Shelina, Tom, Jay and Andrew head to the North of Thailand for the toughest challenge of the Masterchef UK 2012 competition so far.
Masterchef UK fans were in their element last week, as the good old BBC treated us to not just one, but TWO episodes of the hit cooking show. After the previous night’s Masterchef competition, which saw Eamonn Hunt get voted off the programme, the Masterchef producers whisked off the four remaining contestants, along with Gregg Wallace and John Torode, to the north of Thailand for episode 11 of the 2012 show.
Ah…. Thailand. The very mention of it conjures up fond memories from my first trip there way back in 2002, fresh out of school on my gap year with a wad of baht burning a hole in my pocket. Meeting a tiger that tried to bite my hand off; curries that had some serious repercussions the next day; buckets of potent Samsong whisky at the island beach parties; interesting shows involving a novel way of playing pingpong; losing most of my blood to leaches in the jungle; nearly killing myself on a rickety moped; and a rather scary afternoon spent in a dodgy police station in Bangkok with my good friend Maya- all good life experience for a naive 19-year old. But I digress….back to 2012 and the Mastershow episode in Thailand.
The first part of the three-day Masterchef challenge took place in the food market of Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai food market is a veritable feast for the senses. The air is permeated with the smells of incredible Thai food being cooked in the open, and the streets are filled with the chaos of motorbikes, animals and crowds of people seeking out the best Thai food to eat. The Masterchef contestants each were given a typical Thai dish to cook and try to sell to members of public at the market. Working in soaring tropical temperatures, Jay, Shelina, Tom and Andrew had to master ingredients they had never even heard of, let alone used in their kitchens before. Under the guidance of the legendary David Thompson, a Thai food guru whose restaurant Nahm won the first ever Michelin star for a Thai restaurant in Europe, the Masterchef contestants struggled to get to grips with betle leaves, snake beans, serpent head fish and cockroach paste. Not your average Sainsburys shop then.
For the most part, the Masterchef contestants did really well, succeeding in selling nearly all of their food to the locals. But the challenge wasn’t without its hiccups. Andrew managed to cremate his chicken whilst sweating buckets all over it. It’s a good thing that Eamonn, the most profuse perspirer of the series, had already been kicked off Masterchef, because he would have melted into a puddle of smug soup in those heats. Shelina was having trouble with her paste, so she had to call on Jay, with his guns of steel, to help out with a good pounding. Men all over the country were glued to their TV screens wishing it was them instead of Jay that had been asked to work the pestle and mortar.
Gregg & John were very impressed with the Thai food that the Masterchef UK contestants had created, though their chilli thresholds obviously differed. John said he would have liked to have seen a bit more heat in one of the dishes, to which a red-in-the-face Gregg panted,
“What are you- inferno mouth??!”
The next day, the Masterchef contestants headed to the Northern hills to the Thai Royal Project, an initiative set up to get local farmers to grow vegetables as an alternative to opium. The task was to serve a banquet to 50 special guests associated with the project. The dishes they had to prepare were unusual even by Thai standards, posing a real difficulty to the four remaining chefs. However they rose to the challenge, impressing the judges and the guests with their cuisine. Jay was praised for his pork curry with its tender meat and balance of spices. Andrew’s northern ‘bubble and squeak’ was well-received by Gregg & John, though it was only awarded a ‘B-‘ by one opinionated diner, who thought that it was lacking in salt. Despite having had to turn to Jay yet again for more pounding help, Shelina’s delicious-looking crayfish was awarded an A-grade. Tom’s jackfruit fried pork was criticised for not having enough jackfruit. Since I am not entirely sure what a jackfruit is, I wouldn’t know!
The final day in Thailand proved to be the most nerve-wracking for the Masterchef contestants. They went to the Dhara Dhevi hotel in Chiang Mai, where they had to cater for a Thai prince and his guests. A ‘once in a lifetime gig‘ as Jay eloquently put it.
Andrew created a trio of starters called ma hor, kanom guay chai, miang kome. This loosely translates as galloping horses, chive dumpling and leaf snack. The recipe on the BBC website states that it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. But I think this sounds a little ambitious considering that you actually have to create edible galloping horses. Andrew must have super powers. I knew it.
Poor Shelina looked as though she was on the verge of tears all day. At one point she realised that the blast chiller she needed was on the other side of the palace. So off she rushed in a golf buggy, with a tray of her lychee boba tea milkshake desserts jiggling all over the place.
The question on everyone’s lips was, will Shelina’s milkshake bring all the boys to the yard?
Tom was too busy spilling his mango sorbet all over the floor, whilst Jay was probably pounding some more chillies to a paste with those guns of his.
The Thai prince and his family were really impressed with the food that the Masterchef contestants presented to them. However, the prince wasn’t sure about the presence of the colour green in Shelina’s ‘rainbow cake’. Last time I checked, there was definitely green in a rainbow, but then again I am not a Thai royal so I could well be mistaken.
None of the Masterchef contestants were voted off the show in the Thailand. However, the tension is mounting for the next episode of Masterchef at 9pm on Wednesday, which will no doubt see Gregg & John come up with some more challenging culinary quests to test the skills of the remaining four chefs.
My money is still on Shelina or Andrew to win, but anything could happen. As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Stay tuned!