We love to meet amazing bloggers, vloggers, and talented content producers in general! Especially when they are doing something as interesting as what Steph and Chris, the couple behind the excellent Chinese Cooking Demystified YouTube Channel are doing.
We had a conversation with them about food, cooking, and more! Check it out...
How did you get into creating food videos?
Chris: So we absolutely adore the food over here in China – basically ever since me and Steph started dating, we’ve loved to eat around the country and do our best to replicate the dishes we’ve enjoyed.
Steph: Then one time we found Luke Nguyen’s (a Vietnamese-Australian chef) Vietnamese show of him cooking on the street of Vietnam and start binge watching it. We thought it was so cool, then we started to think about doing a few cooking videos of our own.
Who are some of your personal favorite chefs/cooks? Whether they are celebrity chefs, fellow YouTubers/bloggers, or people you know in real life, who inspires your cooking and your channel?
Chris: Where to begin! In terms of video, I think one of our biggest inspirations was probably the aforementioned Luke Nguyen. We absolutely love his show – if you haven’t seen it (it’s on Australian TV), it’s sort of a combination travel/cooking show where he’ll go to different locations in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and cook a local, authentic dish outside on a camping burner.
We really wanted to do this sort of approach at first, but after doing some research it seemed incredibly challenging for amateurs like us to pull off. We also quite like Chef John from Food Wishes - his kind of narrative style seemed a bit more approachable, so that’s the direction we went.
I’ve also learned so much by just watching Oliver Babish – he does the same sort of style of video, but with the professionalism dialled up to 11. I’ve watched and re-watched his videos just to get an idea of how he frames things and how he transitions.
In terms of cooking, when I was 19 a buddy of mine in university worked on the line at a nice restaurant in Boston and was absolutely obsessed with cooking. He’d like go to house parties with a backpack filled with spices and whip something up with whatever people had in their fridge. Watching him do his thing really piqued by curiosity – he ended up dropping out of university and going to culinary school (coincidentally is now the head chef at a Western restaurant in Hong Kong).
But really, I think cooking in general is really enjoying a renaissance – these days, I wouldn’t necessarily consider my interest in cooking special in any way. There’s a reason food and cooking is right up there with kittens and puppies in terms of popularity of internet content… it’s something a whole lot of people love to do!
Steph: For me, it’s mostly Asian chefs/people. Pailin from Hot Thai Kitchen, Luke Nguyen as previously mentioned, my dad, the author of a series of Cantonese cook book Pan Yingjun and the Hong Kong restaurateur Ko Wing Sun. They really inspired me to keep practicing and improving my learning and skills. Especially for Mr. Pan Yingjun and Mr. Ko Wing Sun, they’re the people I really look up to.
For Western chefs, I watched Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein and Nigella Lawson growing up. I learned my basic knowledge about western food from their show. And I LOVE Thomas Joseph and his Kitchen Conundrum on Martha Stewart’s Youtube Channel “Everyday Food”.
What kind of food trends/popular items do you see that you think our mostly American readership would love? What would they be surprised by?
Steph: Southwestern Chinese food in general. First, it’s sooooo underrated even in China. It has such bold flavors and diversity. It’ll give you constant surprise when you travel around the region and find all these creations and link with other parts of China and Southeast Asia. The region’s cuisine is like telling an anthropology story with food.
Chris: I think people can be surprised by the sheer diversity of what’s available in China. Different areas of the country have radically different flavors and dishes – the difference in Sichuan food and Cantonese food is pretty well known by this point, but that’s just scratching the surface. The Northwest of China has lamb, barbecue, and Central Asian flavors. Yunnan has dishes that wouldn’t seem out of place in Thailand or Myanmar. Throw a dart on a map of China and do a deep dive into that place’s cuisine – I guarantee there’d be some dishes there that wouldn’t be close to anything you could imagine have existed.
What Chinese/Asian techniques could they learn from?
Steph: That’s a tough question. Maybe different kinds of fermentation? The Chinese use fermentation to preserve a lot of food, be it veggies, starch, meat or even tea. The slow-grown flavour came from the mix of ingredients and microbes are so in-depth and profound. It’s very interesting to see somehow limited recourse (comparatively to, say coastal China) can lead to such great cuisine.
Chris: Fermentation is a good one – for example, there’s a sort of fermented tomato paste from the Southwest of China that I think could be creatively applied to certain Western dishes. But really, nowadays a lot of people don’t have earthenware jars in their backyard and a patience to ferment stuff.
So I’ll give a more controversial answer: MSG. Use it to season, and don’t look back. There’s so much fear, uncertainty, and doubt around MSG that it can get sort of irritating. No, it’s not bad for you. Many cooks in China’ll have a bottle lying around their kitchen next to the salt and pepper.
And we always try our best to imitate some of the dishes we love most at some of our favorite restaurants in China. Not always - but often - those dishes’ll involve MSG. This ain’t some sort of evil trick the restaurant’s trying to pull… when balanced and used in moderation, MSG makes stuff taste good. We live in an age where famous chefs are putting “umami bombs” into everything. Something seems seriously off when people are starting to use dry rubs with seaweed and chili with fish sauce, no?
Why skirt around the issue? If you want the isolated taste of umami, use MSG. No need to make everything you cook have hints of mushroom and fermented fish.
What’s your “last meal” dish? And if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Steph: Last meal, it should be a meal: dim sum, sashimi (both Cantonese and Japanese) and French dessert. I think I’ll stick with dim sum if I can only eat one thing for the rest of my life.
Chris: One dish for the rest of my life? Ouch. For me, variety is the biggest draw of eating – I’d rather have something good that I’ve never had before than the perfect version of something that I’ve had a million times. Last meal? Surprise me.
If you could visit anywhere in the world and eat anything your heart desires, what would it be? Money is no object.
Steph: For visiting, Peru; for living choice: Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City!
Chris: The areas in the world that I’m really curious about, cuisine wise, are the Andes and West Africa. There’s so much that seems so totally different, in terms of produce and techniques.
Do you have a food motto that you live by? What is it?
Steph: “Don’t judge, be open-minded.” As a Cantonese person, we have the reputation of “eating anything”, LOL. Well, truth is, I didn’t eat spicy food at all when I was growing up. But then all the time I spent travelling in Thailand completely changed me. I learned how to embrace other cultures/cuisines and eat whatever the locals are eating.
Later in my travelling with Chris, we had some very very strange food. And we were still able to appreciate and enjoy them with this motto in mind.
Chris: To take it a step further, I think it’s good to remember that there’s no advantage to *not* liking something. I think some people can get a bit stuck in the sort of thinking “well, I never liked olives… didn’t like them as a kid, don’t like them now, I’m just a person that doesn’t like olives”. Taste is remarkably flexible if you allow it to be – if there’s an entire culture that loves a certain food and I don’t… well, that’s ain’t on the culture. I take that as my personal failing.
What are your goals for your channel?
Steph: One million subs! LOL. Joking aside, I’d hope to keep doing it as much as we can and let more people learn about how real Chinese food is made. And introduce more of our favourite dishes to people outside of China.
Chris: Yeah, that’s the goal. It’d be fun to grow to the point where we’d be able to devote more time to it, but in the end we just wanna share some recipes. There’s a whole mountain of awesome food over here in China, and it’s not like we can really drag people over here and force-feed them the stuff we like.
The next thing is to do our absolute best to zero in on a recipe that could get you the same taste, and try to communicate that as clearly as we can. We’re not professional chefs so can’t always quite get 100% there, but that’s the idea.
Celebrating Chinese new year is plenty of fun for many different reasons (and you can and should join in even you aren't Chinese). For instance, all the pageantry, fireworks, and parades are pretty fantastic if you live somewhere that does it big for the lunar year; but even if your locale doesn't have big events, adorning your home with the traditional colorful decorations can be plenty festive on it's own.
Of course, gifts are always fun, so giving and receiving red envelopes can be a fantastic part of the day. But we're really here for the food - and not only is traditional Chinese New Year food pretty delicious, it's also auspicious (sorry, we couldn't resist the opportunities to rhyme).
A fish served whole are perhaps the most popular main dishes; not only does this represent unity, it makes a great centerpiece for a lunar new year table. You really can prepare it any way you and your guests prefer, but steamed with soy sauce and ginger is a common choice.
How you eat the fish also matters. The head of the fish should point towards the most distinguished and elderly members of your group, and they should start eating first. Finally, make sure you keep some leftovers, because having extra fish means abundance and overflowing wealth in the upcoming year.
Chinese dumplings are also a favorite, especially ones filled with cabbage and radish - which implies that you'll have a tranquil new year. And feel free to have a cheat day, because supposedly the more dumplings you eat, the wealthier you'll be in the New Year! Prefer something a little lighter? Spring rolls and rice cakes (nian gao) also symbolize prosperity.
The visual connection here is pretty obvious - long needles mean a long and happy life, so uncut, extra-long noodles are typically served fried or boiled with broth during lunar new year celebrations.
Tangerines, oranges, and pomelos are eaten and displayed during the new year celebrations; not only are these citrus fruits at their peak during the winter months, but like dumplings, the more you eat, the more wealth you will potentially accumulate during the new year.
Enjoy your lunar new year celebrations and treats - and may you have a wonderful, happy, and prosperous year of the Rooster!
When you're a child, receiving mail is almost a magical experience. Now most of the mail you get as an adult is either bills or junk. But it doesn't have to be that way! A big trend right now is box subscriptions. If you want a selection of products like makeup, dog toys, clothes or food to show up at your house on a monthly or weekly basis, there's probably a subscription service for it. Food is one of the most popular types of subscriptions, so there are plenty out there to choose from. Not only will you enjoy one (or two or three!), they also make excellent gifts. Get excited about checking the mail again with one of these food (or wine!) subscription services.
Channel your inner Willy Wonka with this box of sugary goodness. Each month you'll get up to $25 worth of gourmet sweets from three different candymakers. They also offer Treatsie at Home Baking Kits, which help you make "dazzling and delicious desserts" with all of the ingredients pre-measured and step-by-step instructions.
Cost: $20/month, receive a discount when you buy a quarterly or annual subscription.
Healthy snacks that also help fight hunger? Sign us up! These boxes are also gluten-free, celiac safe and organic. There are a couple of box-size options to pick from, and each box set out means two meals are donated to a food bank in America. They also have options for offices, so you and your coworkers can help those struggling with hunger while you deal with the 3 p.m. office slump.
Cost: Boxes vary from as low as $7.99/month up to $25/month.
If you love wine (and let's be honest, who doesn't?), then a wine subscription box should definitely be on your Christmas list. Each month you get new recommendations for you based on your palate profile, or you get to pick the wines on your own with their ever-changing assortment. The only downside is that not all states allow alcohol to be shipped directly to consumers, so if you live in AK, AL, AR, DE, HI, KY, MA, MS, OK, PA, RI, SD or UT, you're unable to order from Club W.
Cost: Starts at $52/month for four wines.
If for at least three nights a week you want to not have the "What do you want for dinner?" conversation, then get Blue Apron. Each week you get the ingredients to three meals for either two people or four people. The meals are delicious and fairly easy to make; the instructions are detailed, and for those real kitchen newbies, Blue Apron has videos available online. As a bonus, the packaging is all reusable or recyclable.
Cost: $59.94/week for two, $69.92/week for four.
Spice up your life with this hot sauce of the month club. This box isn't for the casual hot sauce fan, though. Fuego Box prides itself on finding sauces with "dynamic taste accompanied by the appropriate amount of heat," delivering you "sauces that you've probably never heard of."
Cost: $12.95/month for one bottle, $29.95/month for three bottles.
The last thing you want to do when you get home from a long day is spend another hour making dinner. That's where Freshly comes in: There pre-made meals are prefect for busy professionals, couples on separate schedules, or really anyone who doesn't want to spend more than two minutes making a delicious and healthy meal.
Cost: Starts at $49.99/week for four meals.
Meat lovers, rejoice! We've got a box just for you. Carnivore Club offers its members four to six handcrafted cured meats from artisans around the world in a super cool faux-wood box. Now all you need is a cheese box and the Club W box, and you're got yourself a perfect Friday night.
Can't get enough of the farmers market? Try Farm to People, where the farmers market comes to your house. Each month you receive small-batch, artisanal goodies with sustainable ingredients. This service supports local farmers with two options for you: "The Casual Foodie" gets three to four products, and "The Food Critic" gets five to eight products.
Cost: $29.95/month or $49.95/month.
Have you ever thought about becoming a pescaterian? Then you should get to know the Chicago Pescetarian, an amazing food blogger who is doing a lot to promote and educate her audience about not only the deliciousness of different types of seafood, but sustainability and the environmental aspects as well. And we fully support that! (as well as enjoying her amazing restaurant recommendations in the Chicagoland area and beyond).
So without further adieu, meet Pooja!
Why did you start your blog? When did you start and more importantly, why did you start and how did you get to where you are are today?
I launched Chicago’s first and only seafood blog in 2015, and I've been a pescetarian for 7 years now. I used to eat meat, and then I tried to be a vegetarian but missed fish too much, since I grew up on the coast in Mumbai and it was such a staple. Plus I didn’t want to just start a more typical food blog, and I saw the opening since there was no real seafood blog based in Chicago. And I wanted to draw attention to the amazing seafood that's being created in the Midwest!
Where would you recommend that we eat in Chicago?
If you're in Chicago or planning a trip, some of my favorite restaurants are Swift and Sons, Shaw's, Duck Duck Goat, Shanghai Terrace at the Peninsula, and Le Bouchon.
Who are some of your personal favorite chefs/cooks? How about bloggers? Who inspires you?
Chef Jean Joho from the Chicago restaurant Everest makes amazing French-Alsatian dishes, particular a phenomenal lobster dish. I studied French for many years, so I'm a Francophile! I also love Rick Bayless, since he took the time to actually get to know Mexican cuisine and even lived in the country for years. I'm also a big fan of Bill Kim from Urban Belly, he makes such imaginative cuisine and is the nicest guy.
What restaurants would you LOVE to eat at? They can be anywhere in the world.
Any location of David Chang's Momofuku restaurants, and Jiro for the most exceptional sushi experience ever in Japan.
Let's talk serious foodie aspirations. What’s your “last meal” dish? If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? And if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
My last meal would have to be a really elegant Bouillabaisse (French seafood stew). La Sardine in Chicago and Oceanique in Evanston make my favorite versions in the Chicagoland area - they use the saffron and the fennel really delicately. I grew up with Indian food, but if I had to stick to one cuisine I would have to say sushi since I can switch it up with nigiri, sashimi, different types of rolls, etc. I can eat sushi any time of day! And if I could go anywhere in the world? I would go to Japan to eat all the nigiri, then eat all the langoustine in Iceland, and then go anywhere in the world that serves good caviar.
Do you have a food motto that you live by? What is it?
I believe in the concept of “good food good mood”. You have to feel good about putting good food in your body! Food is such a big part of our lives. People connect about food and over food so much; what's more, bad food can ruin your day while good food can make your day. If your food is great, why not live to eat?
What’s the one piece of foodie advice you’d like to share with our audience?
Respect your ingredients and the ingredients will respect you! Also, price doesn’t always equal quality - there's a lots of great little fish and seafood shacks or little diners that people miss out on.
In addition, don’t necessarily think sustainable and organic and local are real qualitications with really doing your research. I did work with Shedd Aquarium here in Chicago and put out a list of reasonable seafood restaurants. Respect the ecosystem and environment!
What are your goals for your blog?
I'd love to write a book and have a travel show! I'd travel the world eating seafood and demystifying fish. I think a lot of people don’t venture into very far into the seafood realm cause they lack the knowledge or understanding of the various options. I also want my blog to be a platform for chefs!
But what I want to do is to help people start eating more environmentally friendly seafood. I want to contribute a lot more to the Ocean To Table movement doing things like promoting sustainable fishing methods and showing people how to shop for and buy fish and even showing how you can buy from local fisherman and fisheries like shares like CSA veggie boxes.
What’s your day job/what do you do in addition to blogging?
I'm a real estate broker with Weichert Realtors First For Chicago and the owner of a professional organization company called Organizing With You, Inc.
As you might imagine, food is always a hot topic at the Sustainable Foods Institute at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.
At its recent gathering in Monterey, the institute discussed the latest trends popping up in the food world and what we can expect to see more of over the coming year.
With seven billion people on our planet, naturally, people eat many different kinds of food in many different ways.
Here are five of the biggest trends, according to the institute:
Of all the food eaten in the U.S., 77 percent involves some or all prepared foods. Most of these, 50 percent, are eaten as snacks. The other 27 percent are the boxed foods to which home cooks add a protein, vegetable or other kitchen staple to the mix. These continue to be quite popular for families with moms who work and need to get dinner on the table quickly.
This growing trend takes the idea of boxed meals and raises the bar. Ordinary people can now feel like chefs making extravagant dishes alone or with the family, even with children old enough to participate. The boxes arrive with a recipe, but what makes this even easier for busy people is that the ingredients arrive at your house already pre-portioned. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. A few of the many companies that now ship these meal kits directly to your front door are: Blue Apron, Sun Basket, Hello Fresh, Green Chef, Home Chef, Plated, Peach Dish and Green Blender.
The importance of taking meat away from the center of the plate is a growing trend. A global demand for a meat-based diet places higher stress on the planet’s resources. Plants can often replace our favorite animal proteins, and the choices for consumers are growing. So we are seeing more and more companies adjust their mindset on what it means to be the "spotlight" protein of a meal. The store shelves will continue to grow with options for meat alternatives like soy and pea-based protein.
This trend is more food adjacent involving the bags we carry our food in. We might be looking at a forced change in how we do that in the future. The institute stresses the world's need to reduce the health and environmental impact of plastic pollution on the food we eat. A prime example of how we can help is by getting rid of plastic bags at the grocery store (take your own reusable bags with you) as there are 13 to 20 billion plastic bags used per year in the United States. Proposition 67 on the California ballot is pushing to ban these bags completely; if it passes, the idea could spread to the rest of the country.
Just like we see new words being added to the dictionary each year, there are increasingly new ways to describe how we eat. It is no longer just "meat-eater" or "vegetarian."
Here is a list of the labels people are now using to describe their eating habits:
Gluten-free: People who cannot or do not eat gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.
Locavores: Those who don’t want their food to travel long distances, so they focus on buying food grown within 50 to 100 miles of where they live.
Mediterranean: This is a diet based on habits of southern European countries, which uses a lot of olive oil in the recipes.
Paleo: People who go "paleo" eat vegetables, fish, meat and fruit, but avoid grain, dairy products or processed foods.
Pescatarian: This is basically a vegetarian who eats fish and other seafood, but no other kinds of meat.
Raw Foods: This diet consists of unprocessed and uncooked plant-based foods, usually organic.
Sustainable: This environmentally friendly diet focuses on ways of eating that have low impact on the planet, which contributes to food and nutrition security as well as a healthy life for present and future generations.
Vegetarian: This tried-and-true diet does not include any meat.
Vegan: This eating trend goes a step beyond vegetarian and does not include any animal products.
Monterey Bay Aquarium helps businesses and consumers choose seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean. Click this link Seafood Watch to learn more about their programs.