A Chinese TV cooking host keeps in touch with her heritage through cooking.
Ching-He Huang’s earliest childhood memory was in her grandmother’s kitchen.
“I had a funny relationship with food. It was a bit of a chore as opposed to loving it and being creatively free,” Huang, 33, said.
Her mother began teaching Huang how to cook when she was 11 years old, preparing dinner for her father.
She was born in Taipei, Taiwan but grew up in the southern part of the country on her grandparents’ farm in Pai He. Huang’s father wanted a better life for them so they moved the family to South Africa after her father met a South African business man who convinced them to go into business together.
Later, the Huang family moved from South Africa to London as the apartheid ended and the country went through difficult political times. Huang’s father also heard of Oxford and Cambridge University and wanted Huang’s brother to attain a good education.
The idea of running a food business came to mind after Huang stopped by a cold noodle shop in London that reminded her of home. She felt astonished at how expensive the food was, and was inspired to create her own cuisine and offer it an affordable price.
“I was passionate about noodles and I thought I could do better than this. If I could take on the world, I would make noodles!” she said.
Huang launched her own food and drinks company, Fuge Ltd. and TZU, following college.
In the beginning, Huang did extensive research about the food industry and met with buyers and chains to find potential clients. In the end, she went to their competition and they gave her a shot with her first order.
“All the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together in an odd way when I look back at life …” Huang said. Here, fate stepped in.
Huang’s friend worked at the Food Channel in London and invited Huang to talk about her specialty, noodles, on one show. Her debut appearance was on “Great Food Live” on the Good Food channel, which was formerly known as the UK Food Channel.
“For me, it was creative freedom, like wow, I get to share my food with people who actually appreciate it,” Huang explained. Producers thought she was a natural and appreciated her dynamic approach to modern Chinese food.
Huang closed her company and continued to appear on more TV segments until she was eventually offered her own show, “Ching’s Kitchen,” on the same channel. A book deal came soon after. The experiences became meaningful reflections on her identity.
“It helped me revisit my childhood memories, heritage, and forced me to actually think about my history and what it is to be Chinese,” she said.
Her charismatic personality coupled with her obvious passion for Chinese cooking added to the popularity of the show. In addition to “Ching’s Kitchen,” Huang has been featured on “Chinese Food Made Easy,” “Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes,” and the various “Easy Chinese” episodes, all of which have been shown on various global networks.
“In a funny way, Chinese food has made me become more Chinese and more comfortable with my Chinese identity and to be proud of that. I’m so grateful that I kept up with my Chinese schooling and everything … I love that I’ve kept in touch with my heritage through cooking.”
Huang cited her grandmother as inspiration not only for her cooking, but also in facing life’s challenges. Huang’s grandmother, “who didn’t have much, wasn’t schooled, but lived a dignified life,” cooked for her extended family of 25 every day on the farm in Taiwan.
“She was the ‘Iron Lady’ in our household and was a tough, masterful, and creative cook,” Huang said.
“Her service and dedication to family was amazing and I’m not even sure that I could do that today. Somehow I think the previous generation might be a lot stronger than we are now. A lot of sacrifices were made by our parents and grandparents … my family members are my role models.” she said.
Huang hopes viewers of her new show, “Easy Chinese” will understand the creativity and fun of Chinese cooking. The second season of “Easy Chinese” is meant to show the diversity of Chinese cooking. It’s about a journey of discovery in every episode. Huang explained she visits various neighborhoods in New York City and Los Angeles to explore Chinese American cuisine as it evolves across Asian America. She also described the personality of her show as enthusiastic and positive.
“Whether it’s classic or completely fusion, it just shows that Chinese food is not just about stir-fry and dumplings, it’s much more than that.”