I recall wonderful dinners in the late 1960s at the home of my parents’ friends I-Cheng & Jane Loh. Their cook Wang Sao kept a steady stream of her freshly handmade two-layer pancakes coming out of her kitchen while we, in the dining room, gleefully peeled them apart, filled them with savory stuffings, and greedily consumed them for, it seems, hours at a time. As much as I enjoy cooking, the memories of Wang Sao’s unceasing work while we ate kept me from every attempting to make my own Chinese pancakes.
In 2007, when my Mom and I visited her friends in the Chinese suburbs of Toronto, we were taken to a restaurant with Beijing cuisine – my first. I had grown up learning that the food of Beijing, as China’s capital, was called “Mandarin” and represented the best of dishes from the various regions of China. Well this Beijing restaurant’s menu was quite an education. The menu was filled with crepe-filled dishes. I concluded that Peking Duck became the most famous of their cuisine’s filled pancake dishes.
Mom just reminded me, though, of a scene in Ang Lee’s movie Eat Drink Man Woman in which the crepes aren’t rolled out, as Wang Sao had made them, but are formed by swirling a lump of dough on a hot griddle. She asked for the clip to share with our foodie friends, so here it is:
The film’s cook’s skill reminded me of Chinese cooks making hand-pulled noodles – getting 1,000 to 16,000 noodle strands from a single lump of dough. It undoubtedly looks a lot easier to do than it really is!