Gordon Ramsay Uncharted: Laos brings foraging to a new level


In this Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode, Laos brings some of the most adventurous food yet, but concepts behind this food are universal.

A simple statement seems to guide this Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode. In Laos, people eat everything. Since many people in the country have limited means, food comes from where they can find it. With that idea in mind, Gordon must be willing to explore everything.

In some ways, this episode is probably the most challenging for some viewers. The typical American would never think to eat an insect. While this practice is common in many countries, Americans tend to look away or even gag.

Sure, it was humorous to watch Gordon eat toe biters, get ants rained on him and even drink some fermented gecko liquor, but those foods are more than television sound bites. For these people, these ingredients are part of their culture.

Instead of that knee jerk reaction, this episode explains the why behind those foods. Laos is a poor country and their people need to find food where they can. It is clearly stated that they rely on the forest to survive. Simply stated they eat everything.

Insects offer lots of protein and they can be foraged anywhere. Similar to how moms coax a child to eat more fruits and vegetables, if you are hungry you eat the food that is available. Over time, those foods became part of their way of life. More importantly, they learned to make those foods taste good.

Laos – Chef, Joy Ngeuamboupha (R), guides Gordon Ramsay through a daily market to purchase ingredients for their cook-off. (National Geographic/Jock Montgomery)

If that food can be made to taste good, why wouldn’t you eat it? For the Western culture, it is really mind over matter. Instead of gagging at the concept, close your eyes and taste the food. Other cultures might gag at the idea that Americans eat a hot dog. It is all perception.

Overall, this culture’s resourcefulness needs to be applauded. In an area where money is scare, people find nutrition where they can. Whether it is using every part of an animal or foraging for all types of food, being resourceful is a quality that more cooks should employ.

While some people will focus on the non-traditional ingredients, the bigger concept in this episode applies to every and any good cook. The key takeaway from this cuisine is balance of flavors.

Although some people find some of these dishes spicy, the truth is that the cuisine is quite nuanced. Each ingredient builds on the other one. Layers of flavors make the dish more delicious.

From using ant larva to wood, those ingredients aren’t for shock value. They are used because they bring salt, acid, or heat to a dish. Through trial and error, these cooks have found ways to enhance food using the ingredients that are around them.

Since each episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted focuses presenting a final celebratory meal, this week’s dinner was different. Building on the cultural experience, Gordon prepares a meal for the monks. This meal didn’t come with a win or loss, instead only a delicious meal would come with a blessing.

A few items about this meal were surprising. It seemed unlikely that Gordon didn’t know that he couldn’t use liquor for the monks. Even a good Scottish boy should have had a second thought about giving a monk liquor, even if it was burnt off.

Also, watching Gordon curb his fiery commentary was nice for a change. While fans know that he can be cutting, keeping his language a little more family friendly seemed fitting.

Lastly, probably one of the best references came from this episode. In a short quip, Gordon wondered if he would be forever doomed to cook in Hell’s Kitchen. Even though Gordon’s risotto and beef wellington are divine, no one should be stuck in Hell’s Kitchen forever.

Since this show is about culinary adventure and inspiring foodies through culture, travel and ingredients, the suggested recipes are always a lovely way to bring these topics off the screen and into the home. This week’s suggested recipe is a Sweet and Sour Catfish Soup.

The catfish soup is a perfect example of the balance that comes through in this cuisine. With spice from the Laos bird chiles to the sour from the tamarind to the sweetness from the kaffir leaves, this recipe is quite layered. As you eat it, the flavors take you on a journey.

Like many Laos’ recipes, this dish has many, many ingredients but each one serves a purpose. If something was left out, the dish would be off balanced.

Since more home cooks are expanding their flavor profiles, many of these ingredients can be found in various stores. It is totally possible to make this dish at home.

Of course, home cooks could also make a crispy whole red snapper. Using similar ingredients from the soup, the red snapper would be stuffed with them. Add both flavor and aroma, these items elevate the fried fish.

After watching this Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode, hopefully viewers look beyond the “shock” moments and focus on the nuance and resourcefulness in Laos. While some Americans will never eat a toe bitter, maybe they might be a little more willing to try a different part of a pig or eat that oyster or eat some a super hot pepper.

Pushing beyond your comfort zone can open up a whole new world of flavors and experiences. Don’t let preconceived notions limit the world around you.

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What did you think of this episode of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted? Would you like to explore Laos and its cuisine?