Ask Steph: Does anyone still eat ancient Chinese food?

Ok, our 500k subscriber Q&A! Thank you all so much for watching and cooking these recipes… it’s been an awesome four years. This is the first of two Q&A videos we have planned – second being with Steph’s Dad, Dawei. In this video we answer some question like:

0:00 – Introduction
1:02 – Non-native Chinese Ingredients
6:40 – Ancient Chinese Food today?
9:03 – What’s your favorite cuisine?
12:41 – Miao & Guizhou minority cuisines
16:54 – Influence of Non-Han Food on Chinese Food
21:40 – Cantonese History and Identity
29:03 – Vietnamese Food in China?
33:19 – Dianxi Xiaoge
33:33 – Gutter Oil
34:48 – Durian
35:14 – MSG
36:04 – Best VPN for China?
37:34 – “Original Flavor” in Cantonese Food
41:04 – Hotpot Restaurants
42:20 – French Food
42:54 – Japanese Food
43:30 – Sichuanese Food
44:32 – Tomato & Egg
44:57 – Doing Youtube with your Husband
45:45 – Favorite not-Chinese dishes?
46:45 – Dying Food Cultures in Hong Kong and Elsewhere
48:22 – Do you actually like organ?
50:41 – Who is Chris?

As promised, an edited audio-only version. It’s a *lot* smoother:

I now realize that 70% of what makes people on podcasts sound so smart happens in the cut 😉 10 whole minutes of ‘umm’ and such! Crazy. Definitely download that one if you’re planning on listening to this instead of watching it.

Forgot to add the Patreon credits in this video, sorry guys. Huge thank you to everyone supporting on on Patreon – link here if you’d like: .

What do you think?


  1. Hey guys, a few notes:

    1. So a very important note about the Cantonese language part : when editing/re-watching we kind of worried that people might mis-interpret that bit on the Cantonese language to mean that Cantonese might somehow not be a "Chinese" language. Cantonese is squarely a Chinese language within the Sino-Tibetan language family. That's a bit of background knowledge that I suppose we just assumed the viewer would know, which was our bad.

    I guess that's the downside of Q&A chats, things got mixed up in your head and you play fast and loose with your words. When we were talking about the Cantonese language, we somehow heavily assumed that people would know about its history and origin and jumped over the more detailed discussion since the development and history of Cantonese as a language is a often repeated topic when discussing Cantonese culture, and we just chit chat about some random elements that popped to our heads and then quickly moved onto something else.

    We were thinking about the possible confusions and misunderstanding when editing and re-listening to it – when you're talking to the camera it's very hard to be very smooth and covers everything you may wanna say (it needs a ton of practice and talent! – this is our first Q&A and we're not very good at talking to the camera in general) – and it's only until later that we realized that we only touched on very little info about that topic, but too late to re-film.

    Anyway, we were not doing a lecture so it's hard to cover all the related detail on one single subject, and I know it seemed like we were bullshitting somehow because of the fast and loose format of Q&A. There're already commenters pointing out this issue and we will heart the comments regarding this topic, so that people can read more about it.

    2. Another very important note of the same nature : in "16:54​ – Influence of Non-Han Food on Chinese Food", we talked about how "Yao" people are the people that refused to be incorporated into the taxation system. That was NOT a complete discussion at all. "Yao/Mien/người Dao/瑶" is an actual ethnicity with a very long history. What we mentioned in the chat was a phenomenon in Guangdong area during the Qing Dynasty, which showcasing how people's ethnic classification can change and there is not a strict line between "the Cantonese", "the Yao", and "the Hmong". Even today, you can still apply to change your ethnicity classification by going through certain process.

    3. For Chinese reader or Cantonese speaker out there, the book referred in the video discussing the Tai-Kadai Language and Zhuang Language elements in Cantonese is an interesting read if you're curious: "粤语壮傣语问题".

    4. For anyone that's interested in the ethnicity study in south/southwest China and southeast Asia, James C. Scott's "The art of not being governed" is a great read about that subject and that's how I (Steph) started to get sucked in that fascinating world of history, culture, food, ethnology, and of course, anarchism.
    On the same note, for Chinese readers, I recently found another interesting read about the history of 百越: "同根生的民族:壮泰各族渊源与文化". Not the most serious academic study but with rich references of cultural evidences.

    5. Just in case you got lost somewhere in the description box – if you're planning on listening to this, do listen to the audio-only version. With solely audio I was able to take a hatchet to this & smooth our a lot of stuff. Link here:

    We'll be back with a proper recipe video in a few days! Cantonese Black Pepper Beef – this time we were able to get our local Dai Pai Dong to teach us the broad strokes of it, much like the Fry Roast Chicken video.

  2. I dont know if anyone would know here, but back in the day with my Taiwanese friend (very very young). His father was eating the tomato with sugar dish, but the sugar was red. It was AMAZING but I have heard of anything like it again.

  3. Raw tomato with sugar is a very southern US dish…but only my grandmother’s ( born 1911) age and older.

  4. Question 1: Incorrect. All red peppers are native to Mexico. Disclosure, the author of the video has called me ignorant for raising this topic.

  5. Chinese for MILLENNIA have embraced foods from everywhere! Especially from surrounding nations and kingdoms as tributes. People need to learn some history. Not just potatoes and corn, but chillies, tomatoes, all sorts of spices from silk road, pepper from India, among other spices, ingredients as far as Rome and the African continent have made it into ancient China as far back at least as Qin dynasty or even before. Cuisine never remains the same as its original form. China was like the literal center of East Asia and the surrounding nations all were influenced both ways. As far as the tomatoes with sugar…my Mom's Korean and we eat those too, as a kid I didn't think much of it, but once I started learning taste, I started to pass. But I must admit I LOVE Chinese food especially Hong Kong, Sichuan and Cantonese food, maybe its my Grandmothers ancestors speaking through my tastebuds!

  6. I have noticed that Vietnamese, Korean and even Japanese uses a some percentage of Chinese loan words. But the pronunciation is more aligned to Cantonese/Hakka. Just wondering if early Chinese pronunciation was more akin to Cantonese/Hakka. As the early Han started from the Yellow River areas started to migrate down south and then Northern China started to have periods of foreign occupation and assimilation of foreign language in Northern China dialects? Just wondering.

  7. The first guy seems to have forgotten Italy exists, they are by far the most arrogant when it comes food

  8. For the average, though interested–even food-sophisticated–viewer, way more context is required. What, for example, does "original flavor" mean? Unfamiliar dishes need to be introduced before they're discussed. Background or overviews of Chinese ethic trends need to be given. Etcetera. What you've given us here is tantalizing but incomplete.

  9. why is the thumbnail a chinese lady holding a cat when the video is about ancient chinese food?

  10. That was great, it's nice to see you both figuring this out and being yourselves. Hope it keeps going well! It's definitely rewarding to watch and listen.

  11. "Why doesn't Chinese cuisine embrace new ingredient, why is it so ethnocentric"

    Literally the only Native chinese ingredient is eggs, because the Chinese domesticated the chicken

  12. Welsh onion is confusingly not native to Wales.
    "The common name "Welsh onion" does not refer to Wales but derives from a near obsolete use of "Welsh" in the sense "foreign, non-native", as the species is native to China, though cultivated in many places and naturalized in scattered locations in Eurasia and North America."

  13. You get a sense watching this that the guy is trying to keep the woman from saying anything controversial.

  14. The first question is ridiculous. Almost every ingredient in modern Chinese cooking got there from somewhere else. This is literally just a matter of thinking that all ingredients that originate in "Asia" must be indigenous. They all look the same right?

    As far as I can tell, truly traditional Chinese food looks like what they eat in Jiangsu. This is also what I've grown up with. I have never seen this in any restaurant in the West.

  15. Cilantro is from ancient Egypt and is now used all over the world (China, India, Mexico). Wild garlic is from the steppes of the Stans and Mongolia.When traveling around China on business, I was served many raw tomato dishes and the tomato was always pink and hard. Never ripe like an Italian paste tomato for sauces. Also baby corn everwhere and never mature corn except for roasted corn sold at highway roadside seller stands.

  16. My dad will sometimes make the tomato + granulated sugar on hot days, I didn't know it was an actual thing lmao

  17. Honestly, one of my favorite cuisines is american-chinese food. Not my favorite, but it's my comfort food.

  18. a bit late coming into this video but for the 2nd question, sure there's one very obvious example that's common throughout East and Southeast Asia, that stems all the way back to almost 0AD, and that's Zongzi and it's variants. rice/sticky rice/lye-treated sticky rice wrapped in some kind of leaf(bamboo leaves are quite common, but also lotus leaf, banana leaf, even more modern corn/maize leaves), most often have some kind of filling inside, could be sweet or savory or both. and then there's pounded rice (aka mochi), which is definitely not a Japanese invention, and again common throughout E & SE Asia for at least over a millenia. and unleavened flatbread of some kind, with the more western turkic cultures, like Naan/Nang which evolved into Bing(餠) then spread across China. it being commonplace across China probably started around Han dynasty? if anyone's read Water Margin(水滸傳) which is a story from the 13-14th century? the story about Wu Dalang the cuckold, Wu Dalang is a Shaobing seller, which Shaobing is already a very much Han-ified flatbread type baked good. and before that there's all the rice-based buns like Mantou.

    it's easy to go through older texts(even Buddhist scripts) to find what was already available, or from Shennong what ingredients were popular from many centuries ago.

  19. How on earth have anybody came up with the idea that native food is bad?! I mean, you're all here for Chinese cooking, right?

  20. The thumbnail and title taken together are quite disturbing. Bravo! Content is irreplaceable.


    First Question: "wHy doESNt cHIna use nONnaTIve inGREdieNTS"

  22. In fact chilli peppers came to China around the end of Ming dynasty (around 400 years before) along with peanuts and sweet potatoes.
    And for just 400 years, we "EMBRACED" them. All of them are now widely used in both Chinese traditional or daily cuisines.
    The only reason you call a culture "ethnocentric and stubborn" is because YOU are the one who is really "ETHNOCENTRIC AND STUBBORN".

  23. weird lol i was looking at videos about cat health etc then i look at the thumbnail and the title lolol i was like wait, no.. 🤣

  24. I haven't seen any Chinese recipes using white potatoes. Are they eaten only rarely?

  25. What do people think about the Chinese government and cultural outlets claiming that Korean foods like Kimchi and Samgyetang are of Chinese origin?

  26. LOL…when I first saw the thumbnail for this video, I saw Steph holding the cat and dog…then I read the title – "Does anyone still eat ancient Chinese food?" That really terrified me, for a moment. 🙂

  27. The first question is absolutely ignorant. Chinese use so many ingredients that are used world wide besides just tomatoes. In fact we do use ketchup for sweet and sour pork as well. Some have mentioned coca cola in cooking. We use corn—don’t tell me non-Chinese don’t cook corn. Also, what kind of non-native ingredients is this person really asking? Vegetables? Meat? Root vegetables? We kind of use pretty similar ingredients even if the flavours of the final product are Chinese flavours. We use salt, pepper, sugar. We use flour to make dough. We use spices that are from India or the mediterranean. 🤷‍♀️

  28. Hey guys don’t forget the Macanese food in Macau, a fusion of many different eastern n western cuisines / ingredients, Portuguese, Chinese, Malay, Indian, African, Spanish …check it out

  29. S & C, nice job touching on Chinese food fm historical and cultural perspectives! Must involve a lot of researches. Painful but interesting? Well S is particularly fond of GZ & YN food but do explore small towns and countryside in Guangdong. You may be amazed too .

  30. Hi, chris, may i recommend you improve yr presentation is by eliminating the numerous speech fillers like " umm" "ahh" " mmm" " so" ' like". These do not help you get your message across. To get over them, you may want to be awate of " sounds" you make when you cannot verbalise or are still thinking of the next word. You may want to consider joining Toastmasters to overcome these crutches when you speak. Or prepare a rough outline before you film & follow when trying to speak off the cuff.