Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India: A flavorful balancing act

Kanur, India - L to R: Gordon Ramsay and Chef Shri Bala enjoy fresh coconut juice. (Credit: National Geographic/Ritam Banerjee)
Kanur, India - L to R: Gordon Ramsay and Chef Shri Bala enjoy fresh coconut juice. (Credit: National Geographic/Ritam Banerjee) /

In Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India, the fiery chef learns to balance the heat.

While the dishes might be humble, Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India showcases the complexity that spices can offer. As each recipe balances the pluses and minuses to find the perfect equation, Chef Ramsay finds a new appreciation for fiery foods.

Although Gordon might have considered the idea of chefs in cars getting curries, this Uncharted episode is truly an exploration of flavor. It is more than just learning about local ingredients and customs. This episode is an invitation to better understand the hows and whys behind certain spices. It is more than spice for spice sake.

For this episode, Gordon must impress a group of women who are quite tough critics. While Gordon has dubbed them the original “Spice Girls,” these ladies will not shy away from speaking their mind about the finale dishes. Being able to appease their palates is no easy feat.

Although the finale meal is the pinnacle of each episode, the nuance from each lesson leading to that meal is quite interesting. Especially, Gordon’s first introduction to the overreaching theme of Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India has him almost speechless.

These dishes are all about balance. Whether it is a sweetness to a dessert or a boldness to a curry, Indian recipes are never a small list of ingredients. Still, each part has a purpose and each ingredient comes through in the flavor.

Sometimes an area’s cuisine is influenced by the environment. Of course, the local ingredients often drive a particular dish. Still, it can be something more. For India, the hot temperatures have cooks looking for a dish that offers a little refreshment.

Throughout this entire Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India episode, Gordon finds how the heat from the spices tend to offer a cooling property. That heat from spices can make people sweat a little which offers a little reprieve from the warm temperatures.

At the same time, those bold spices are balanced by a cooling agent. Whether it is some coconut water,  a squeeze of lime or the coffee liqueur in the rice pudding recipe, the balance is key to any well received dish.

Unlike other dishes or cuisines where heat is just for heat sake, these Indian recipes are about the pluses and minuses. While the spice is strong, it holds a purpose. The complexity in each bite comes through time and again.

For example, in this episode, the fish curry has layers and layers of flavors. It is more than the chili pepper. The lime refreshes, the ginger warms, and the vinegar brightens. The complexity of bringing together all those flavors is what make a person go back bite after bite.

Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India
Gordon Ramsay Uncharted recipe, rice pudding, photo provided by Nat Geo Channel /

Thinking about this recipe, the home cook can easily adapt the concept to her home cooked meal. By substituting swordfish or other firm fish, these seasonings could be lovely on a warm summer day. It would change how you think about grilled fish.

More importantly, the concept is approachable and adaptable. Even if you don’t have ghee or fenugreek leaves, consider playing with the flavor approach that this recipe offers. Again, it is about using all the tastes to create a flavor experience. Everyone can do that.

Although there wasn’t necessarily the “shocking” or forcing Gordon to eat something moment in this episode, India tends to offer the best cooking lesson for foodies at home. Flavor balance is always the key to any great recipe.

Even though the original “Spice Girls” might have preferred more “heat” in Gordon’s dishes, that candid review isn’t the point. This episode showed how Mother Nature gives the ingredients to magically balance the fire. Just like the idea of what grows together goes together. These dishes are the embodiment of that concept.

Just like astronauts who want spicy foods for the ability to open nasal passages, spicy foods can be cooling on a hot day. Next time it is 100 degrees outside, amp up the habaneros in the salsa or add some bird’s eye chili to your shrimp marinade. That little bit of sweat can be cooling and your palate will thank you for the flavor. And, maybe a refreshing summer beverage can balance it all out even more.

Gordon Ramsay Uncharted airs on National Geographic Channel on Sundays at 10 p.m.

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What did you learn from Gordon Ramsay Uncharted India? Are you more willing to explore spices?