Any self-respecting foodie knows Thursday is the night to sit back and let the tastebuds be tantalised by the global offerings on SBS.
Tonight marks the return of Maeve O’Meara’s Food Safari, an exploration of the global flavours being produced in Australia’s kitchens and restaurants covering everything from the food of Cyprus and the Philippines to Peru and Poland.
It’s O’Meara’s fourth “multi-cuisine” food adventure, not including her two specialty Food Safari series that focused on the food of Italy and France.
“It is probably the most diverse group of cuisines; we had others on the slate but these were the ones with the strongest talent,” says O’Meara by phone from Sydney.
“When we film we need to have people not just from that background but restaurants that make that food we are able to film, or be making bread or cheese; enough food to be able to make a dense, delicious episode.
“When I started making food TV 20 or so years ago, we probably wouldn’t have been able to do the Afghan episode or the Lao episode.
“South African food is so vibrant and so wonderful; we filmed it at a great time. And we have had Polish people in Australia for a long time.”
O’Meara tasted plenty of biltong for the South African episode airing on March 14, including the product of Perth’s Johann du Plooy.
“Each show starts with a spirit guide, someone from that cuisine to take you through the basic ingredients, so we had a chef, Graeme Shapiro from Fremantle,” she says.
“He was one of the top chefs of Cape Town; I think Cape Town went into mourning when he decided to come to Australia, so he is highly trained and great at giving us the sort of breadth of knowledge of the different mixes of people in the Rainbow Nation.
“Then there’s this crazy dish called bunny chow. It is a half a loaf of white bread, solid not sliced, hollowed out with curry served in it with the lid put on and you use the bread to dip into the curry and it goes back to the days of Indian workers in South Africa. It is served in downtown Perth.”
The 10-part series starts in Darwin and ends in Broome, the only two episodes devoted to regions rather than cuisines.
“The Creole cuisine of Broome developed in the pearling days and there were so many nationalities that came to find those pearls and work; Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian and local Aboriginal people,” O’Meara explains.
“Everybody shared their food. There are dishes that exist there that don’t exist anywhere else.”
Broome’s Alan Pigram is a friend O’Meara met and stayed in touch with after featuring his mother in her previous series, The Food Lovers’ Guide to Australia.
“He does this dish called susame; you need to have extremely fresh fish you have caught yourself; everybody can fish before they can walk in Broome,” says O’Meara. “It is marinated in a particular sort of soy sauce, vinegar, lime and some chopped onions. You eat it within 10 minutes of being caught. It is like sashimi but is susame — it is a Broome dish.”
The award-winning food presenter, author and travel guide made plenty of new discoveries during filming last year, especially in the Peruvian episode where she tried chips made from cassava root, a chilli sauce with the secret ingredient of crushed Sao biscuits and “a really sexy, luscious Peruvian dessert that translates as sigh of a woman”.
“I ate alpaca for the first time in the Peruvian episode; you think ooh, but it’s delicious, not unlike lamb, not as strong a flavour as lamb, somewhere between lamb and veal.”
Food Safari airs today at 7.30pm on SBS One.