of the frame.
Unabashed, the bikers continued their quest to uncover the secrets of "wok chi" (the mystical energy force of the wok, apparently) under the watchful eye of a real expert, Granny Fong. This industrious woman cooks daily feasts for her family in a tiny kitchen on the 35th floor of a Hong Kong tower block.
On the evening of our visit, the menu included an authentic dish of sweet and sour pork, prepared using the equally authentic ingredient, tomato ketchup – it was invented in China, don't you know. This was later washed down with curried fish balls, good luck ceremony roast pork and dim sum as enticing as a popular Spanish movie star. "If Penélope Cruz was a dumpling, that would be Penelope," said the clearly impressed Dave.
The least appetising dish of the episode also happened to be the most interesting: spam noodles and egg at one of the greasy spoon cafés, known as "Cha chaan teng". This was an opportunity for a brief, but fascinating chat with local TV personality Suzie Wong on the lasting culinary influence of British colonialism.
Then, inevitably, back to the inane tomfoolery. Jason, proprietor of the Lau Sum Kee Noodle House, had an unusual method for preparing the Cantonese staple, involving a sort of bamboo seesaw. Foolishly, he'd also agreed to let two hairy nincompoops take turns "bum-bouncing" his produce. Oh sigh, Si, have you no dignity, man?
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