Viewers of the National Geographic TV channel have the chance to catch Gordon Ramsay, famous celebrity chef, in the latest Unchartered series, tackle the challenges of cooking curry in South West India. Tasks included cooking weaver ants, a local delicacy in Karnataka, for a special chutney.
From the tropical beaches and port cities of Kerala and Karnataka along the coast of the Arabian Sea to the interior hills of Coorg, this region has served as one of the world’s leading exporters of spices, including pepper, chili, and cardamon, for more than 3,000 years. “Nature has given us more spices because of the climactic conditions. You’re in the spice hub,” says Chef Shri Bala, a TV host and food historian whose culinary calling started at an early age by learning recipes from the groundbreaking Indian cookbook written by her great aunt.
Despite being a global spice capital, the cuisine of southwest India is more than simply “hot,” and has delicate nuances in how flavours are balanced. In the programme Shri Bala challenges Ramsay to learn not only about the importance of spices to this area, but also how locals blend them with other ingredients to cope with the warm climate, and how one small addition can change the flavour of a dish. Ultimately, Shri Bala tells Ramsay it will be up to him to convince the women of a local artisan food collective that he can master the regional food ways.