Gok Wan is swapping the changing rooms for the kitchen with his new show Gok Wan's Easy Asian. Here he talks comfort food, why he hated lockdown and who his dream dinner guests would be...
Stylist, designer, author, DJ and cook, Gok Wan is a man of many passions and talents be it clothes, music or food but for his latest venture, the 45-year-old, who shot to fame with his makeover show, How To Look Good Naked, will be back in the kitchen for a new eight part series Gok Wan’s Easy Asian, showing viewers how to rustle up simple versions of mouth-watering Asian food.
We caught up with Gok, who learnt to cook while growing up in his family’s Chinese restaurant in Leicester, to hear why he’s very proud of his latest venture, what his ultimate comfort food is and who his dream dinner guests would be….
We speak to Gok Wan...
How did the idea for the show come about?
Gok Wan: "I’ve done a few cookery shows before and really wanted to do another one. The original idea for this one was very much pre-lockdown, I was going to travel around the country and chat to different people, then of course lockdown happened so everything changed. We had to strip everything right back. We were supposed to be filming in a studio but we ended up doing the whole series in my kitchen with just four of us!"
How have you found lockdown?
GW: "I’m going to be very honest and say I’ve really hated it, I’ve found it very tough and felt very lonely a lot of the time. Making this show was great, not only because it gave me company but it also allowed me to do something that I’m really passionate about. We’ve ended up with a very different pared-back series which is so private, personal and calm. I’m extremely proud of it."
The first episode is all about comfort food. Which recipes are your all time favourite comfort foods?
GW: "There’s one dish I cook a lot which is a Miso-based soup. That is comfort food to me and so are noodles and veggies. My taste in food is quite basic. I love watching those fine-dining chefs on telly but if I had the choice of a £6 bowl of noodles or a posh swanky restaurant with your all your mousses and infusions, I would honestly take the noodles. They remind me of home and of travelling around Asia."
Which key ingredients should we have at home for Asian cooking?
GW: "Light soy, dark soy, Shao Hsing rice wine, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Those five are the key basic sauce ingredients and you can make a whole plethora of dishes with them. I was really conscious making this series that all the dishes had to be simple and made with ingredients that were very easy to get hold of."
What would be your go-to recipe if you were very pushed for time?
GW: "Egg Foo Young is a classic which is super-easy and very quick and there’s another dish that I like, called midnight noodles, my dad makes it, we cooked in on camera in less than 60 seconds, it’s basically just dried noodles that you’ve rehydrated in boiling water with oyster sauce, spring onion and ginger and it’s delicious!"
Your interest in food started as a child with your upbringing didn’t it?
GW: "Yes, growing up with my parents who ran a Chinese restaurant meant food was our whole life. My brother, sister and I were surrounded by it the whole of our childhood. I love eating, I love cooking, I love feeding people, I love learning about different ingredients. As a child it was a complete blessing to be able to watch skilled chefs around you. I learnt so much by proxy."
If we came round for dinner, what would you rustle up?
GW: "I’d make my dad’s steamed egg dish with spring onion and prawns, Singapore noodles and I’d do blackened chicken which is a take on Western roast chicken and so full of flavour. I’d probably also do Filipino chicken wings. I remember cooking chicken wings in our family restaurant and they were a real favourite in the 80s and 90s not just with our customers but my whole family, we all love them. I do a recipe in the show which is really simple, it’s basically chicken wings with some sugar and vinegar and they are so delicious so look out for that one."
Your mum and dad must be so proud of you. Do they like watching all the shows you do?
GW: "My dad will tend to watch the fashion shows just because my mum watches them but he’d definitely be more inclined to watch my cooking series. They’re proud of everything I do but I can’t help but suspect my dad will never see me as an accomplished cook because if I was to become that person I would stop being his baby child!"
Who would you love to cook for?
GW: "I would love to cook for The Obamas, especially Michelle, I think that would be an incredible night and incredible conversation. I would love to cook for Dame Judi Dench because she’s such an icon, I love her performances and I love her attitude. I’d also love to cook for Zoe Wannamaker. I’m fascinated by Zoe. I bumped into her at a restaurant once when she was out with her husband and we and ended up pushing our tables together and having the best night ever. I’m really drawn to strong women…as you can probably tell!"
Has lockdown given you the time to reflect and think about anything else you might want to branch into?
GW: "Not really branch into but one thing I started doing was trying to be a better gardener. I can turn my hand to most things I’m interested in but I’ve always been rubbish at gardening. During lockdown I got a pepper plant and a tomato plant. I’m trying to be at one with nature but to be honest I’m just not that into it. I’m too impatient. I don’t want to wait a whole season for something to happen!"
What else have you got coming up?
GW: "I’m going back to do a new series of Say Yes To The Dress, I’ve got a new clothing collection for QVC and then I’ve got a few other projects that I’m not allowed to talk about yet. I’m going to be busy!"
Gok Wan's Easy Asian begins on Food Network at 8.30pm, Monday, August 10th
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