THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
A look at one of Shanghai’s most iconic pastries that has remained a crowd favorite throughout the years
but this has been admittedly a good problem to have.
Sales of the bakery’s palm-sized butterfly pastry have doubled ever since Lin increased the diary content to suit the local Shanghainese palate.
“It’s all about the proportion of flour and butter. We didn’t know that the people would be so addicted to the pastry after we made it a lot more buttery,” said Lin.
Priced at 20 yuan ($3) for a bag of five pieces, the butterfly pastry has been flying off the shelves of two of Deda’s outlets. Long queues are formed even before the pastry is unveiled to the public just after noon and the restaurant has been propelled back into the spotlight for the first time in decades.
This crispy and flaky puff that is lightly sprinkled with sugar crystals is believed to be a “crossbreed” of Chinese and Western culinary influences, first created in the 1930s when the city was welcoming expatriates. Unlike those found in Beijing, which are usually much smaller in size and harder in texture, the Shanghai version is extremely flaky and crumbs fall like snowflakes after a bite.
Having been in the pastry business for more than 40 years, Lin served his apprenticeship with Bian Xinghua, one of China’s most famous pastry chefs who was awarded gold medal at the 17th Culinary Olympics, held in 1988 in Germany. Lin remembered that Deda sold its first bag of butterfly pastry in the 1970s when China first opened up to the world.
Called Cosmopolitan Cafe when it was founded in 1897, Deda earned itself a reputation for being one of the city’s best western restaurants serving authentic German cuisine. It was renamed Deda, meaning “German feast” after the
Lin Jianming, government took over the business in 1949.
Lin said that ingredients in the past were limited and often of mediocre quality, but customers were still easily satisfied with his products. These days, however, with the influx of foreign bakeries around the city and consumers’ knowledge in the craft of making pastries, people are far harder to please.
Deda is not the only place in Shanghai that sells the butterfly pastry. From the snack counters in 24-hour convenient stores to the silver trays at hotel restaurants, it seems that the city can never get enough of it. The best ones are often deemed by the locals as those that are freshly made by home-grown bakeries.
The bakery at Park Hotel, opened in the 1930s and once the tallest building in east China, is one of the first in Shanghai to offer the butterfly pastry. For many senior citizens, sipping a cup of coffee while eating the pastry at the hotel’s art-deco lobby was something of an indulgence in the golden days.
According to the salespeople at Park Hotel and Deda, the majority of those who buy the butterfly pastry now are from the younger generations.
The butterfly effect has also rippled to places outside Shanghai. On Taobao.com, China’s largest customer-to-customer online shopping platform, people from other Chinese cities are paying almost 50 percent more to have the delicate pastry packed and shipped to their homes.
According to Liang Jianzhou, chief director of Park Hotel’s cultural affairs office, the butterfly pastry has also been chosen as the treat for firstclass passengers on high-speed trains between Shanghai and Beijing.
It’s all about the proportion of flour and butter. We didn’t know that the people would be so addicted to the pastry after we made it a lot more buttery.”
pastry supplier to Deda
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Some say it looks like a heart while others call it a butterfly. One thing is for certain, though this pastry has never lost its place in the hearts of the Shanghainese people.