In the Gordon Ramsay Uncharted South Africa episode, the braai brings the flavor to the food.
Although hippo was not on the menu, Gordon Ramsay Uncharted South Africa had a touch of danger far beyond the Big Game that roam the Savannah. With guidance from Chef Zola Nene, Gordon learns to not only tame the flame of the braai but also balance the layers of flavor in these recipes.
For many people, a visit to South Africa is both a thrilling and a culinary adventure. While people seek the Big 5 on safari, the food adventure is equally as exciting. Although many South African ingredients might not be found that the typical American grocery store, there are similarities to many familiar foods. In some ways, South Africa is a melting pot of flavors.
From the cultures who have come to South Africa to local communities, that blend of flavors and ingredients creates a cacophony on a plate. From intense curries to humble ingredients, each ingredient has a purpose. More importantly, all the flavor diversity seeks to create unity on the plate.
In this episode, Chef Nene guides Gordon on his journey. While Gordon generally likes to cook his way, cooking for a Zulu Chief comes with a few parameters. If the chief wants a well-done steak, you do not defy the chief (even the fiery Gordon Ramsay).
While the majestic South African landscape is mesmerizing, the flavors in these dishes are quite exciting. In each episode, there is always a special fact that is revealed. In this episode, the influence of Indian spices on the cuisine is quite compelling. Given the large Indian community, the use of curries in the dishes adds another layer of flavor.
Beyond the spices, one large aspect of South African cuisine is the braai. While many Americans have a grill in the backyard, the braai is similar yet different. Just like the kitchen becomes a gathering place for a party, the braai is the gathering place as well.
As said in the episode, the braai is the centerpiece to the community. Braai is more than a way of cooking. It is an art.
The simple grill allows the flavors in the food shine. Sometimes, the best dishes do not need all the extras and special cooking techniques. When the flame adds flavor, it can be the bite to remember. The way of the braai exemplifies that concept.
Looking at Gordon and Chef Nene’s finale meal, it is interesting that surf and turf is on the menu. As seen in the Tasmania episode, surf and turf crosses all cultures and regions. While this version might be slightly more traditional fish and beef dish, it shows that food can connect cultures through the similarities.
For many Gordon Ramsay fans, one big takeaway in this episode is not the culinary adventure or the unlikely food on the plate. In this meal, someone else drove Gordon’s culinary decisions. He had to cook a steak the way that the chief likes. Maybe it was Gordon’s taste of what it is like to be in Hell’s Kitchen with a critical diner ready to give his judgment.
In the end, this episode should hopefully inspire people to explore South African flavors and maybe travel to the stunning area. While many people go in search of Big Game, the hospitality and flavors from the braai are the welcoming taste that can nourish the soul.
As seen in the finale meal, Gordon learned to adapt and to celebrate humble ingredients. Sometimes the restraint in a recipe should be celebrated as much as the exuberance. Luckily, the braai brought everything together in a perfect way.
In some ways, the words of Chef Nene are the most compelling thoughts from the episode. She believes that food is love. That idea is universal and should guide any food that you put on the table.
What did you think of this week’s Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode? Have you been to South Africa?