Anthony Bourdain is someone I would describe as a thinking woman’s crumpet. (A phrase that had my friend in stitches, exclaiming, “Oh Mich, you are SO British!!” ) In short, he is sexy. Yes, I said it, I think Bourdain is sexy. In fact, one of my friends has such a profound crush on him, that during one episode of No Reservations, she practically hyperventilated in front of the TV and clutched my arm in a vain attempt to quell the tremulous feelings of adoration erupting from her. It was of no surprise that her boyfriend was less than amused by said infatuation.
I am taking a little deviation from my normal foodie writings to sing the high praises of Bourdain’s new show at his new home CNN- Parts Unknown. As a big fan of No Reservations, his acerbic wit and his brutal honesty as well as his adventurous taste-buds and recognition of how amazing humble street-food is, I was quite excited about Parts Unknown which started on Monday 15th April on CNN International (9am HKT). In this series he visits little-explored areas and does all the hard work for us couch-potatoes by diving head-first into culturally diverse and somewhat intimidating pockets of the world. It is of course, a food program for the most part, but 3 episodes in, I am learning a great deal more than just what these exciting world kitchens have to offer.
In episode 1, Bourdain transported me to Myanmar, a place, that until very recently, had been off-limits to outsiders. The place formerly known as Burma (sounds like Prince’s long-lost brother), is a little like a treasure trove. As Bourdain takes a peak inside, Parts Unknown reveals a country that has been ruled with an fearsome iron-fist, where journalists have been shot for taking photos (Kenji Nagai in 2007) and as Bourdain puts it, ‘having an opinion could be a very dangerous thing…just about everyone with an opinion has been to jail’. But, it is a fantastic episode that shows the beauty that Myanmar has to offer, (it is quite reminiscent of Cambodia) and how the people are eager to rejoin the rest of the world.
The start is gritty and serious and you get the vibe that this is part documentary, part food-tour, as Bourdain explains the history. The food looks amazing of course. The edible tea leaves salad- fermented and mixed with cabbage, tomatoes, peanuts, lime and fish sauce looked pretty intriguing and at one point he has a Black Indian style tea with condensed milk that had me reaching for a cup of Yorkshire tea (a poor substitute). I laughed out loud when he describes how it is the norm to summon a waiter with kissing sounds, and makes a comparison to Hooters, where he says, you would be kicked out for such noises. The human powered Ferris wheel was fascinating, as were his conversations with various writers (who all had a stint in prison!).
Episode 2 takes him to Korea-town in LA and the third episode to Columbia- both completely riveting, but I shan’t say much more, other than to look forward to every Monday for a bit of Bourdain.
Anthony Bourdain meets crazy train: http://on.cnn.com/14T0ZWR
Anthony Bourdain happens upon a Ferris wheel powered by people: http://on.cnn.com/14T18cI
Airtimes: HK/Beijing/ Taipei/ Singapore/ Kuala Lumpur- Every Monday at 0900, Friday at 2200 and Sunday at 0900 on CNN International.
You can follow Parts Unknown on FB: http://facebook.com/PartsUnknownCNN
Twitter: @partsunknownCNN (hashtag #PartsUnknown)
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown live blog
And you can look at more information on the show here.
Photos courtesy of CNN.