x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Crossing continents and culinary bounds

Food Guru Intrepid traveller and presenter of the television series Globe Trekker, Ian Wright, talks about vegetarianism, cockroaches and eating on the road.

The travel presenter Ian Wright.
The travel presenter Ian Wright.

Recently it's been in Okinawa in Japan. Before, although I love Japan, I didn't like the food. I'm not a big sushi eater, although I love the ginger shavings that you get with sushi - I can eat them until the cows come home. So last year we did Ian Wright: Out of Bounds in Okinawa and I got really into it. It's got a different type of food. They've got the barbecued thin strips of beef and chicken, even some of the seafood; it was so clean and so crisp. It was lovely, and it was so cheap as well. Okinawa is only a three-hour flight from Tokyo, but it's a poorer part of Japan, really.

No, no, that was years ago. I was a veggie when I was about 13, because I was more radical then. I was like, "save the cow, save the cow". I was nuts for it, and I was a sad hippie. As soon as I started doing the programme about 15 years ago, I started eating meat. I couldn't really say, "No, no, I'm a veggie" every time because that would have been really dull. That's long gone - those salt-dried chilli ribs sorted that out.

Not now, but I was before when I was doing the backpacking. It all depends where you end up, really. Sometimes you stay in places that have got nothing because there's nowhere else to stay. Then the next day you might stay in a flash hotel because the tour company have done a deal with them or something. So there's a real contrast between the two, which is great. I don't mind either end of it; if you've got nowhere to stay, then you stay on someone's floor or whatever, and that's a fun experience as well.

Cockroach was one of the worst. In Cambodia, that was. And they only got cockroach because they couldn't find the fried spiders. I don't know what's worse because you think a big spider's going to be nasty and gooey, whereas cockroaches... It's a mental thing. When you see that thing intact, with all the eyes and all the bits coming towards your mouth, it's "Oh no". Maybe in a pâté or something like that, it wouldn't be too bad, but in that shape and form it's really, really wrong.

I just did a programme in Syria and that was absolutely brilliant. In our new series, we did Cuba, Venezuela. I just got back from Sri Lanka and we're doing Siberia next. Syria was unbelievable. It's a mad mixture of people, the gateway to the Middle East. Damascus is amazing. Really surprisingly fantastic; a brilliant country. And it's on the Mediterranean; there are beach resorts. In Aleppo we had meatballs in cherry sauce. That was nice.

I think you're always going to have apprehensions. Whatever you do, even if you start an evening class around the corner every Wednesday. It's the fear of the unknown. But the main thing is you force yourself to buy a ticket. Then you've no choice, really. That's the main barrier - buy your ticket and then you're going. Just buy it and then you have to go.

Siberia. It'll be the very last place we visit on Ian Wright: Out of Bounds.

I love England. When you're away a lot, you become more fond of it. When I was young I loved going to the seaside. I loved being by the sea, that kind of thing. Even in the winter at some bed and breakfast, with sheets of rain outside, and some old granny serving you peas for no reason at all. I love north Wales, I love the mountains. But England's such an amazing country. You go 50 or 60 miles in any direction and all the accents and attitudes change. The landscape is incredible and even though the people criticise the food, I love it.