Episode 3 of this season's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown finds our fearless leader in Sichuan province, roaming around Southwest China, and entering into a veritable culinary pissing contest with his French doppelganger, celebrity chef and owner of the prestigious Le Bernardin, Eric Ripert. The daring duo are on a quest to sample all of Sichuan's spiciest, moving from fiery peppercorns to scorching hot chili and back again at every opportunity. Here are the highlights.
This ain't no Chinese takeout
The episode kicks off with classic Bourdain snark. Tony tells his audience he's excited to bring Ripert, who's never been to China, along for the ride, if for no other reason than because he enjoys torturing the poor gourmand. "His discomfort," Bourdain says with a flourish, "can be exquisite."
Aside from telling the impossibly polite Ripert that expecting Chengdu to look more like New York's Chinatown than a posher-than-thou 5th Ave was "some racist shit, right there," the boys appear to be getting along swimmingly. Their first stop: Noodletown (OK, it's not called Noodletown, but there sure are tons of noodles, and they all look delicious). Ripert falls even farther down on Bourdain's shit list by admitting that he's not good with chopsticks, but then redeems himself by suggesting they wash their breakfast bowls down with cold beer… at 10am.
The men are apparently on a mission to kill themselves, and as they walk through a lively outdoor market, they discuss the joys of MSG (who knew there was MSG in breast milk??). Bourdain chalks up the chemical's bad rep to plain racism, an evocative and pretty spot-on point.