The Weekend's Viewing: Exploring China: a Culinary Adventure, Sun, BBC2
The Zoo, Sun, ITV1

 

Exploring China: a Culinary Adventure is presented by a veritable Marco Polo of kitchen equipment, a heroic figure who ventured East and on his return transformed the cooking techniques of the Occident.

I mean Ken Hom, presented to us here as the man who “introduced the wok to the West”. There's a biopic in this surely. “How the West Was Wokked” perhaps, or “Wokking All Over the World”, a stirring tale of one man's battle against the deadening hegemony of the flat frying pan, complete with heartbreaking setbacks and a triumphant conclusion when the John Lewis kitchen buyer finally signs a deal for 30,000 Ken Hom Signature Woks. It made me look at him in a new light, anyway, even though I have no idea how you would check the veracity of such a claim.

Anyway, Ken's gone back to China with an appealing young sidekick called Ching-He Huang, to travel around and see whether the staggering changes in China over the past 20 years have improved native Chinese cuisine or bastardised it. Given that state communism has not famously been associated with fine dining in the past, there wasn't a great deal of tension about the answer here. Indeed, Ken almost immediately shared his memories of the dismay and disappointment he felt when he first visited China, just after the Cultural Revolution, during which the Red Guards shut down restaurants and burnt recipe books because they were thought to be bourgeois. Now the economic boom and the creation of a new bourgeoisie has driven a revival of traditional cuisines.

The attempt to kill off the old skills certainly seems to have been unsuccessful. Ken and Ching began their trip with a visit to a Beijing restaurant at which noodle cookery had achieved the level of Olympic sport. One man was paring noodles from a giant block of pastry with a specialised knife, shooting them at dazzling speed directly into a pot of boiling water. Another used chopsticks to flick noodles into existence from a plate of dough. After trying these techniques themselves, to effectively demonstrate how difficult they are to master, Ken and Ching gave up and cooked a couple of dishes you might actually replicate in your own home (though don't bank against Ken doing with the noodle knife what he once did with the wok).

That's the appealing mixture really: a little nibble at the kind of Chinese cookery you might try at home interspersed with experts doing things you definitely won't, foremost among them, I suspect, one Beijing chef's demonstration of the best way to blow up a Peking duck prior to roasting. After briefly scalding the bird, he performed what can most simply be described as mouth-to-arse resuscitation, inflating it like a novelty balloon. Ching, who had a distinctly unsettled expression on her face after this assault on Western notions of kitchen hygiene, told us that she gets equally good results using a bicycle pump. I find that the best technique is to look through the restaurant guides and go and pay someone else to do the whole thing for me, but this programme did work up an appetite to do that.

Another odd claim to fame in The Zoo, which this week introduced us to Ricky, "the most Googled penguin in the world". Any film about London Zoo has to compete with memories of Molly Dineen's masterful series The Ark, and almost always comes off worst. But if you're just after engaging animals and their besotted keepers it does the job well enough. On this evidence, it's rare to find an unhappy zoo keeper, even when they're shin deep in exotic kinds of faeces. Take Andrea, for example, who moved from backstage work in stand-up clubs to looking after the primates, and doesn't appear to regret her career move at all: "The transfer from comedians to monkeys was really, really easy," she said with some feeling.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week