You can travel to the other side of the world, but nothing beats a good pork scratching. Foodie friends Dave Myers and Si King, aka The Hairy Bikers, tell Keeley Bolger about their Asian Adventure
For two men who love to eat, heading to Japan for a crash course in sumo wrestling was a pretty unappetising experience for Si King and Dave Myers, aka The Hairy Bikers.
Firstly, the wrestlers they met at the sumo training stable for their new BBC Two series The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure, which sees them travel around the continent sampling the cuisine and culture, had stomachs like “jelly duvets”, recalls Myers.
Secondly, chimes in King with a bemused grin on his face, “after four hours of training, the sumo wrestlers are a bit sweaty – and how you engage with the lock is by putting your hand in your opponent’s armpit!”
Armpits might not have been on the Bikers’ chosen menu but the firm friends were pleased to discover a rather more tasty – albeit decidedly British – offering in the markets in northern Thailand.
“There would be a pile of pork scratchings on the table, 2m high, various grades of pork scratching,” says Myers who, in his mid sixties, is a decade older than King, and who took part in the most recent series of Strictly Come Dancing.
“You go round to someone’s house with a bag of pork scratchings and you gift wrap them with ribbon and everything. It’s brilliant. It’s the perfect northern gift!”
Before the trip, the lads had been cutting back on pork scratchings and the like, in a bid to lose weight for their TV series and book The Hairy Dieters, but they admit that it was hard to stick with the diet when they were on the road.
“What was interesting was that there were a couple of camera shots where we look at each other, and we’re bloated,” says King. “You take on so much water, and I’m thinking, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m not eating anything because it’s hot’.”
But it wasn’t just the water which bloated Myers out.
“I drank a lot of beer,” he admits, laughing. “I put on half a stone by the time we came back, but I knew I was doing Strictly, so I lost a bit more than that in total.
“It’s real life really, there’s no point pretending we didn’t go there. In Thailand, I wasn’t going to miss out on Thai food and Thai breakfasts. And somewhere like Korea, I [wasn’t going to miss out on] Korean fried chicken. It’s the new KFC, it’s epic. It’s double fried and it’s taken over America.”
When it comes to work, the duo, who’ve only fallen out once in their 10-year friendship (in Namibia, over how to make mayonnaise), are clear about what makes their trips so memorable; the company.
“We’ve been lucky enough to share unique experiences,” says Myers. “It’s much better doing it with your best mate. When you have a rough day, you can go for a pint and you’ve had a rough day together.
“We’ve been to some wonderful places and had some wonderful experiences that would be less than half that if we’d been on our own.”
Fancy a taster from the Bikers’ travels? Here are three recipes from The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure…
2tbsp vegetable oil
150g Spam (other luncheon meats are available!), cut into thick slices and halved
150g frankfurter sausages, cut into 2cm pieces
150g pork mince
100g firm tofu, cut into 1cm chunks
8 garlic cloves, crushed
3tbsp gochujang (Korean red chilli paste)
2tbsp gochugaru (Korean red chilli powder)
8 spring onions, shredded
Handful of glass noodles or rice noodles, soaked as instructions on the packet
500ml chicken or pork stock, plus a little extra if necessary
Flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Rice or chips, for serving
Heat the oil in a wok or a large frying pan.
Add the slices of Spam and the frankfurters, pork mince and tofu. Fry gently until the meat is starting to take on some colour, being careful not to break up the pieces.
Add the garlic, chilli paste and chilli powder and fry for two minutes, then add the spring onions, noodles and stock. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasoning. If the stew looks too dry, pour in a little more stock and it’s ready to enjoy!
Serve this from the pan at the table with some rice, if you like, or even with a big bowl of chips.
:: The Hairy Bikers’ Asian Adventure is on BBC Two. An accompanying book is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £20. Available now
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