New Delhi, March 22, 2017: ‘Spirited Traveller’ on ‘Fox Life’ celebrates the great Indian culinary tradition by celebrity chef Kiran Jethwa, a third-generation Kenyan of Indian origin with fervour.
First it was CNN International and Reza Aslan telling Indians how they pray. Then it was Fox Life and Italian chef David Rocco and Australian Sarah Todd telling Indians how they eat. This is of course not the first time that a westerner has come and waxed eloquent on oriental Indian cuisine. Floyd did it for years. Sweating into various utensils and stoves set up beside the road, cooking up increasingly dodgy curries and telling the free world that that’s how Indians ate.
It was actually defamation through curry.
Yet, it seems that finally we may just have a cooking show with a foreign chef which gets Indian food right. The chef isn’t entirely foreign though, since his name is Kiran Jethwa, who was born to English mother and an Indian father. Which explains the name. But that’s where the Indian-ness stops. Jethwa is a third-generation Kenyan, born in Nairobi and is a chef-restaurateur and like most chef-TV anchors, owns a numerous restaurants in Kenya.
The new show which has him like most other visiting chef/TV hosts to India, traversing through India and telling new things about the country, is called Spirited Traveller. What’s odd is that Fox Life’s sister channel, Nat Geo People, is airing Jethwa’s other show, Fearless Chef, at the same time.
It’s quite an interesting watch. Owing a great deal to the fact that Jethwa is exceedingly easy on the eye, but also to the fact that he doesn’t mess around with the food like David Rocco who made a pasta using coriander leaves and chopped green chili. Or look surprised by Indian practices like Oprah did to see that we eat with our hands!
It is elusive for the research team to keep finding new spots to visit and activities to include in the show. After all, how many different and visually appealing dishes are there in Bengal or Kashmir and how many different stories are there to tell? But one must applaud the Spirited Traveller team, that they’ve managed to find something new in at least the two episodes that they aired. The other problem with a foreign team shooting in India, is that they usually get a local guide or point person whose responsibility it is to make team meet the right people and get the right stories and the facts of the place. The wrong guide will bring one severe ’embarrasment’ such as Aslan telling that all ghats are cremation sites. Fox Life seems to have got its research straight.
The first episode was set in Kerala. Where Jethwa went on the backwaters with fishermen to catch the fish Karimeen by diving into the waters. This was followed by him heading to Kumarakom to taste and extract toddy and then to one of Kerala’s duck farms. The format is simple. Jethwa learns one authentic recipe from an Indian chef – in the case of the Kerala episode, it is chef Naveen who teaches him how to make Karimeen in a banana leaf with a spicy cooked marinade (as opposed to a raw marinade which will be cooked later with the meat). He then ends the episode by cooking a dish with the same ingredients or technique. Following his many travels through Kerala, Jethwa made a duck confit with toddy phulka using the same technique he learnt from Naveen.
The Goa episode had Jethwa give up on travelling through Goa. He instead played a spot of football on the beach and then drank some kokum cocktails and helped cooking a spicy prawn with kokum at a beach shack. He then visited a coconut rum factory and a feni farm. And then a visit to a Goan fish market where he bought a King Mackerel with which he cooked a Kingfish ceviche with kokum pesto, flavoured with Urak, the sour Bimla fruit and chopped white haldi. For a cook, there is nothing as delightful and attractive as seeing someone fillet a fish without a misstep.
In the second episode, one realises the novelty in this show was that the host Jethwa tried quite a lot of alcohols in each state and city. It’s a welcome change from the usual food shows that steer clear of any alcohol being shown. India has different kinds of indigenous alcohols pertaining to different states, it’s a great that a show realised to explore the terrain.
Fox Life seems to have hit on a winner. The next two episodes are in Mumbai and in Nagaland, respectively, and look quite promising.
One can watch Spirited Traveller every Monday and Tuesday at 9pm on Fox Life.
– prepared by Sabhyata Badhwar of NewsGram. Twitter: @SabbyDarkhorse