Articles

Pancake by any other name

In Food, Hong Kong, Pancakes, Updates on April 8, 2013 by triotriotrio

JQBC

JQ and the Beggar’s Chicken

The Ching Ming Festival in Hong Kong is one of the traditional Chinese holidays that give people an opportunity to remember and honor their ancestors at gravesites. Sometimes known as Tomb Sweeping Day, it is a family day where remembrance and celebration are combined to create a special period where busy families can be together.

Like many Hong Kong holidays, I feel a little out of touch. I have no tombs to visit and no relatives to commune with. But like many expats I have taken the opportunity to embrace the day and celebrate it my own way. After all, a day off is a day off.

It was on this occasion that I celebrated with several friends (new and old) at a traditional Chinese restaurant. This place is best known for their Peking duck and their Beggar’s chicken. This is a dish that the chicken is baked in a clay enchasing with herbs and other spices. The clay hardens during the cooking process and one of the joys of this dish is one of the luck party gets to take a big hammer and smash it open. It is delicious.

The meal came to an end and the dessert menu appeared. There are several points that I would like to make at this juncture:

  1. After such a gluttonous meal, there was no need for dessert
  2. Chinese desserts tend to be very different from Western desserts
  3. Pancakes are not a dessert dish

It is times like this that I should forgo with dessert but the menu did sport two pancake selections, and being a person with a considerable curiosity, it was imperative to try them. The first pancake had a red bean filling and the second had a date filling.

“A pancake by any other name would be just as sweet”

The problem is that these were not pancakes. Like many other products on the streets of Hong Kong, things are called pancakes but in reality they are not. As a reminder, a pancake must meet four criteria:

  1. It must be made from a batter (flour based which is in liquid form before cooking)
  2. Must be prepared on a grill
  3. Must have a topping
  4. Two sided
c-pancakes

“Pancakes” – photos by J Theunissen

As I suspected, these pancake imposters were in fact fritters. For simplicity sake, I will rate them based on the criteria standard.

  1. The mixture was made from a dough rather than a batter
  2. They were deep-fried
  3. No topping
  4. As stated, they had a filling

I will acknowledge that they were good, especially the date one. The deep-frying process however made them far too saturated with oil.

Hong Kong is a world city that gives the outsiders a unique insight to the Chinese diaspora. Along the way, culture has a way of getting side tracked and the nuances that make something so unique are lost. In the same way that I will never quite understand Tomb Sweeping Day, I am not sure if Chinese people will really understand the pancake.

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One Response to “Pancake by any other name”

  1. Long time, no pancake news. Now I’m craving again.

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