Aside from the dishes we are most known for, like our famous Peking Duck and Dim Sum, here at Chili House we strive to serve the widest range of authentic Chinese dishes. One of our personal favorites happens to be our delicious Beef Pancakes, a take on one of China’s most popular treats. Today we are going to take a look at the history of this storied delicacy and how it came to prominence.
The snack, similar to what is known in China as “Jianbing,” traces its roots all the way back to the Shandong Province during the Three Kingdoms Period (220 – 280 AD). Legend has it that Zhuge Liang, the chancellor of the state of Shu Han, was struggling to find an effective way to feed his soldiers who had lost their cooking supplies during battle. As a result, Liang had cooks concoct a mixture of water and wheat flour to be cook thinly and evenly across copper-made griddles (and sometimes even using the soldiers shields as a cooking surface). The result was a light, crispy crepe that helps sustain and boost the morale of the soldiers on the battlefield.
The dish proved popular beyond its application on the battlefield, and would later be passed down through generations. Today, Chinese pancakes can be found cooking on street corners in every major metropolitan neighborhood across China. The recipe is quite simple; as the wheat and bean flour pancake fries, eggs, scallions and cilantro are added on top and folded. Finally, chili paste, hoisin sauce and lettuce are added to taste. The pastry is then folded a few more times for easy eating on the go.
To say the least, Chinese pancakes have become the quintessential breakfast food in China, satisfying scores of hungry workers across China. In contrast to popular American street fare, Chinese pancakes are anything but fast food. Every one is cooked fresh to order, meaning there is always a line at the local vendor. In fact, many plan their commute to work around setting aside enough time to grab one!
Up until recently one would have trouble locating the snack outside of China and Taiwan, but its popularity and reach has steadily grown over the years. Today, people across the US work to recreate and share the snack they fell in love with during their time in China. One of the most popular variations (and one that has proved quite popular with our customers as well!) are Chinese pancakes with beef . It is quite similar to the traditional recipe, the only difference being the use of slow-braised beef instead of egg. Rumor has it that this variation was popularized in Taiwanese and Chinese restaurants in Southern California looking for a way to have traditional dishes strike a chord with Americans, likening it to the ever-popular wraps and burritos.
Chinese pancakes are perfect for those looking to add another Chinese culinary icon to their list of favorite dishes. We suggest searching your area for restaurants and seek out all the different variations available. While you are at it, don’t forget to stop in for our beef pancakes as well!
One of the most wonderful and fascinating aspects of the culinary arts is the history behind each and every dish we enjoy. From the four course meals at Michelin Star-rated restaurants to the every day comfort food whipped up at the neighborhood “greasy spoon”, every dish has a unique story. The same can be said for traditional Chinese dishes, whose origins are as vibrant as the flavors they are known for. Today we are going to look at a staple of Chinese cuisine (as well as a staple of our menu!), the history of Peking Duck.
The earliest incarnation of the dish dates back to the early 14 th century. Hu Sihui, the official dietitian for the emperor and rest of the royal court during the Yuan Dynasty, included the recipe in his highly influential book Yinshan Zhengyao (Important Principles of Food and Drink) , which to this day remains a pillar of both Chinese medicine and cuisine. At this time recipes like these were considered highly guarded secrets, being perfected and reserved for only the highest members of royalty.
The fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 brought about many changes in China and paved way for the rise of the Ming Dynasty. By this time, the recipe took on the name “Peking Duck” , named for the capitol city in China (no more commonly referred to as Beijing). The dishes association with nobility continued, becoming a regular feature on imperial court menus. It was last during this time that Bianyifang, the first and oldest restaurant specializing in Peking Duck, was established the Qianmen area of Beijing.
Popularity only grew as time went on, and it was during the Qing Dynasty that Peking Duck became world renowned. During this period of time that the upper class populous began enjoying the dish along with members of royalty. In fact, the dish became so popular that it began to be mentioned in the works of poets and scholars. It was also during this time that saw the establishment of Quanjude in 1864, a world renowned restaurant still operating to this day well known for perfecting the hung-in-the-oven roasting technique.
As a result of the dishes prominence over hundreds of years, Peking Duck became a must-try for world leaders and dignitaries looking for a slice of authentic Chinese culture. In fact, Quanjude has hosted and served notable figures such as George H. W. Bush, Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, and Kim Jong Il. Legend has it that Quanjude’s Peking Duck playing a significant role in the normalization of relations between the US and China in the 1970’s.
During a secret visit to the country in 1971, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger and his advisory team dined on a 12-course lunch at Quanjude that featured Peking Duck. Impressed by the dish and the hospitality received during the lunch (It is said that then-Chinese premier Zhou En-lai personally showed Kissinger how to wrap a Chinese crepe around the duck), Kissinger and his team were put at ease during the trip. The very next year President Nixon personally flew to China to formally normalize the countries’ relationship, marking the first time a sitting president visited the People’s Republic of China and ending 25 years of separation between the countries.
Peking Duck is the quintessential Chinese dish, and should tried by any and every budding foodie looking to explore authentic Chinese cuisine. For the absolute best Peking Duck in the Bay Area, look no further than Chili House!