Illustration: Beth Morris
How Hungry Are You? is Raptor, Serge Ibaka aka Ma Fuzzy chef’s genius off the court. His infamous YouTube channel cooking show where he invites current and former teammates for dinner and cooks them exaggerated Congolese dishes. Sometimes the food looks like something out of Fear Factor or Indiana Jones.
For Ibaka, growing up in the Congo, food wasn’t always easy to come by. Ibaka has mentioned numerous times in interviews about the struggles of being hungry and how sometimes he would wait for the kitchens to close at restaurants and pick up customers leftovers.
That’s why for Ibaka, the show has a deeper message and is a way for him to share cross-cultural cuisine, that for Westerners may seem inedible, but could be a dietary staple for people living in different parts of the world. For people from around the world to see NBA players indulging in their food, it can give them a sense of relatability and for Westerners a greater appreciation of what food means to other cultures.
I’m a fan of the show, having seen every episode more than once. Ibaka has the ability to make his teammates feel comfortable and share more about their personal lives and opinions than they would in stilted media interviews. Ultimately, the show does an incredible job of allowing Raptors fans to get to know their favourite players and helping to bond the team off the court, creating team chemistry.
Ma Fuzzy Kitchen
I decided it was time to put my own Ma Fuzzy chef skills to the test. My philosophy being: I’ll try any kind of food once. I wanted to cook one of Ibaka’s recipes, and put myself in the shoes of some of my favourite Raptors.
Rewatching episodes of the show, I wondered which How Hungry Are You? recipe I would try to emulate. The stomach turning options included: beef penis, beef testicles, worms, pig head, cow tongue, lamb brain, and more.
I started my search in Chinatown, I popped into some of the markets I usually frequented for produce and let’s be honest, Pocky. I questioned the butchers about these strange cuts of meat. Pig head? cow heart? It was a resounding no, accompanied by strange looks. This wasn’t going to be so easy…
I decided a better strategy would be to call around and see which places had these cuts of meat. However, the awkward calls to markets and butcher shops in the city and beyond, left me a little frustrated. That is…until I found the exact butcher Ibaka has used himself in past episodes.
Tucked away in Kensington market, is Sanagan’s Meat Locker. On a Sunday, the shop was warm and inviting, visitors flooded in to get their fresh meat for the week. The shop prides itself in showcasing the incredible meat and poultry from Ontario.
I had called ahead and was able to confirm that they had cow heart in stock. Finally! It was like making a buzzer beater shot (or almost as satisfying). In the first episode of season two, Ibaka cooked cow heart for his teammate Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol.
The butcher at Sanagan’s brought out the cow heart from the back of the shop, the cut of meat was large and heavy. As the butcher was struggling to wrap it up, I realize it looked bigger than the one I had seen on the show. I was curious to see how much the financial damage was going to be, but at $17.00 I felt the cow heart was a steal (cow heart is generally priced well below standard cuts of meat).
I lugged the cow heart onto the Spadina streetcar, praying that on this warm, sunny day that the smell wouldn’t seep into the compact space and creep into the noses of my fellow commuters.
I went home and unwrapped my glorious cow heart. The smell was a little jarring, but not as bad as I had anticipated.
Ibaka’s recipes aren’t very complicated especially after the protein component is secured. The rest of the recipe consisted of some simple ingredients like some type of marinade (I chose Teriyaki sauce), minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Ibaka doesn’t give exact measurements, so I watched the video and guesstimated how much of each ingredient he was using.
The Tell Tale Heart
I started by setting up my work station, making sure to put a cloth under the heart to avoid any drippings from staining the furniture. Using only my intuition, I decide which parts of the heart I would cut off. I cut off the fatty pieces, and then the parts that looked inedible.
I placed the heart in a large bowl and proceeded to pour a generous amount of teriyaki sauce into the bowl to marinate the heart. I then rubbed the cow heart with minced garlic (1 full garlic). I then added rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Lastly I put three tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and fried the heart on medium/high heat for 15 minutes. I waited for it to brown slightly on the top. Other research advised to cook the heart until medium rare.
The final result, dare I say it, it looked better than Ibaka’s. I served up my version of Ibaka’s recipe during my Raptors Game five viewing party, challenging my guests to try a piece of lean muscle. A couple bites in and the verdict seemed to be that cow heart tasted a lot like a roast, it wasn’t as gamey as we expected, and most of us were surprised at how tender it was.
Overall, emulating one of Ibaka’s recipes was a gutsy challenge and proved to be a lot of fun. I challenge any Raptors fan to expand their culinary horizons and foray into the world of Ma Fuzzy chef.