Raichlen has 15 grills plus several smokers scattered around the garden of his home in Miamiís Coconut Grove neighborhood..
This primal fact helps explain why Raichlen isn’t quite done with barbecue yet. He’s just started work on his most ambitious live-fire book yet, Planet Barbecue, which he describes as a cross between the cultural exploration of The Barbecue! Bible and the technical approach of How to Grill. He is about to spend five months on the road visiting 25 to 30 countries; the book will be illustrated with glossy photos of exotic locales and cuisines.
His wife, Barbara, will accompany him on his travels, as she always does—“unless it’s a really horrible place,” he says. “If I go to Haiti, I probably won’t take Barbara, and I may try to get to some of the ‘Stans,’ and it might not be appropriate to take her to places like Turkmenistan.” He’ll also visit favorite destinations like India, Japan, Argentina, and Turkey.
Raichlen never flinches from taking risks for his art. “I eat street food in some really grungy surroundings,” he says. “Nothing makes me more excited than finding some incredible street food. But you have to have an iron stomach.” He certainly has seen some intriguing ingredients thrown on the grill, including nori seaweed brushed with sesame oil in Korea, hard-grilled eggs in their shells in Vietnam, and in Uruguay, coiled sheep’s small intestines, which he calls “absolutely delicious.”
On the dicier side, he recalls being taken to a Bangkok restaurant to sample the barbecue of the Esarn ethnic minority, who come from the Laotian border. “There were dead dogs floating in a canal just off the kitchen, which was filthy,” he says. “But being the guest of honor, I had to eat. I thought for sure I would get sick, but I didn’t. And it was delicious—grilled chicken served with traditional Thai chile jam and plates of chiles and basil.”
Floating dogs aside, even after all these years on the barbecue trail, Raichlen has lost none of his enthusiasm for finding new and unusual grill fodder. “My aunt recently sent me a picture from a market in China where she saw the arms of starfish on skewers in a barbecue place,” he says with relish. Look for it in his next book.