The father-and-son team behind "Hunger Pangs"


The peacemaking power of food – that’s what you witness as Kevin Pang and his dad, Jeffrey, get ready to shoot an episode of their YouTube show, “Hunger Pangs.” “Let’s rock ‘n’ roll – it’s shrimp time!”

Working through their recipe for honey walnut shrimp at the studios of America’s Test Kitchen in Boston (where the show is produced), you’d never know that it’s taken more than 30 years to get to this point.

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Jeffrey and Kevin Pang prepare honey walnut shrimp. 

CBS News


Kevin Pang was six when his family emigrated from Hong Kong to Toronto, eventually moving to Seattle, where Jeffrey opened an export business.

“If you were an immigrant kid, you’re living in America, you do everything that you can to fit in, to try and be American, and part of that is rebelling against your childhood, against your culture,” Kevin said. He said it caused a deterioration in his relationship with his father, “because I refused to speak Chinese at home.”

Jeffrey said, “My language is a big barrier for me. I don’t know how to talk to my son, because he very quickly entered into this Western world.” 

“The slightest provocation, I think, would set things off,” said Kevin. “Look, you have two headstrong males. It makes for a pretty, fiery situation.”

Over time, contact between them became a perfunctory, weekly phone call: “Just say ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye,’ no fighting,” said Jeffrey.

That is, until Kevin became a food writer for the Chicago Tribune. He said, “I had a reason now to call my pops and say, ‘Hey, what is red braised pork belly?’ Now, we’d have these half-hour conversations.”

And then, in 2012, to Kevin Pang’s amazement, his food-loving dad took to YouTube with Chinese cooking demonstrations (2.2 million views and counting), punctuated with nods to a shared history that Kevin had ignored.

Everything Kevin could never say in person flooded out in a New York Times article he wrote in 2016, “My father, the YouTube star.”

“To bear my soul in front of my family, it’s just this inconceivable, just horrific idea,” Kevin said. “But to do so, like, in a national newspaper? I have no problem with that.”

Jeffrey Pang’s response? A voicemail message: “Hi Kevin. This is a good and true story. Thank you. Call me sometime. Dad.”

Now, father and son reminisce their way through Asian markets – and, of course, they cook. Kevin finally gets that with each ingredient, each dish, they’re re-telling their story, and preserving it.

For a year before they left Hong Kong in 1988, Catherine and Jeffrey Pang collected family recipes, afraid they would lose their heritage. “I still can recall the moment they taught us how to cook a specific dish,” said Catherine. “It’s our treasure.”

Some of those recipes have found their way into the cookbook Jeffrey and Kevin have just published together, titled, “A Very Chinese Cookbook: 100 Recipes from China & Not China (But Still Really Chinese).” 

“Food is our common language,” said Kevin. “That’s the language that we speak. That’s what we can talk about. And who would’ve thought?”  

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America’s Test Kitchen


RECIPE: Honey-Walnut Shrimp from Kevin and Jeffrey Pang of America’s Test Kitchen

RECIPE: Simple Fried Rice – the “perfect leftovers dish”

     
For more info:

     
Story produced by Young Kim. Editor: Carol Ross. 



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