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Maximum Foodie: 10 Deliciously Tasty Questions with Host Sashi De

What is it like to trek through Bali's forests, looking for cashews and cacao? Or, to tuck into a tender plate of Hong Kong's roasted meats in the old city? Well, Maximum Foodie host Sashi De had quite the adventure around Asia, doing all that and more. He tells us the juiciest bits.

Host Sashi De had quite the food adventure around Asia, mingling with the best chefs and searching for the most delicious eats - all that before lockdowns began. Now, starting 15 August on Asian Food Network, follow his epic journey that begins in the old streets of Sham Shui Po in Hong Kong. 

But first, to whet your appetite, here's 10 questions with the man, including which city he thinks has the best street food and what the intrepid host won't eat: 

1. The show takes you all across Asia, what's your favourite Asian destination?

Lush and green UNESCO-listed rice terraces in Batad, Ifugao Province, North Luzon, Philippines

This is such a difficult one, I love every single place I go to because of the amazing people I meet and the memories made. But overall, if I had to pick, I would say, the Philippines. I have been filming content there since 2007 so I've been to most of the regions in the spread out, but beautiful country. One of my favorite memories was being in Banaue, in the mystical rice terraces. I spent some time with the Ifugao, during the rice harvest. I learned about their ancient traditions, in a step by step fashion, from a slaughter to appease the Gods, to all the intricate nuances leading up to the communal harvest. Just a special time to be in the heart of one of the wonders of the world, living and being with the Ifugao; very few places on the planet where you can experience life as it was , without being affected by the 'sands of time'.

2. And what is your favourite destination of the show?

Sashi De (left) on shoot as he digs into a plate of roast goose – a Hong Kong establishment and staple from the Yat Lok Goose restaurant. Photo: Sashi De

For the all out cosmopolitan big city vibe with the coolest bars (as well as diversity in food) and the 'see and be seen' vibe, Hong Kong. For epic beaches, super friendly locals and my home away from home, Philippines. For a 'chill in the villa by the pool' session, and doing some island exploring as well as a mind/body reset, Bali. These would definitely be my top 3 out of Season 1 of Max Foodie!

3. What’s the best meal you had in those places? 

Sashi De (left) enjoying a meal in the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Sashi De

Oh, I just made this harder on myself! Hong Kong - char siu pork at T'ang Court (Michelin 3 star). Philippines - any homemade chicken adobo! Bali - betutu bebek (steamed or roasted chicken/duck with rice) at Warung Gunaksa... amazing!

4. You've spent time with many great chefs on this show, is there one whom you admire?

Sashi De and Chele Gonzalez (right) sit down with chocolatier Rob Crisostomo (not pictured) in a cafe in Davao to get a feel for local chocolate drinking culture in Philippines. Photo: Sashi De

I gotta give a shout out to my friend Chele Gonzalez in Manila (originally from Spain). I am astounded at his genuine passion for food, and his pursuit in being a better chef: by focusing on the story behind the ingredients, the anthropology, history, and the ties to culture. He then takes all this research and curates a menu based around these new ingredients. This means creating an interest in a specific endemic ingredient, bringing awareness and education, creating a supply chain, and letting the dining masses know about this discovery! Truly amazing work!

5. What one moment of the show that you’ll always remember? 

Chef Reynaldo de Luna II (left) and Sashi De go deep into the jungles of Bali on a foraging mission, where they find cacao, vanilla beans, cashews and cloves. Photo: Sashi De

Anytime I sit down and break bread with a chef, I really want to learn their story, their journey, and how that shapes the food they create and share with their dining audience. I also have the privilege of traveling with a lot of the chefs covered, so that on its own comes with a whole bag of fun experiences we've shared together. For example, in Bali, I was on a foraging run with Chef Reynaldo de Luna, and I'll always remember how we explored the truly hidden and local's side of Bali; away from the beach clubs and 5 star resorts, and deep into the jungles, hand picking cloves, cashew, vanilla, cacao, durian... the list goes on!

6. What’s your food philosophy? 

Sashi De, holding up a banh mi sandwich, a Hanoi specialty made with French style baguettes made out of rice flour. Photo: Sashi De

A big part of travel is the cuisine, and the food experiences that you come across, no doubt. As a food/travel show host, I definitely say yes to most of these experiences, with a caveat. As long as what I'm consuming is ethical. Would I try shark fin soup? Nope. Would I drink civet coffee? Again, no. It's hard to champion things like that when you know you're a part of the consumption chain that propagates these sort of endangered species trade. I'm keen to use this show's platform to educate people about things they might not have been aware about. On a more cheerful note, I absolutely say yes when I'm a guest of a gracious host. Breaking bread and drinking tea with a Berber family in their tent in Morocco, absolutely! A second helping of butter tea with a yak herder in Arunachal Pradesh, India? Ehhh, it's not the tastiest thing, but sure, fill up my cup for the fourth time! I'm always grateful for these moments where people are beaming with pride, and eager to share their craft. These moments, I will ALWAYS say yes to.

7. Street food is a huge part of Asia, which city has the best street food? 

Hot and fresh samosa just out of frying pan in Russell market Bangalore, India

I may be a bit biased here, but I think India and Bangkok have a lock on this. India has a tremendous diversity of cuisine throughout, and each state in the country does things that are unique.  You just cannot have a bad meal in Thailand either;  truly delicious, economical, and both countries like their food spicy, lots of flavor, freshly made, and readily available! 

8. What's your comfort food? 

Sashi De (right) having a simple meal at a temple in Bali. Photo: Sashi De

I like to keep it simple when I'm home, so, a go to would be a ginger/garlic/chilli/dill marinated wild salmon fillet that is oven baked, side of buttery garlic mashed potatoes, and steamed seasonal veggies. See? Super simple, but delicious!

9. What’s one restaurant on your bucket list? 

5.8 Undersea restaurant in Hurawalhi resort, Maldives. Photo: 5.8 Undersea Restaurant

I really want to do a deep dive into Japanese cuisine, away from the big cities. That's been on the bucket list forever. More specific one, seafood in Maldives - it is truly world class. I've been wanting to check out 5.8 Undersea restaurant in Hurawalhi resort, Maldives. I had a shoot with them lined up where I would not only fish for my own seafood that we would cook there, but it would be preceeded by a yoga session in that underwater ambience. How cool would that have been!?  

10. With travel and dine-in restrictions, how are you coping in the current situation? 

Sashi (left) with Chef Christian Yang enjoy an impressive sea food meal at Typhoon Shelter in Hong Kong. Photo: Sashi De

I've seen and felt the world go into shutdown mode while I was filming and traveling for our new season. I always try to find the positive in every situation, so the collective pause has hopefully allowed everyone to realize that the earth is fragile, WE are fragile, and every choice about what we do for the planet, what we consume, how we consume, it all collectively adds up. Restaurants are a big part of our lives, we celebrate our best moments in these places, so let's try to support them in any way that we can. A lot of restaurants have pivoted to stay afloat, but some cannot follow that strategy. If you have the means, support your local restaurants

Maximum Foodie premieres 15 August on Asian Food Network, 10pm SGT/HKT

* This Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 

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