Box clever: Ken's wok solid

According to top chef Ken Hom, Britain's willingness to embrace all manner of culinary influences means we now boast some of the most adventurous cuisine in the world. And he should know; such is his appeal, that 10 per cent of UK households possess one of his woks

If, like Bridget Jones, you are facing the prospect of endlessly recycled turkey curry over the next few days (or weeks), then help is at hand. Ken Hom Travels With a Hot Wok is here to lighten up the post-Christmas gloom.

Combining elements of Michael Palin and Keith Floyd's shows, Hom's new series takes in exotic locations such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Los Angeles and Vancouver where he rustles up tempting examples of Pacific Rim, or fusion, cuisine. This fashionable new development in cookery melds traditional Western ideas with spicy flavours from the East. Watching dishes like stir-fried prawns and scallops in black bean and tomato butter sauce, or grilled coconut chicken curry, or Asian-flavoured salmon fishcakes being prepared on screen, you can almost smell the wonderful aromas wafting towards the camera.

The globe-trotting chef was brought up in Chicago's Chinatown where he helped in his uncle's restaurant from the age of 11. He now resides chiefly in a converted 12th-century tower in south-west France, but should that ever pall, he also has houses in Paris and California. This TV cookery lark certainly keeps the wolf from the door. The fact that Hom has penned 14 best-selling cookbooks and that 10 per cent of homes in the UK possess a Ken Hom wok can't hurt, either.

Taking a short break in London recently, Hom explains the thinking behind the series. "The idea is something I've been doing for 20 years, mixing Asian ingredients with Western food. I grew up in a very Chinese household, but also in the larger Western world. I wanted to expand people's horizons and show that Asian ingredients could be used not just for Asian food, but for everyday cooking. It's what I do every day. It shows people how to pep up their cooking."

Perhaps because of the prevalence of foreign travel these days, we're all becoming more ready to accept outside influences. "Ten or even five years ago, this series would have been harder to do," Hom contends. "Today you can buy lemon grass, ginger or Chinese cabbage at any supermarket. Fusion cooking is the natural outcome of the cosmopolitanisation of food. Olive oil is not a very British ingredient, but everyone has it in their cupboard, just as everyone has a bottle of soy sauce.

"It's the result of food products going round the world and being discovered by different countries," he continues. "When I was growing up in a Chinese household, I didn't know what butter or cream were. But as soon as I discovered them, there was no reason not to use them. We're not in such a strait- jacket anymore. In the UK, you have people from all over the world who contribute to an interesting mixed culture. It's the same with food. Your love affair with Indian cooking has opened the door to people experiencing all sorts of different tastes. Now the UK has the most adventurous cuisine in Europe. Like many Anglo-Saxon countries which didn't have a very strong food culture, you're not wedded to your own cuisine. You're not chauvinistic about it like the French or the Italians. History is a good thing, but it can tie you down as well."

This new openness has helped to rescue our reputation in the kitchen. "You suffered from post-War rationing," Hom reasons. "A whole generation grew up just eating bland food with no seasoning. Also, it was not considered good form to discuss food - even at dinner. It was like talking about a bodily function. That's changed as Britain has seen a loosening up of the traditional ways. Food is something to relish with a passion, rather than be ashamed of. You've now moved away from that Protestant ethic of never talking about food or sex."

In our new-found enthusiasm, however, we are in danger of over-egging the pudding. On TV now, it's almost a case of too many cooks spoil the schedules. But Hom argues that "fashion and design have moved at an accelerated rate. British people's insatiable appetite for cooking programmes is merely a need to catch up with the rest of the world."

Does he see any sign of the food fad fading? "What I do is not merely fashion," he declares. "If you do it solidly, the bubble won't burst. It's grounded. In the 14 years I've been on the scene, people have come and gone, but those with a body of work behind them last."

One such is, of course, Hom himself. How does he account for his own televisual longevity? "What I do is simple," he maintains, although anyone who's gone 12 rounds with a hot wok and lost may disagree. "My recipes are doable. Many people have also told me that what they like is my natural enthusiasm to share my culture with the wider British public. Passion is what it's all about."

And you thought it was just a matter of slinging a few odds and sods into a hot wok.

`Ken Hom Travels With a Hot Wok' is on Monday, 8.30pm, BBC2

Suggested Topics
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Life and Style
life“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    PHP Web Developer (HTML5, CSS3, Jenkins, Vagrant, MySQL)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: PHP Web Develo...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice