Congyou Bing (Scallion Pancakes 葱油饼)
What is it?
Congyou bing (scallion pancakes) are a staple of Shanghai street food, found everywhere from roadside stalls to dim sum houses.
Pancakes are sprinkled with green onions and lightly fried on cast iron cookers. They offer one of the easiest grab-and-go bites, especially for breakfast and lunch. Some restaurants also cut their scallions into wedges and serve them as accompaniments to a meal.
The recipe varies but the basic ingredients are chopped scallion, flour, oil and egg. Shanghainese, however, largely stuck with green onions and lard. In northern parts of China, it is not uncommon to replace green onions with leeks and the cake is baked (in the old days using a bitumen barrel) instead of pan-fried.
Why is it famous?
Many Chinese say pizza is an evolution of the scallion pancake, with the technique brought back to Italy by Marco Polo.
Legend has it that Marco Polo missed the pancakes so much that he persuaded a chef from Naples to recreate the dish. After several unsuccessful trials, Polo suggested the filling be put on top of the dough base, rather than inside it. The change, by chance, became the cooking style for the modern pizza so widely consumed around the world today.
Where to eat it?
As street food, the best place is usually on the street. Ask for a vendor called Mr Wang (not the most unusual name, admittedly), who has his own pancake stall on Fengyang Road, near Xinchang Lu by People’s Square in Shanghai (sadly, Mr Wang doesn’t have a phone number).
If you are in Taipei, you can try a restaurant instead. Visit Tianjin Zhua Bing, 1 Yong Kang Jie; Tel: 886-02-2321-1336.
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