— Stream Khanh Ong’s wild food from Sunday 30 April at 8.30pm or watch live on SBS Food (Channel 33). For recipes, articles and more, visit the program page. —
TV chef and reality show star, Khanh Ong, has gone crazy.
While filming his new 10-episode cooking series, Khanh Ong’s wild food on SBS Food, Ong has been diving for fish, foraging for local ingredients and hunting wild boar, all in the name of learning how to cook in the great Australian outdoors.
“Cooking in the wild is in your blood,” Ong tells SBS. “If I can do it, so can you.”
We asked for his top 10 tips to help you experience cooking in the wild.
1. Get ready for work
If you want to cook in the wild, you need to embrace the idea of sourcing your ingredients from nature. “We got to hunt boars on the show – you know how cool it was to cook boars on a fire we lit? It was just the best experience. I also gained an even greater respect for the ingredients I was looking for because I knew how much work went into sourcing them.”
2. Do not emulsify sauces in the sun
Ong advises aspiring outdoor cooks to be open to learning new things. “I learned a lot during the series,” he says. “There were moments during filming where things went wrong. I learned not to emulsify sauce outdoors when the sun is strong! The fun of cooking is that things don’t always have to be perfect.”
3. Embrace the weather
You can’t control the weather, but you can decide whether to cook in it. “When we were shooting one of the episodes, it started to fail. The longer I cooked, the wetter it got. I ended up getting wet and the dish became like a soup, but it was delicious. Dealing with the elements is part of the fun when cooking outdoors. That makes it more exciting.”
4. Source from your surroundings
When cooking in the wild, it’s always fun to try new ingredients sourced safely from your surroundings (if in doubt, don’t eat them).
One of Ong’s favorite dishes from the series featured an ingredient he was initially reluctant to cook: snails (sea snails). “I was really scared to cook them. But I just put them over the flame and they opened. I took them out of the shell and they were beautiful. They were delicious.”
5. Get down and dirty
“I really hate gutting fish. I’ve always hated doing it at home. But in the wild, when you catch a fish, you have to gut it. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and I had to figure it out to do it. But I did.”
6. Cook, don’t cook
Remember that there are some foods that don’t need cooking, just preparation. Take Coffin Bay oysters, for example. “They were perfect as they had to be eaten, straight from the ocean. So there was no point in doing anything to them. I just made sauces for them. Delicious.
7. Bring the heat
When you really have to cook, you have to do whatever it takes to keep the flame alive. “Outdoor cooking is all about keeping the fire going. You must make sure you know how to work with fire and respect the flame.
8. Choose hearty vegetables and whole fish
“Always choose a hot flame to char your meat low and slow. When making vegetables, choose hearty ones that can withstand the intensity of the fire.
“Seafood also cooks great over an open flame. You can cook a whole fish with its scales on coals, as the scales protect the fish from the flames. Let the coals turn black and then when you’re done cooking, just scrape them off.
9. Do your research
Before you head out into the wilds of Australia, research where you can and can’t light a campfire. “You can’t just go to some beach in Australia and start a fire to cook. You have to be trained about where you’re going and about safety.”
10. When in doubt, practice
Finally, Ong recommends that beginners start building their outdoor cooking skills by experimenting in their own backyard (if you have one).
“If you experiment at home before you go out into the wild, you’ll know what works well and what doesn’t. Then, when you do venture out, you’ll feel much more prepared.”