Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra: Diverse, daunting and durian

West Sumatra, Indonesia - Chef William Wongso (L) and Gordon Ramsay during the big cook. (Credit: National Geographic/Justin Mandel)
West Sumatra, Indonesia - Chef William Wongso (L) and Gordon Ramsay during the big cook. (Credit: National Geographic/Justin Mandel) /

Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra highlights the diversity of Indonesian cuisine.

Another rich, robust culinary adventure awaits on Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra. While the episode explores some iconic dishes from the region, the diverse and sometimes daunting Indonesian cuisine comes with another lesson for Gordon Ramsay. Chefs never stop learning.

While each Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode looks to make Gordon push his boundaries, this episode had him being schooled by a master. Although a few chefs might have had a good chuckle when Chef was hit by a bovine’s tail, this episode showed Gordon learning at the hands of a great master.

Chef William Wongso is a culinary legend. At the spry age of 73, the celebrated chef not only has a way with the wok but also a way with words. In some ways, his quick wit and snappy comebacks might have people think that he has earned a spot on MasterChef. Plus, very few chefs can steal an ingredient from Gordon and not get a terse response.

During the finale cook, a very poignant message is almost overlooked. As the chefs banter, Chef Wongso reveals he never stops learning and cooking. In some ways, that concept of always learning and growing is more important that the Beef Randang recipe from this episode. A simple phrase shows that everyone can always gain knowledge from others, no matter the age, position or other factors.

Still, this Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra episode is not just about the conversation between the chefs. It is about experiencing the food and culture of the area. As Gordon explores the area, viewers learn an interesting tidbit about the fiery chef.

Many cultures have iconic ingredients. Throughout previous Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episodes, viewers have seen Gordon prefer to skip the insects and other unlikely proteins. Still, he is usually a good sport when it comes to having a little bite.

In the Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra episode, Gordon is given durian. For those unfamiliar with the pungent fruit, it has big, spikey outside. That formidable skin should warn people not to take a bite.

While the texture of durian might be a little unusual, the aroma and taste can make people run and hide. Often prohibited from planes and hotels, the odoriferous fruit can make many people have an instant reaction.

If you think that one of Gordon’s negative Hell’s Kitchen reactions was bad, his face when he has to eat the durian is priceless. Sure, durian is an acquired taste and he needs to be gracious. Still, it was amusing. Could durian become a MasterChef ingredient?

While the durian moments are entertaining, the cooking techniques in this episode are valuable. Looking at the Sumatran recipes, the layers of flavors obtained from the spice rubs are invaluable. While personal spice levels vary, the combination of ingredients to bring the flavor to a recipe is an important cooking lesson.

Additionally, these spice blends are made fresh, by hand. Although many home cooks might have spices lining the cabinet, older spices tend to lose their flavor. Freshly ground spices reveal a new depth of flavor that can change any recipe.

Even though some of these spices and ingredients might not be found at the local grocery store, the concept can be applied to any dish. It could be as simple as using freshly ground pepper or grated nutmeg in a recipe. Just like other chefs, learning and adapting never ends.

With a flavor spice blend for a recipe, the other key takeaway from the Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra episode is the idea of low and slow cooking. While many people associate that phrase with barbecue, the concept is simple. Cautious, crafted cooking that takes hours to meld all the flavors together just tastes better.

Although many home cooks love the convenience of the Instapot, there is a flavor difference between a stew that cooks for 45 minutes versus one that cooks for 8 hours. In some cases, low, slow cooking is the only way to create that depth of flavor.

While some people might be willing to try their hand at the Beef Randang recipe or add a bold spice blend to another dish, this particular episode has more application to the home cook that other culinary adventures.

Every culture has a low, slow method of cooking. The flavors might be different, but the similarities are there. Maybe when people start looking for the common ground, the differences can start fading away.

Another culinary adventure comes to a close. While the next Gordon Ramsay Uncharted episode might make people squirm, food is an open door to another culture. Hopefully, more people are willing to keep that door open a little while longer.

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What was your favorite part of the Gordon Ramsay Uncharted Sumatra episode?