Oct 22, 2023 - Food and Drink

"Hunger Pangs" YouTube stars teach how to cook Chinese dishes

two guys smashing cucumbers

Kevin and Jeffrey Pang smash cucumbers for salad in their new "A Very Chinese Cookbook." Photo courtesy of Kevin White, America's Test Kitchen

YouTube culinary stars Kevin and Jeffrey Pang want to make you feel confident about making Chinese food.

Why it matters: The father-son duo celebrates Chinese cooking in their "Hunger Pangs" video series. Now their new "A Very Chinese Cookbook" shows that some of your restaurant favorites can be "shockingly simple" to make at home.

State of play: Many Chicago readers know Kevin Pang for his food reporting at the Chicago Tribune, The Takeout food site, or from his "For Grace" documentary.

  • Today, the north suburban dad serves as digital editorial director at America's Test Kitchen and co-hosts the "Hunger Pangs" YouTube series with his dad.

Flashback: Jeffrey, who lives in Seattle, started making videos of him cooking on YouTube more than 10 years ago, all without his son's knowledge. Kevin found out when his mom urged him to finally watch the videos his dad had been emailing him. Soon enough, his YouTube channel had more than a million views.

  • Kevin wrote about his relationship with his father in New York Times Magazine in 2016, describing it as punctuated by intense fights over generational and cultural issues that plateaued to "cordial indifference."
  • That changed after Kevin took on food writing at the Trib and started calling his dad to talk about Chinese dishes, recipes and more.

I recently caught up with Kevin, my former Tribune desk mate, to talk about the new cookbook.

The inspiration: The "Hunger Pangs" series, which the father and son fly to the East Coast periodically to shoot.

  • "The show's done well, and so working on a cookbook was the logical next step," Kevin tells Axios.

Biggest surprise: "Realizing many dishes I thought would be difficult to cook at home — ones I'd leave to the restaurants — were shockingly simple to make in my kitchen.

  • "I now make a big batch of shumai [dumplings] and steam them at my leisure."

The intrigue: The Pangs enlisted the army of America's Test Kitchen recipe-testers to help.

  • "For us, recipes are sacrosanct. Every dish on average costs $11,000 to develop at [ATK]. If you follow our recipes, we'd like to think your results will overdeliver."

Reality check: It's true. Monica recently used the book to make super-delicious, professional-looking scallion pancakes.

What's ahead: Kevin will talk about his new cookbook with Frontera chef Rick Bayless at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston on Thursday.

  • Don't be surprised if the event includes a stunning magic trick (he's an amateur illusionist) and some funky fusion food. Char siu tacos, anyone?

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