What’s hot? A Shanghai-style pancake stuffed with spring onion and pork, fried and grilled until crispy and brown.
The wait Mr Wu (A Da) has been using exactly the same recipe since he opened the shop in 1982. Numbers are distributed from 5am and the shop opens from 6am. Pancakes (7RMB each) were once limited to two per person – now five – as Mr Wu does everything himself (with an assistant to chop and clean). Only about ten pancakes are made every 20 to 30 minutes. Don’t want to wait in line? Scalpers charge ten times the usual price. You can get lucky. I arrive at 8.38am on a Thursday morning and there are fewer than ten people queuing. I get served a little over an hour later at 9.50am, but only because I insist on buying a single pancake when Mr Wu wants to sell two so I get sent to the back of the queue again. Don’t ask.
Why queue? In a city where nothing is permanent, a pancake that’s stayed the same for three decades intrigues. ‘Ada reminds us not to forget why we started,’ a fashionably dressed tourist says, telling me that he found the place via social media. ‘It’s the trendy thing to line up for two hours and snap shots for five minutes for internet content, but [we] came to taste the old Shanghainese food,’ says a couple.
Worth it? Mr Wu’s not stingy on the scallions or the oil, which means an overall quite bland pancake radiates with the smell of fresh spring onion. Definitive yes.