‘Man Fire Food’ host Mook­ing has a burn­ing pas­sion for bar­be­cue

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - The Comics - BY GE­ORGE DICKIE

Ask Roger Mook­ing of “Man Fire Food” what ini­tially in­spired his love of bar­be­cue and he will give a sur­pris­ingly candid an­swer.

“I used to love fire and play­ing with fire and luck­ily I had no ma­jor ac­ci­dents with fire,” he says with a laugh. “... You know, I think that’s just a pri­mal hu­man in­stinct to be en­am­ored with the fire and be­ing around it . ... I just had this affin­ity with it grow­ing up and when I started to cook and kind of went through reg­u­lar tra­di­tional restau­rants and kitchens and cater­ing com­pa­nies and ho­tels, you’re kind of like yearn­ing to see like what else can we do with cook­ing and then the live fire thing, I kind of reached back to my his­tory of just lov­ing fire and started div­ing into that. And next thing you know, I’m trav­el­ing around eat­ing all this fire-cooked food.”

Now in its eighth sea­son Wed­nes­days on Cook­ing Chan­nel, the se­ries finds Mook­ing, an ac­com­plished chef, restau­ra­teur, mu­si­cian and cook­book au­thor, trav­el­ing the coun­try search­ing for more peo­ple who cook with fire, the con­trap­tions they use and the dishes they cre­ate with them. This sea­son’s episodes fo­cus more on global cuisines and take Mook­ing to such lo­cales as New Or­leans, Bak­ers­field, Calif., and stops through­out Texas to see how peo­ple are putting their own spins on in­ter­na­tional foods through bar­be­cue.

That was ev­i­dent in last week’s episode in Hous­ton, where a Ja­panese fa­vorite got a Texas touch.

“What we did is we smoked a brisket and we made some sushi from ni­giri with smoked brisket on top of it,” he ex­plains. “It was re­ally good . ... The rice has the kind of sweet and the tang and the soft tex­ture and the brisket is soft and fatty and smoky and there are spices on there as well. So you get a full bang in one bite.”

Hous­ton, which has a large Viet­namese pop­u­la­tion, was also where Mook­ing got to try one lo­cal’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of pho, a tra­di­tional soup.

“It’s a smoked brisket pho,” he says, “so Viet­namese soup with the noo­dles, the whole thing, a re­ally de­li­cious broth that’s a recipe that he learned from his mother and he puts smoked brisket on top of it as well. So again, re­ally sim­ple and you’d think that some­body would have done that be­fore be­cause a lot of pho comes with brisket but this smoked thing just added a whole other layer to it and it was a real Texas-style brisket.”

“So it was the Texas thing and the Viet­namese thing all com­ing to­gether with an old fam­ily recipe and it just made sense,” he con­tin­ues, “And it was a beau­ti­ful thing.”

Roger Mook­ing

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