Me and my travels: Stefan Gates, chef

Stefan Gates, chef

The strangest thing I've ever eaten was...

Bull's perineum, shark's lungs and deer penis juice in China. I've just returned from making a documentary called Cooking in the Danger Zone, sampling the food in far-flung and war-torn spots. In Afghanistan I ate more testicles than were strictly necessary. But I'd maintain the weirdest food I've ever eaten is available in your local British supermarket: margarine. It's made using fuller's earth, nickel, hydrogen, caustic soda and more. Now that's strange.

My most memorable meal was in...

Korea. The only food I was ever scared of eating was sea slug. I was in a Seoul fish market recently, where they sell tons of the stuff, so I decided it was time to tackle my phobia. In a bring-your-own restaurant next door, the chefs squeezed the slugs to push their guts out, then forced me to eat the guts, telling me they were a delicacy. It was the nearest I've come to throwing up in a restaurant. After that, eating the raw, still-contracting slug slices was a walk in the park.

My top tip is...

Visit food markets and ask how to cook the food they sell. Someone will take pity on you and invite you to eat with them, and you'll learn more in a single lunch than you will from any amount of guidebooks.

My favourite restaurant...

Changes pretty frequently, but currently it's the Stori Gusti Konoba in Dol, on the island of Brac, Croatia. It's basically a farm where they serve delicious homemade ham and slightly less delicious homemade cheese. It's wonderful, gentle and oddly life-affirming.

I always bring back...

Strange foodstuffs. I recently gave Roly Keating (controller of BBC2) some mini yak pies and a bag of narcotic Kava root from Tonga. He hasn't yet told me how they were, or if he's symptom-free.

The best kebab shop in the world...

Has no name, but everybody in Afghanistan knows how to find it. It's in Charikar, and it's run by a man called Uncle Kebabi, who sports marvellous facial hair and a wicked smile. He threads lamb meat, tail fat and testicles onto rusty skewers and cooks them on the street. The atmosphere is incredible: from your seat you see the stark, beautiful Hindu Kush and a street of AK-47-wielding bandits. And the kebabs taste out of this world.

I'll never go back to...

Seoul. The people are kind, but the city is grim, soulless and near-featureless - a victim of rampant unfettered development.

The thing I hate about travel is...

Dislocation. I hate the instability of constant packing, unpacking and sleeping in new beds. Ever since I've had kids, I get a homesickness that I never felt before.

The place I've always wanted to visit is...

St Petersburg, to see the Hermitage and get a definitive recipe for borscht.

· Cooking in the Danger Zone is on BBC4 from Tuesday 18 July at 8.30pm


Interview by Carl Wilkinson

The GuardianTramp

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