On Monday Shanghai’s very own “pancake god” was told by city officials to shut up shop, this time possibly for good.
Wu Gencheng, the renowned owner of Ada Scallion Pancakes (阿大葱油饼), was ordered by the Huangpu District Market Supervision and Management Bureau to stop selling his famous scallion pancakes (葱油饼) because he lacked a business license. After 34 years of providing Shanghai residents with his legendary treats, some are questioning the reasoning behind the sudden suspension (no, he did not get a Michelin star).
The controversial decision is a product of complaints received in July by the district bureau overseeing food safety. 59-year-old Wu explained in an interview with Shanghai Daily that the complaints had been made by “jealous neighbors” about the “hygiene conditions” of his store. On July 21st, government investigators found that the complaints were not unfounded and that Wu was in conflict with hygiene and licensing regulations. This led to a two month suspension that was quickly renewed on Monday after a brief re-opening sparked fresh complaints.
Locally dubbed the “god of scallion pancakes,” Wu has worked for 34 years to fine-tune the 10-step process for making the perfect 葱油饼 (Cōng yóubǐng).
Scallion pancakes are a common breakfast treat in Shanghai, Wu’s own savory snacks stuffed with pork scallions are the result of a strict recipe. “None of the steps can be skipped to make it quicker, otherwise the flavor will be different,” he told Shanghai Daily. Fearing that someday his expertise may die with him, Wu went on to state that he is currently “looking for a reliable apprentice who is willing to stick to the traditional way to cook the scallion pancake, rather than [try to] make a fortune.” Unfortunately, with a 5 a.m. starting time, there likely won’t be many recent graduates throwing themselves at the old master’s feet.
The Huangpu District government, stated that they will provide Wu with support if he decides to re-open his shop, provided that he operates a “legal and regulated business”. It appears that there is some confusion recently over the definition of a “legal and regulated business” as last week the restaurant Taian Table, run by German chef Stefan Stiller, was shut down the day after winning a Michelin star for also operating without a license.
Illegal or not, Wu’s pancakes were always extremely popular with locals, and “most” of Shanghai’s residents were outraged after hearing the news of the closure:
@呆萌的小马驹: The old man is very dedicated, he cannot die without a license, the government should persuade the old man to obtain a license so we can continue lining up to buy delicious pancakes.
In June of this year, Wu appeared on “Rick Stein’s Taste of Shanghai,” aired by the BBC. This appearance ended up increasing his store’s popularity with both Chinese and foreign customers, who traveled miles to try out the famous (infamous?) treat. After more than three decades in the business, this sudden spike in popularity may have been what provoked the recent complaints.
But hey, maybe British TV can also save the day? The “pancake god” may just be in luck, we’ve heard that there are some vacancies on The Great British Bake Off!
By Seamus Gibson
[Images via This New View / Shanghai Daily]