In a four-part BBC Two Series - 'Exploring China A Culinary Adventure,' Ken Hom and Ching He Huang rendezvous across China on a R&D mission to discover if there are any 'authentic' Chinese dishes that they haven't yet appropriated for their corporate culinary empires in the west. Its an easy task for Mandarin speaking charm school graduate Ching He Huang as she entices the local Mainland Chinese to open up their kitchens for the cameras - unaware these two corporate goons will purloin their secrets to shore up their already bulging balance sheets.
The programme's hidden word is authenticity, only an authentic Chinese chef can provide an insight into authentic Chinese cuisine, but who could be less authentic than South African raised Ching He Huang, who arrived in Britain at the age of 11, she makes a remarkable admission in the programme that as a teenager Chinese culture was so unappealing that she wanted to dye her hair to blend in with her White peers, it was her mothers love of Chinese food that reconnected her to her Chinese heritage. Ching hasn't quite shed her white fever, her partner is blanched Eurasian Jamie Cho, clearly Ching likes a bit of White in her as a reminder of the good old days.
In previous cooking shows, Ching He Huang Chinese Food in Minutes and Chinese Food Made Easy, her trademark is an irresistible compulsion to crunch wise old Grandma tales of Chinese emperors and their concubines into her exoticised dishes, titillating the White audiences taste buds for the mystical orient.
Ching He Huang's incurable oriental proverbial tourettes overpowers her..."Don't waste rice, each grain of rice is like a bead of sweat." She should save some lines for her next series - 'Chinese Folklore Made Easy.'
And Uncle Ken's homecoming? Throughout the series Ken Hom has looked overwhelmed by the whole mainland Chinese experience, its almost a quarter of a century since he last visited the mainland, he has lost touch with China and looks awkward relying on Ching to translate Mandarin to English, rumour has it that Ken's highly secretive long term unmarried partner of 37 years is in fact a gay man, maybe a presenter and locality swap replacing Ching He Huang with Gok Wan, China with Thailand, would be more appropriate. Gok Wan and Ken Hom Gayventuring, man-flirting their way across Thailand reporting on the culinary skills of Pattaya ladyboys would be a ratings thriller.
Overlooking the overplayed dung-dung-ding-a-ling-ling music and the unnecessary use of English subtitles for the 'broken Engrish' speaking chef, Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure reminds me of 'Gorillas In The Mist,' Ching and Ken are primatologists from the west exploring creatures that are genetically similar to themselves lurking in the jungles and villages of the orient, only to find these feral creatures and their cultures similar, endearing and human, if you could stir fry the National Geographic Channel into a wok, this programme would be the outcome.
(Exploring China A Culinary Adventure Review by BBCZeitgeist)
Exploring China A Culinary Adventure Episode 3 - Sunday 18th August, BBC2, 8pm
Watch BBC iPlayer - Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure Episode 1 - Click HERE
Watch BBC iPlayer - Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure Episode 2 - Click HERE