Tuesday 14 August, 2012

Andrew Zimmern Cooks, like, Normal Food!

Andrew Zimmern Jenn-Air

Andrew Zimmern Jenn-Air

What, you wanted vampire bat?

An opportunity to see Andrew Zimmern cook at the LA Food&Wine fest this year no doubt brought out all kinds of speculation. What would the host of TV's "Bizarre Foods" bring to cook? How would he cook it?

Would we be getting  snake poison-marinated yak tendon? Or coal-roasted arachnid on a sugarcane stick? The imagination ran wild. Even the catalog description got a bit overheated: "Roll up your sleeves and fortify your stomachs–this isn't your ordinary class."

But, perhaps to the disappointment of some, the most exotic ingredient Andrew Zimmern brought to his cooking demonstration on August 11 was galangal (a.k.a Siamese ginger root). As it turns out, Andrew Zimmern is not, repeat, not a complete freak. He's actually, at times, kind of, you know, normal. And a good cooking instructor–the kind who isn't afraid to use a short cut when it's as good as doing it yourself.

"I don't think of myself as someone who eats strange food," Zimmern explained. "I think of myself as an open minded eater." He also revealed, when asked, the number of times he's gotten sick from eating bizarre foods for the camera: zero.

Meanwhile, Zimmern did an entertaining job of demonstrating This Recipe for Sweet and Sour Bangkok Style Chicken With Red Chiles which features Heinz's no-sugar-added Simply Natural ketchup (catsup is an Asian recipe, did you know that?). Zimmern insisted that cooking an "exotic" recipe such as this wasn't any more complex than your average "European" style dish, it just required different ingredients. And if you're intimidated about how to select those ingredients in an ethnic market, do what he does: stand there and wait to see what "somebody's grandmother" selects, and copy her.

andrew zimmern

Zimmern's second recipe was for Gai Tom Ka (or Thom Ka Gai, or however you want to spell it), hot and sour Thai coconut chicken soup. This is the recipe that used the galangal, along with nam prik pao sauce (again, not too hard to find), lemongrass, kaffir leaves, straw mushrooms, that kind of stuff. Here's a quick video of him demonstrating the same recipe:

Tom Kha Gai from Andrew Zimmern on Vimeo (if you don't see the video popup, please hit refresh).

And here's a recipe that's not identical to Andrew's, but pretty close (i.e. close enough to adjust for taste).

After Zimmern got a question from a young member of the audience about his favorite foods, he invited the boy up to try the soup, of which he was visibly proud (it was a good moment to mention he's got a cookbook for kids coming out in October). The boy's assessment? "Kinda good."

Andrew Zimmern

"Now, remember how we rehearsed this, sonny boy."

I suppose if you wanted to substitute the chicken and broth here with meat from a Cambodian bullfrog or those Peruvian guinea pigs that Zimmern's son apparently loves to eat, nobody's stopping you. Well, maybe PETA, but they're no fun anyway.

The entire LAFW event is a fundraiser for St. Vincent Meals on Wheels. Please consider making a donation.

Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival official site

Andrew Zimmern's official site