Shanghai (Spring) Breakfast
The most over-observed, polite conversation point in Shanghai: the tardy arrival of the new (warmer) season. Rather than pine about how much we missed the weather, with it’s beautiful blue sky, tweeting birds and golden morning sun, we celebrated it’s company with a delicious home-cooked stack of thin pancakes — not crepes — thin pancakes. I’m not going to explain the difference, you’ll just have to trust this former skeptic that one indeed exists.
110g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
200ml milk mixed with 75ml oz water
Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl with a sieve held high above the bowl so the flour gets a airing. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Begin whisking the eggs — any sort of whisk or even a fork will do — incorporating any bits of flour from around the edge of the bowl as you do so.
Next gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking (don’t worry about any lumps as they will eventually disappear as you whisk). When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any elusive bits of flour from around the edge into the centre, then whisk once more until the batter is smooth, with the consistency of thin cream. Now melt the 50g of butter in a pan. Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in, then pour the rest into a bowl and use it to lubricate the pan, using a bit of paper towel to smear it round before you make each pancake.
Now get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium and, to start with, do a test pancake to see if you’re using the correct amount of batter. I find 2 tbsp is about right for an 18cm/7in pan. It’s also helpful if you spoon the batter into a ladle so it can be poured into the hot pan in one go. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a palette knife to see if it’s tinged gold as it should be. Flip the pancake over with a pan slice or palette knife – the other side will need a few seconds only – then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.
Place a metal colander over a few centimeters of simmering water and line it with baking paper (or a tea towel). Stack the cooked pancakes in here and cover with a lid to keep them warm and moist while the rest cook.
To serve, make a stack of 3–4 pancakes, drown them in a diabetic amount of maple syrup, a few drops of fresh lemon juice and top with fresh strawberries (or your favourite Summer fruits).
Strawberries are one fruit that Shanghai does extremely well. They’re rosy red, incredibly sweet and not nearly as expensive as they are in Australia. Their secret…a ‘special’ sustainable fertiliser.
Another thing Shanghai does very well is extremely tasty, cheap eats (one of my favourites). There’s not much cause for cooking in a town with even more restaurants than there are cabs to get you there. So far though, I haven’t found anywhere that does breakfast as well as I do at home. And I’m not the only one.