Out of the fry­ing pan

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By WANG ZHENGHUA in Shang­hai wangzhenghua@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A street pan­cake en­tre­pre­neur re­opens shop with on­line help

A street ven­dor whose clas­sic spring onion pan­cakes were wildly pop­u­lar with cus­tomers was al­lowed to start cook­ing again on Fri­day af­ter be­ing shut down for op­er­at­ing with­out a li­cense.

Ahuge num­ber of fans lined up again to buy the pan­cakes, which cook Wu Gencheng, 60, had been sell­ing for 13 years from a road­side stall out­side his home on the first floor of an old res­i­den­tial build­ing.

Wu’s story spread rapidly af­ter his tra­di­tional Shang­hai snacks, also known as scal­lion pan­cakes, re­ceived a fa­vor­able re­view in a BBC doc­u­men­tary and news re­ports in early Septem­ber about the shut­down.

The clo­sure gen­er­ated wide­spread sym­pa­thy, with res­i­dents blam­ing bu­reau­cracy for go­ing af­ter a tiny ven­dor over a triv­ial mat­ter like li­cens­ing, not be­cause of food safety or other good rea­sons.

In part­ner­ship with Ele.me, a Chi­nese on­line food or­der­ing and de­liv­ery app, the new shop re­opened at a food court on Yongjia road in down­town Shang­hai — this time with a li­cense. Ele.me paid the an­nual rent for the prop­erty.

Wu, who has a dis­abil­ity— a se­vere hump­back — said he will keep up his rou­tine at the new shop just as he did at his home, get­ting up every morn­ing at 3 am and mak­ing 300 pan­cakes a day.

“Ev­ery­thing is fine for me,” he said.

Yao Zhen, who is in charge of pub­lic af­fairs at Ele.me, said the com­pany was glad to co­op­er­ate with Wu to pro­mote the clas­sic snack of Shang­hai.

“It took us some time to find an ideal prop­erty in the city where an inch of land is worth an inch of gold,” Yao said.

The new shop, cov­er­ing about 7 square me­ters at the food court, has air con­di­tion­ing, a bet­ter chop­ping board and bet­ter light­ing than the old venue. The oven was moved from Wu’s orig­i­nal shop, while food ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing flour, lard oil and scal­lions are sourced from the same re­tail­ers he al­ways used.

On Fri­day morn­ing, a crowd of fans ar­rived to get a bite of the pan­cake praised as “de­li­ciously crisp, doughy and very sa­vory” in the BBC doc­u­men­tary that was broad­cast ear­lier this year.

“I heard about the pan­cakes for a long time but had missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to taste it,” said Sun Qiong, a Shang­hai res­i­dent stand­ing at the front of the wait­ing line. “I’m prepar­ing take 10 of them, in­clud­ing some for my col­leagues,” she said.

The pan­cakes cost 5 yuan each. ($0.74).

Li Wen­liang, a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, said the pan­cakes are as tasty as usual— maybe even bet­ter: “This is the fla­vor I am used to,” he said. “This is the fla­vor of Shang­hai.”

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CAO LEI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Wu Gencheng cooks onion pan­cakes at his new shop as fans line up to buy in Shang­hai. Wu was shut down ear­lier this year be­cause he lacked a busi­ness li­cense. Now he has one.

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