A Cook's Tour (2002–…): Season 1, Episode 5 - Wild Delicacies - full transcript

Cambodia: With a friend along for the ride, Tony travels to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he explores a food culture that is both pleasing to the palette and slightly frightening.

Welcome to my world.

Two escargot, pate,
frisee, two green salads.

OK, pan is hot here.

Lamb chop, steak frites.

Shouldn't you be
doing something?

Two smoked fillet
and a pepper steak.

Come on, make the dessert.

Chocolate tart, please.

NARRATING: As a cook,

tastes and smells
are my memories.

And now I'm in
search of new ones.

So I'm leaving New
York City, and hope

to have a few epiphanies
around the world.

And I'm willing to go to
some lengths to do that.

I'm looking for extremes
of emotion and experience.

I'll try anything.

I'll risk everything.

I have nothing to lose.

I picked Cambodia
as a place to go,

because I knew nothing about it.

And because it was the last
place on earth that I guess

I really wanted to go.

Maybe you've seen
the killing fields.

This is just about all
I knew of Cambodia.

I guess the first thing
that struck me was, gee,

it looks just like the
movie-- familiar, frightening,

and a little intimidating.

At first it's a
little depressing.

And you really wonder
what people see in it.

But the country grows on you.

The people are
lovely, and the food

is eye-opening and

Using aromatic herbs and spices,
traditional Cambodian cuisine

is both complex and accessible.

Fat and meats are
used sparingly,

while vegetables, fruits,
and fish are used liberally.

We're in beautiful downtown
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This is where madman,
missionaries, relief workers,

journalists, and
backpackers, and Westerners

come to behave badly.

Going to buy some crunchy,
tasty, breakfast, maybe

a little fruit, pick up
a little picnic lunch,

and then go discharge
some heavy weaponry.

First, a haircut.

NARRATING: Last night I

was at the appropriately
named Heart of Darkness Bar.

And I was told by a local
expatriate who had been here

for some time the four rules
of survival in Cambodia.

One, always wear a condom.

Two, don't drink the water.

Three, throw out your
anti-malaria pills.

Four, for God's sake, stay
away from the durian fruit.

Stay away from it?

That's all I needed to hear.

Vic Chenko's back, and he's
got a kicky new summer do.

I'm ready.

I can appear in
public in Cambodia.

Let's eat.

Let's go eat some crunchy
bugs and little birdies,

and have some fruit,
maybe kill something.

NARRATING: All right.

I'm on the hunt for the
king of all Asian fruits--

the elusive, terrifying,
melon-like durian.

A man here can get easily
distracted in the market.

I like identification
of this product

before I put it in my mouth this
early in the morning, I think.

An even identification might
not do it for me, actually.

The colors are beautiful.

Maybe for lunch.

Maybe we'll pick it
up for our picnic.

The food in this place

is really challenging
my intestinal fortitude.

My culinary bravado is
starting to shrivel.

There's stuff here
that's alarmingly bright,

sort of unnatural
colors, and jelly-like.

That, I think, I'm
going to lay off of.

That looks radioactive.

I try not to eat
food that exhibits

color that does not
exist in nature.

And then of course there's
some stuff I know what it is,

but I don't think
I'll be having any,

like the chicken
skin and giblets.

I see something I'm curious
about, though, that I might

[INAUDIBLE] for breakfast.

All right, here we go.


Let me get one.

Let's get five.

Head first or tail first?

Any way.

Mm, those are good.

Could use a beer with it.

Kind of a cross between
french fries and beef jerky.

NARRATING: All right.

Enough distractions.

Back to the mission at hand.

I want durian, must have
durian, need durian,

have to get some durian.

Where is the durian?

I should be able to smell it.

I know it's around
here somewhere.

Oh yeah, baby, the
terrifying durian.

Do they have to sell you
a whole one, I'm guessing?

We'll buy a knife.

And we'll buy some stuff.

And then we'll tear
into this someplace.

If you could pick me out a
nice one, just wrap it to go.

I saw kitchen equipment over.

We're going to trying
to get us a nice meat

axe to cut the durian with.

I gather from my limited
reading on this subject

that one does not want to be
in a closed, confined area

with a lot of people around
when you hack into this thing.

This is dirty diaper smelling

fruit can weigh up to 12 pounds.

Now that's a load.


We got our cutlery.

[INAUDIBLE] a little
picnic for ourselves,

including a single durian in
this double-wrapped bag here.

Elephants, upon
smelling durian, might

charge and choose
to stomp on me.

This cost $10 US,
or $8 US, which

is a lot for a piece of
fruit, anywhere in the world.

So people really like this.

This is hugely
popular all over Asia.

But it's a love hate thing.

Because it stinks
to high heaven.

But apparently it's absolutely
wonderful and addictive.

I've heard about it in the
States, people talking about it

as an experience that
they keep coming back to.

It's a message board
online, like how

do I score durian in
the United States?

How do I get durian
to the United States?

So this is it.

The inside of the durian

has five compartments,

the edible, custardy pulp.

It almost looks like a lobe
of foie gras, doesn't it?

It's scary looking, huh?

It's almost smoky.

It's actually really good.

This is really good.

It stinks to high heaven.

It doesn't taste like it smells.

It's actually subtle,
kind of fruity.

But the smell is very much
part of the experience.

Rich as all hell.

You need to, like, bring your
friends to this experience,

if you have any friends left
after you've transported it.

They're not going to
love you for that.

Now as I understand it, one by
one of these little swallows,

cups it in one's hands, and
then releases it with a wish.

And presumably in return for
your kindness and act of mercy,

you will be granted this wish.

Here we go.

I'm making a wish.

I hope that the smell of
durian leaves me soon.

I've been told about a rather,

how shall I say, unique
eating experience

about 15 kilometers out of town.

I'm a little apprehensive.

It's on a military base.

OK, I guess I didn't to
call ahead for reservations.

What do you recommend?

Yeah, I think we're
going to try the K57.

Let's do two magazines to start.

So I'm kind of hungry.

I'm thinking maybe play
a little with a handgun.

And then we'll snack.

This is no ordinary eatery.

Sure, you can order
drinks and snacks.

But the specialty of the house
is firearms and artillery.

Nothing like a cold
Angkor and the smell

of cordite in the morning.

I don't have a lot of breakfasts
like this in New York.

Maybe I should.

I'm sure our
audiences have noticed

the similarity between
and a young Sean Connery.

That's what we're
shooting now, chosen

gun of James Bond,
a Walther PPK.

A lot of things in my life

that I've done that have
felt really, really good

have had at least an
element of shame involved.



That'll do me.

NARRATING: Even if you're

talking about a really good,
really big, really rich meal,

you feel a little bit ashamed
of yourself afterwards.

Why is it that
shame and pleasure

are such close partners.

as I leave the shooting range,

I'm feeling a
little bit of shame.

Although I did have a
rollicking good time.

But I still reek of that durian.

I've been traveling around Asia,
eating alone, strangers gawking

at me, and chattering
in strange languages,

eating every variety
of strange food.

It's lonely.

So I'm very grateful
and very happy

with my friend and
boss, Philippe,

the owner of Les Halles,
my restaurant in New York,

decided to join me in Cambodia.

I hear there's some
organ meat in the market

that Philippe
would go crazy for.

The French love organ meat.

We should point out that this
market is like 130 degrees.

I have walk in a
crouching position

under a tent, which
ensures that all

that nice heat and every
gas from the decomposing

carcasses all around us
rising up around you.

This is all appetizing.

So we're in for a treat.

It's always good to
rely on a Frenchman.

Philippe's an adventurer
and a colonialist

in the best sense of the word.

I love Philippe,
and I love food.

And it's really fun
to travel with him.

But you know, as with
all things French,

it's a love hate thing, too.

Philippe tends to
get me in trouble.

He wants to eat everything.

There is a fish
here that has been--

Butterflied, the
major part of the rib

removed, and the
rest hung and smoked.

[INAUDIBLE] appetizing.

Going to the insect district.

that's a little bird?

That's a little bird.

We want a small one.

Let's have some
crunchy little birds.

Fried chicken, Cambodian style.

Roll it in a little
of this stuff.

Salt and pepper and
lime with everything.


It's delicious.

I'm so happy.

This is so good.

Take a bag of those
to a Knicks game.

See here, look.

This is what I
was talking about.

My last LSD trip looked
just like this, by the way.

From what I can tell,

this gelatinous substance is
a real favorite for breakfast.

Oh man, I'm going to
have to taste this.

But I think I'm going to
let Philippe go first.

This one here, little bit.

Not much.

It's a bit very
Jell-o-like, very bland.

It's almost like a negative
taste, less than taste.

OK, that sounds
right up my alley.

It tastes like tea,
like jelly green tea.


We're headed to
the tripe section.

Philippe saw some really
nasty bits of pig guts

that-- well, you
know, he's French.

Oh, thank you.

Need I say more?

I'll take this as a compliment.

So this is [INAUDIBLE], right?

OK, like this, yes?

NARRATING: Big buckets

of steaming,
nasty-looking tripe.

I make tripe very well in
the classic French manner.

But I don't
particularly like it.

I think it smells like wet dog.

So this particular
tripe, I don't even

know what animal it's from.

And it's in a big
nasty-smelling heap with tongues

mixed in there somewhere.

Well, this is
caviar to Philippe.

He's got to have this.

Lemongrass tripe.

Oh yes, see.

NARRATING: I'm convinced

he's poisoning me
at this moment.

I'm wondering why he hates
me, why he's doing this to me.

But you know the French.

They're a mystery.

Remember, they like Jerry
Lewis over there, too.

thinking, run away, run away!

Philippe is like,
eat more tripe.

Eat more bugs.

Let's try that.

I'm like, get me
back to the hotel.

I want a grilled
cheese sandwich.

I finally drag Philippe
away from the claustrophobia

of the market and
the organ meats.

I'm in need of some open space.

Having digested the culinary
delights of the market,

I'm ready to find the floating
village on Lake Tonle Sap

that I heard about.

[INAUDIBLE] going out
to a floating village.

As I understand it, it
is a fishing village.

It's a reasonably
self-contained community.


as what we expect, once again,
won't know till we get there.

But it's apparently an
entire floating community.

I mean by that
their houses float.

Their livestock pens float.

They operate
floating fish farms,

floating restaurants,
floating businesses.

Their entire lives,
their entire communities,

are waterborne,
and move from place

to place as situation requires.

Philippe, once again, decides
and he's going to risk life

and limb-- my life and
limb-- for emotional reasons,

and for an adventure.

He's not content to
eat in a restaurant.

He wants to eat local food.

And he sees a woman cooking
food for her family.

[INAUDIBLE] rice with
whatever she's preparing,

[INAUDIBLE] fish concoction.

NARRATING: And says,

oh, let's eat what she's eating.

I think she's very surprised
to have us come along.

And we're very aware of the
fact that she very likely

has little food.

So all we want is a little
taste to see what she's doing.

So what is it?


[INAUDIBLE] Philippe.


Chose the right
place, Philippe I

think they're selling ballpark
franks over there [INAUDIBLE].

NARRATING: And all she's

doing is stir frying a
mixture of pork and fish,

served with rice and
a little green onion.

It smells so good.



Some sort of sugar
syrup [INAUDIBLE].

Like a pure sugar cane syrup.

Pay attention, though,

to how hot that wok is,
how controlled the heat is,

how well she manipulates
the flame, and the pot,

and the wood to
apply heat to cook

this very simple but
very nutritious meal.

This woman is very
kind, and very generous.

And I think curious,
and maybe a little

awed at the strange
freakazoids who

want to have a little
taste of her food.

Oh, look at this.

My God.

Thank you so much.

[INAUDIBLE] look at this.

You first.

You sniffed this meal out.

Ah, little pepper.

Oh yeah.

me roast it a little first.

Yes, like this, yes?


Mm, smells delicious.



I'll be back here.

That is good.

Yes, it's simple.

It's honest.

And it tastes good.

Freshwater clam.

NARRATING: It's the people

that make the difference.

And if you're going
to travel, it's

always wonderful to
eat what the people are

eating at your destination.

This is the way they
feed themselves.

This is the way they live.

This is what they're eating.

This is not hotel food.

I am aware, however,
as I'm eating it,

she's washing the pot
in the river water,

that I should probably because
of my gastroenterologist when

I return to New York.

You know, I'm reconsidering
travelling with this guy.

That does me.

Very good.

Thank you.

Thank you, thank you very much.

Here comes dessert.

It's like bananas flambe.

It's basically-- it
looks sweet to me.


a little floating dessert
boat that pops up alongside.

I guess they see us
from a little downriver

and come sailing up with
some caramelized bananas

and fresh fruits and sweets.

it's only fruits, right?

It smells so good.

That is mango,

Pickled mango.

OK, shall we start
with this here?


Mm, that's great.


This is good.

So if you're really

curious about a country,
eat how everyday people eat.

And this is how everyday
people eat in this village.

Sometimes you find satisfying
meals in the strangest places.

It was good.

I just violated absolutely every
Lonely Planet Traveler's Guide

there is, and loved it.

Let's see, unripened fruit,
[INAUDIBLE] coliform bacteria.

And that's why I love Philippe,

and why I hate Philippe.

He's so happy.


NARRATING: He inspires

both the best and
the worst in me.

So this was something
I'm glad I didn't miss.

Hookworm and liver
fluke-- add that

to the Lonely Planet
violations today.

NARRATING: Philippe and I

have traveled from
Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

to explore the last vestiges
of a once mighty empire,

and to discover high
end Khmer cuisine.

Angkor Wat, looking good.

You don't see this in Jersey.

NARRATING: Truly one

of the most imposing sights
of the ancient world, a city

of temples in the
middle of the jungle.

You can't even take
pictures of this.

It's too big.

It's just too beautiful.

It's too intricate.

It's endless.

There's a nice view
here of one of the seven

wonders of the world.

the child's dream of adventure.

There you are, standing
next to evidence

of a magnificent and intricate
ancient civilization.

You're dwarfed by the scale
and the volume of it all.

This was the pinnacle
of the Khmer empire.

And I'm ready for
a meal that matches

the grandeur of this experience,
or at least comes close.

Home to the famed Angkor Wat
temples, the city of Siem Reap

has a world class hotel that
caters to foreign tourists.

This is Philippe's
last night in Asia.

He's got to get
back to Les Halles.

So as an appropriate
sendoff, we decide

to have in the hotel a
royal Cambodian meal.

After a morning spent eating
tripes and tongues and bugs

in a rather rundown and
not so tidy Phnom Penh,

and an afternoon spent firing
automatic weapons outside

of town, I decided
that we deserve

to live like colonial
imperialist big dogs.


tuck into some really excellent,
very well prepared, very

subtle, very precise,
colorful food

that really, for the
first time, gives us

a sense of the possibilities
inherent in traditional Khmer


We have a first course
here-- beef, crushed peanuts,

black mushrooms,
an mint sweet basil

in a fresh rice paper wrapping.

[INAUDIBLE] really fresh.

Sure, it's an eggroll.

But it's a damn good one.

Pumpkin and lemon grass soup
with a dollop of coconut milk.

Lovely, thank you.

Pumpkin, cool.

And a nice touch,
a cumin stirring

stick that infuses flavor.


NARRATING: Beef sauteed

with garlic, red
peppers, and soy sauce,

served in a banana leaf.


NARRATING: And garnished

with deep fried
threads of ginger,

turmeric, potato, and taro.

That's extraordinary.


NARRATING: Whole grouper,

steamed with shiitake
mushrooms, topped

with red pepper, cilantro,
scallions, and fresh ginger,

and finished with hot
oil and a chili sauce.

A really good meal,
beautifully presented.

A truly inventive use
of local ingredients,

creating rich and
textured dishes.

We did well.

We did well. [INAUDIBLE] idea.

I'll miss Philippe.

But I'm recharged,
and ready to move on

for more food adventures.