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-We've packed our passports...
-And bought our phrasebooks.
HE ATTEMPTS TO SPEAK THAI
Because we're off on our biggest, craziest adventure yet.
ALL: Delicious. Delicious. Meow, meow, eeee!
HE SCREAMS LIKE TARZAN
We're travelling further than we have ever done before.
To uncover the authentic roots of Britain's favourite takeaway foods.
I have always wanted to know how to make proper sweet-and-sour sauce.
Going off the beaten track
and being welcomed into some of Asia's hidden worlds.
How marvellous is this?
From the high rises and hot woks of Hong Kong...
The heat on this is really, really intense,
but listen, it's like a jet engine.
I love it!
..to the sweltering tropics of Thailand...
We love a tuk-tuk!
..where they say it's impossible to eat badly.
Thai food's arrived in Britain
but by crikey, it's only the tip of the iceberg.
We fulfil a lifelong ambition to explore Japan.
That is perfect.
Wow, look at that.
I've just had a sushigasm!
We finish up in South Korea
where the spicy cuisine is sensational.
This would go down a bomb down the local.
So leather up and take to the road.
For one extremely hairy...
We've arrived in Thailand for a two-week gastronomic journey
that's guaranteed to set our taste buds on fire.
This week, we're exploring and investigating the Central Plains,
home to rice paddies, ancient capitals, spectacular ruins
and the street food capital of the world, Bangkok.
Central Thailand is the original home of the Thai food that we
have come to know and love in the UK because most of the people who
opened the first Thai restaurants in the UK came from this region.
They gave us red curry, green curry, pad Thai and green papaya salad.
But I can't wait to find out what else is on the menu, Kingy.
Like millions of people each year, we're arriving at the gateway to
it all, the capital city, Bangkok.
It's the most visited city on the planet.
MUSIC: One Night In Bangkok by A-Teens
-We love a tuk-tuk!
All through the city you can smell charcoal and pork and seafood.
And all the lovely herbs. It's permeated the atmosphere.
We've got a tuk-tuk. Oh, it's going to be lush.
Bangkok is the street food capital of the world.
There are an estimated half a million people
hawking their food on the streets of Bangkok.
That's nearly 5% of the entire population of Bangkok.
Street food stalls were introduced to Bangkok in the late 19th-century
by Chinese migrant workers who wanted cheap and quick places to eat.
Street food is a national obsession.
Many people say it's where true Thai cuisine can be found.
Me and Dave here are looking forward to seeing if we can find it.
Whether you work in a bank or building site,
most locals buy street food at least once a day.
We are meeting Daniel, a Canadian who has lived here for ten years
and presents a web TV show about Thai culture and food.
Daniel and his Thai friends know the best stalls to visit.
-It is such a good way to eat.
-Something you can't replicate.
You can't reproduce it.
I think Thai restaurants around the world have tried to recreate
that street food experience that people who come to
Bangkok fall in love with.
It is funny, you see some people at home in the guidebooks say,
"You don't eat street food, you'll get sick." You live on it, you don't get sick!
I will tell you a secret, I have lived in Thailand for 12 years,
I eat street food every day.
-I have been hospitalised once from a five-star hotel.
-There you are!
Never from street food.
Competition on the street is fierce, so many vendors
specialise in just one dish which they become quite famous for.
Some street vendors have more infrastructure than others.
One day he'll have a chain!
And with food this good
and super cheap, no wonder many Bangkokians don't cook at all.
In fact, many modern apartments are being built without kitchens.
-You have ordered one of these to go home, right?
-Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-That is the whole thing, isn't it? Everybody can take away.
-Yeah, maybe I'm hungry about 10pm.
-And just eat.
Just before you go to sleep!
-It is the third and fourth meal. Thais have this insatiable appetite.
-Maybe the fifth.
They can eat five or six meals a day.
OK, this gets a little cramped but let's try and make our way in.
Some stalls have a cult following and their owners are street food celebrities.
The lady here, the cook, her name is Jay Fai, which means
Auntie Fai in Thai. She is a legend, she is an institution.
She has the freshest and the largest ingredients you will ever see.
She is a little lady there but she is like a musician!
She's basically on fire round there with five woks!
-Let's go, let's meet her.
-And take a look.
HE SPEAKS THAI
Hello, Jay Fai!
Do you know, I have noticed there is no gas here.
This is on charcoal braziers with a fan blowing through. You should get a better taste.
This is natural cooking. It's like a barbecue.
And by the look of our first dish,
Auntie Fai's reputation is well-deserved.
Look at the size of that omelette. This is the crab omelette.
Crab omelette is Jay Fai's signature dish.
Unlike the French omelettes we eat at home, Thai omelettes are deep-fried
so they are fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside.
I think I am about to have one of those food epiphanies,
that happens very rarely.
Is it that good?
It is amazing. It's so good it makes me giggle.
We eat like kings, we eat like kings here.
You do eat like kings. It's unreal!
I wish I could verbalise it better but it is just unreal.
With street food you can run the gamut from going for
20 baht for a freshly-squeezed fruit juice to what is basically
a Michelin-star quality meal all on the street.
What I love about it, it is accessible. It's jeans, T-shirt and beer.
But where food is concerned there is no compromising
and for a lot of people it is a way of life.
No sleep till bedtime - the night is young.
Every morning, Bangkokians wake up to the worst traffic congestion in the world.
There are five million cars here on roads built for just two million.
Not to mention the 10,000 tuk-tuks.
Tuk-tuk drivers spend two months of the year sitting
stationary in traffic. Let's give them a break and cook for them.
-I'll do spice chicken in pandan leaves.
-I'll do Thai fishcakes.
# One night in Bangkok and the world's your oyster! #
Actually, it is spice chicken and pandan leaves if we are being pedantic.
And with that I am going to do some home-made Thai fishcakes
because I am so fed up with some of the commercially
produced Thai fishcakes at home,
you might as well serve your guests deep-fried beer mats.
Home-made ones are brilliant.
-To begin with, what we are doing here...
-It is not the size
of your pestle and mortar that counts, it is what you do with it.
But if one is blessed with a big one, you know,
life is just that much sweeter.
Sorry, man. I don't want you to get mortar envy.
-Where did you get that?
-From the Big Boy's Pestle And Mortar Shop.
In Thai cooking, the pestle and mortar is way more important than the knife.
To get the full flavour out of the ingredients you have to crush them.
What we are going to do is prepare the marinade for the chicken.
It's very simple.
Put four cloves of garlic into your mortar.
And slice up a chunk of galangal.
It's part of the ginger family and has a peppery taste.
Along with some coriander root,
the root actually has more flavour than the leaves.
Hold on, we're on the move, dude, we're on the move! Did you put the brakes on?
Put the chocks in!
I tell you what, look, watch this. Right?
Limes in Asia are used for everything.
-Genius, Myers. Genius.
Right, to finish that delicious marinade for the chicken
we need some of those essential Thai flavours.
The most important is fish sauce.
There are four key flavours in Thai cuisine - salty, sweet, sour and hot.
Fish sauce is the salty.
Palm sugar gives the marinade sweetness,
but brown sugar is a good substitute.
A pinch of white pepper.
And some lime juice, just to give the marinade a sour kick.
That is what I call a Thai massage, you know.
Stick it in the fridge, half an hour, job's a good 'un.
Obviously you can't make Thai fishcakes without fish.
Sea bass is great if you are feeling posh
but you can do it with a bit of old pollack or coley.
There's that much spice going on you really can use cheap,
sustainable fish. Here I've got some halibut.
Really lovely, fresh, beautiful halibut.
Really want to take the skin off. Manageable pieces.
To flavour the diced fish, take one stick of lemon grass, top it and tail it,
you just want the nice succulent bit in the middle,
along with one kafir lime leaf, a big piece of galangal
and one coriander root and its leaves.
I am going to pound that together to make a paste in my jumbo-sized,
super-duper, picture-of-envy pestle and mortar.
Pop the fish in the mortar and add some Thai red curry paste,
some palm sugar...
..and an egg so that the fishcakes stick together.
And these are snake beans.
Which basically, they are like a long green bean.
They are brilliant for this but at home you can use, and I do, use French beans.
This gives them a bit of colour, a bit of bulk, they are lovely.
And finally the inevitable Thai fish sauce.
# Kumbaya, my Lord Kumbaya...#
You kind of pound this until it becomes like jelly.
And when it becomes jelly,
at home you put it in the fridge for an hour to make it easier to handle.
These are pandan leaves.
You can get them at home, so don't go, "Can I get them at home?"
You can. They're at the Asian supermarkets across the country.
They impart a lovely flavour - slightly herbaceous, slightly sweet.
It doesn't release any flavour until it is cooked.
When it is boiled in rice pudding,
or indeed deep-fried, it's worth it.
So, what you do is you blanch them for about 30 seconds.
Then wrap your chicken in the pandan leaf
and push through a cocktail stick to hold it all together.
Now we are going to fry these babies in a minute.
I'm ready, Kingy. Look at that - the texture is so smooth.
Right, now you need wet hands for this or
otherwise it is like trying to put a jellyfish in a vest.
It is kind of awkward. Wet your hands.
Take a portion of your fish and make them into little patties.
And that is your first fishcake. Put then on some flour and just repeat.
Good tip, they freeze fantastically well.
Put then on a sheet of silicon baking parchment and freeze them and
when you have your dinner party, you can do 50 or 60 of them at a time.
And you can't have a fishcake without a dip. Mine is honey and cucumber.
It's more of a salsa than a sauce.
Two tablespoons of rice vinegar, some runny honey,
some lime juice and a drop of water.
And one tablespoon of the inevitable, the irreplaceable,
the ever-present Thai fish sauce.
I now add in some chopped carrot, cucumber and a load of chilli
and some shaven shallots. Try saying that quickly!
Leave that to stand for half an hour to an hour for the flavours to develop.
One of my favourite things, this.
-Now that's a bit of kick, Kingy.
-It's a great cart, this, isn't it?
It is, it is.
We've got a built-in wok thermulator and I have a gas bottle here.
I'm shallow frying, he's deep frying.
I've some got a bit of groundnut oil in here, heat it up, shallow fry till golden.
And basically, for the spiced chicken pandan,
you will see the edges start to go a little golden brown
and that's what you want.
Look at that! These Thai fishcakes are about as perfect as you get.
Watch out, Dave, I think the tuk-tuk boys can smell the cooking!
-I like spicy!
-You don't have to worry about that, I tell you!
-That sauce, you could run your tuk-tuk on it.
-See you soon, boys!
Dude, your dipping sauce has a lot to live up to now, I tell you.
Right, better serve these Thai goodies up to our tuk-tuk mates.
It's been a long wait, I know. Here we go.
How long have you been tuk-tuk drivers? How many years?
-Ten years, I've been working here.
-Do you enjoy it?
Help yourself, man!
Have a chilli.
I think it is going down very well, you know. Guys, thank you.
-Nice to meet you.
-Thank you very much!
-Thank you so much.
You know, I've adored my time in Bangkok
-but I'm ready to hit the road, aren't you, mate?
Let's head north.
-There's one Thai dish we simply have to see at source.
-What's that, mate?
Rice, of course.
And here in the Central Plains is where they grow the bulk of it.
It's known as the Rice Bowl of Asia.
Over nine million hectares of land is used to grow the grain.
That's an area 4½ times the size of Wales.
Hey, would you look at that, Kingy?
Somebody's let that turf go to seed.
You won't be playing cricket on that in a hurry.
It's not turf, man, it's rice.
This organic farm produces jasmine rice.
Oh, wow, look at that!
-That's what you call organised gardening.
-I love it.
Square fields. Square boxes.
We're meeting Gong, who's one of the locals, and the paddy field
workers who are going to initiate us in the art of rice growing.
Hello, nice to meet you.
So, Gong, how many times a year does rice crop?
HE SPEAKS THAI
-Two times a year.
-Two times a year.
-At the moment, are you planting rice or harvesting rice?
-And what's the hardest work - planting or harvesting?
-For them it's all the same.
-It's all the same!
-They get used to it.
It's funny, I thought they may say that. It's funny that.
I think we need to go to work, Mr King.
-I've never planted rice in my life.
-No, we're rice-planting virgins.
We are. Which is a worry.
Planting rice is done mechanically as well as by hand
but today the machine is up the spout. So it's all hands on deck.
Come on, you, let's go to the field.
'Watch your step, Kingy!'
SI LAUGHS AND SNORTS
I don't think we're going to get back over the bridge.
I think it's time to go back on the diet!
I never knew that planting rice could be such fun.
I suppose we'd better get cracking.
So, here's how rice grows.
It starts as a seed which gets sewn into trays and then the trays
get put into nursery beds in the paddy fields to germinate.
20 days later, the shoots have grown big enough to be separated out
and planted in the main beds of the paddy field
to grow into...guess what? Rice.
Do you want me to show you how to do it?
You take it out and then use your thumb to put it in.
And then use your index finger to put it back.
So, how long have you been doing it?
SHE SPEAKS THAI
-She's 51 years old today.
She is not. Today?
# Happy birthday to you
# Happy birthday to you
# Happy birthday dear Pedang
# Happy birthday to you. #
We've done about kind of six square metres since we've been here.
I mean, how much a day would you be expected to do?
These three ladies, in a day,
-they've probably got about 1,600 square metres.
'That's about the size of six tennis courts.'
I tell you, Kingy, this is hard work, isn't it?
-It is, it's ridiculous.
And all that hard work pays off.
These paddy fields produce about 50 tonnes of rice a year.
Do you know what, Kingy?
We've done our share of backbreaking work
but I think this has got to be the most backbreaking of the lot.
-It certainly has.
-I'll never take me jasmine rice for granted.
Just three months after the rice is planted,
Pedang and her mates will harvest it and dry it.
And then it is threshed by machine to get the rice grains out.
What we've got here at the moment is just brown rice.
-We could cook that and it would be the chewy brown rice that is very healthy.
-Yeah, it is.
And if you take the outside bran off,
you will find the white jasmine rice underneath.
When the sun gets too high and too hot, everyone downs tools
and chips in to make lunch.
So, Gong, what would be the typical meal of the day?
They finish work, they all want to eat together for lunch.
-Is this what they would cook?
-This is normal for her.
Vegetable or bamboo shoot cooked with any kind of meat that's available.
And today the meat is chicken
and a fish they caught in the paddy field.
-What a beautiful fish.
They put fish in the water here to eat the weeds and the bugs
and the fish droppings help fertilise the water.
-A little paddy field treat.
-Lush, isn't it? That's a top tip.
You see, if you slash the fish,
and slash the thickest part of the skin, it cooks evenly.
This isn't bad for a working lunch, is it, Si?
It certainly beats having a sandwich and a packet of crisps.
-This is the Thai style of eating rice.
-On the floor.
That's better. Rice.
What have we got here? We have the deep-fried paddy field fish,
we've got bamboo shoots with a clear chicken broth,
we've got cooked aubergines, fresh aubergine
and that lovely chilli dip.
-Chilli dip we call nam pla.
Oh, wow! And for your birthday, are you enjoying your food?
HE SPEAKS THAI
Happy birthday, happy birthday.
-And thank you for cooking us supper on your birthday.
-Yes, thank you.
I know I've said it before, Si, but I'm never going to
take my rice for granted again.
Back on our bikes and heading for the ancient capital of Thailand.
This is the life, Kingy.
Founded in 1350, in its heyday,
Ayutthaya was one of the most spectacular cities in the world.
Ayutthaya was on the ancient trading routes between India and China,
and traders from all over the world
brought new flavours and spices here.
The chefs in the royal palaces here
took full advantage of these exciting ingredients.
They were in fierce competition with one another
to create the most exquisite dishes to please their king,
who has godlike status in Thailand.
So this is where it all began, that exciting alchemy of Thai cuisine
that you see everywhere today, from street food to schools,
it started here.
Do you know, Si, you can feel the serenity, the beauty,
-the age of this place, can't you?
-You can, yeah.
It's funny, this. I recognise it.
I think I've cleared this level on Tomb Raider.
-I mean, it's massive.
-It's a city.
And it was a city, one of the most important places on the planet,
for not just religion but for trade, for spirituality, for food.
-Ooh! For food.
-I have an idea.
-I fancy a salad.
As a celebration of the role
Ayutthaya played in creating the Thai food we know and love back home,
we're going to create our own special dish.
This salad is a melange.
It's crispy noodles,
surmounted with prawns and crab
and all manner of good things and herbs, which will become clear
when we start cooking it.
Now, these are vermicelli noodles.
You deep fry these until they're golden and crispy.
And vermicelli noodles are made from rice.
So if you've got a wheat allergy, you're a blotcher or wheezer,
you're all right with vermicelli noodles.
What's most important when doing this sort of thing,
you have to make sure that your fat's hot enough. And it's not.
Kicking off, I'm making the salad dressing
with the inevitable Thai fish sauce...
..some lime juice
and a bit of palm sugar.
Then thinly slice five Thai shallots.
If you haven't got Thai shallots, just use one banana shallot.
Then grate up some galangal, ginger and garlic.
Now then, when the oil is hot enough,
what you do...
..take a good handful of noodle,
pop them in like that. Whoa!
That's what you're after.
Let them cook for about 30 seconds,
turn them over, cook them on the other side, take them out,
so you're looking at about a minute. And again.
Joking apart, do take care if you're doing this at home.
Have a fire blanket there
because you'll burn yourself if you're not careful,
and we don't want that.
Go on, give us one more go. I like this, it's great.
It's kind of a cross between deep frying and pyromania.
Watch. Are you ready?
Aw! Hey, man, how cool is that?
Do you know, Kingy,
this is like getting the lawn at Hampton Court and doing a fry-up!
I know! We don't want to get chucked out.
Now take the thinly sliced shallots
and shallow fry them until they're crispy.
This will give a lovely crunch to the salad.
Meanwhile, make strips out of the three kaffir lime leaves,
and then chop up some spring onion.
The salad, the shallots go in.
King prawns, some with the shell off, some with the shell on,
and just stir-fry them nice and quick.
-They are fantastic prawns, aren't they?
To the prawns, add the galangal,
the ginger and the garlic.
And just saute, but take care not to burn the garlic.
Literally, that should take about a minute. No longer.
But if you're going to have a salad, this really is an epic salad.
It's absolutely bursting with textures, flavours.
You've got your carbohydrate, your protein, your spice.
-Now those go in the bowl.
-Put those on top of the crispy shallots.
Now we start building.
Pop in the spring onions,
a handful of beansprouts, and as much crab as you like,
then rip up a generous amount of mint and some coriander.
As you can see, all that palm sugar has dissolved with the fish sauce
and the lime juice.
-Now the best way for this is...
-With your hands.
Yeah, cos you don't want to break the herbs up or smash the meat up.
-Ready for the build?
So, nice and gentle.
Then take your deep-fried vermicelli
and layer the salad on top.
Along with some chopped red chillies and chunks of lime.
Now, that, that's a salad, isn't it?
That's our homage to this beautiful place
and the beautiful country that is Thailand.
-What a place to have supper.
-Really good, isn't it?
You know, the truth of it is,
these blends of flavours all began in this ancient city.
You know, Kingy, people said it's impossible to eat badly in Thailand,
and they were right.
Yes, and even though we've eaten a mind-boggling amount of amazing food,
I can't help feeling we've only scratched the surface.
Our work here, mucker, is far from done.
Ah, well, it's a tough job but someone's got to do it.
The Hairy Bikers arrive in Thailand. In Bangkok, they enjoy a night out exploring the street food capital of the world. In the central plains, things get much tougher as they learn how to grow and harvest rice.