In this monthly column, we chat to some of SA’s premier personalities about their travel experiences and favourite local pastimes and haunts.
This week we catch up with MasterChef SA winner KAMINI PATHER, whose new show ‘Girl Eat World’, launches on Food Network, channel 175 on DStv, on Friday, May 15, at 8pm.
What is your favourite travel destination, and why?
From my travels on ‘Girl Eat World’, my top three were Sydney, Tokyo and Berlin. Sydney because the change from British Colonial style food to the Asian influenced cuisine is clear. The change of the people of Australia can be seen and tasted through the food. It’s an insanely exciting time to be Down Under.
Tokyo’s fast paced life, the bright lights, the fashion-forward swag, the clean lines and effortlessness that go with being in that city won me over. ‘MasterChef’ taught me that simple food is the most difficult to produce, because there’s nowhere to hide. Japanese food is simplistic and there is a purity about it, because their cuisine is based on sourcing the best possible produce that results in the best possible taste. You can’t really get more honest than this.
The creative youth in Berlin believe that being in the food industry comes with a certain amount of savvy. And they couldn’t be more correct.
I met with a Korean Opera singer who had followed a singing teacher to Berlin. Fraulein Kimchi found it difficult to make a living solely in music and started a food stall at an organic market in Kreutzberg. The dish of hers that I adored was her spaetzle (handmade german noodles) with Emmental, crispy bacon and kimchi. It’s the perfect balance between German and Korean food – yet another example of how creativity is king in this fine city.
What was your first international trip, and what do you remember most vividly about the experience?
This was definitely not my first international trip, but it definitely included many firsts. I had never travelled, while working, through nine countries in nine weeks. While it was one of the most memorable and life changing experiences of my life, it was really hard. Having said that though, the amazing moments always remain. One such moment was in Dubai when I got to make a sweet dessert called Kunafa. It’s one of my favourites that I ate on a previous trip to the city. It’s a mozzarella textured cheese topped with crispy vermicelli noodles that are heated to a crisp and drenched in sugar syrup. It’s the perfect sweet-savoury dish and I could eat it the entire day.
What is the first thing you usually do when you arrive at your destination and you’re trying to get acclimated?
Get a sim card. I now have a box full of international sim’s – it’s definitely a must. Once that is done, one has access to the internet, from which all knowledge can be sourced. I love the way access to digital enables us to navigate a new city, to find places through the internet or to even communicate with the locals through translation apps. The internet is a wondrous tool.
What for you is usually the best way to soak up the culture you’re in?
Eat with the locals. The old adage of “you are what you eat” has never felt more sincere for me than right now. The story of people can be traced through their food. When people move territories, the remnants they leave can be tasted in the cuisine that transpires from the fusion of native and influenced flavours. For examples, African slaves were taken to Peru in the 1500s. Because they were moved over as unskilled work, they couldn’t afford prime cuts of meat and used offal as a protein staple. Skewered and grilled beef heart (anticochos) is still eaten in Lima and is considered to be the food of the people. Few Africans remain, naturally, but their mark on the land is seen in the cuisine.
What has been your favourite cuisine that you have discovered on your travels?
That’s like asking me who my favourite member of the family is. Food is mood dependent and what my taste buds crave right now is not what they lust after tomorrow, or even in an hour’s time. Some of the most memorable dishes were the pope’s nose Yakitori skewers in Tokyo – the meat was succulent because it was encased in a layer of fat that crisped perfectly on the hot coals.
You’ve got exactly R48 in your wallet. Where do you go for lunch in Cape Town, and what do you have?
That’s a tough one. When I’m in Cape Town I can be found, as a rule, on Bree Street. I love the vibe. I adore the food. Those are my people. R48 may not get me very far on that strip, admittedly. Perhaps I would go to Jason Bakey and have a Hot Diggity Dog, which is a cracker of a hotdog in a pretzel bun with Jason’s relish and a juice. I might also go to Max Bagel – my heart melts for glistening, shaped buns. Also, this is lunch, so carbs are still allowed.
What is your specialty in the kitchen?
For a dinner party? Anything that doesn’t require me to be in the kitchen the entire time. Slow roasts (beef brisket in beer with crushed calumet olives, garlic and fresh thyme) or participation meals like making fresh pasta, are some of my favourites. I too want to enjoy my dinner party.