The street food stomach liner every Soho pub goer needs
Chinese food has come far in London over the past decade or so, leaving behind the takeaway baggage that still weighs it down elsewhere throughout the country. It’s therefore ironic that one of the most delicious Chinese dishes in the capital is served from what some will call a street food stall or hatch, but what is also effectively a takeaway for all intents and purposes.
Jianbing is a folded savoury crepe from northeastern China and Pleasant Lady is one of the very few places in London to serve it. While Pleasant Lady’s second and newest branch in Spitalfields has a few perches where you can devour your meal, the original Soho hatch really is a street food operation. Cooked to order, you scoff it either on your way to or from a night on the tiles.
Some jianbing devotees twist themselves into knots over whether the griddled pancake batter should turn out soft and supple or crispier – the secret truth is that both are equally delicious. Pleasant Lady’s jianbing are of the soft and supple variety, the thin yet sturdy crepe tearing apart with little effort. No matter what meaty filling you opt for, the wafer of crunchy fried pastry provides snap and crackle, while the garnishes of coriander, bean paste and chilli oil make for a lip-puckeringly sour, tangy, bitter and heat-filled experience – all the better for warming your metaphorical cockles on a cold winter’s day.
Of the three meaty options on the menu, the pork was easily my favourite – moist and chunky with the occasional crunch of crackling and squidge of fat. Doner-style shreds of lamb added their own cumin-ish punch to the already tart proceedings, but the miso chicken proved to be surprisingly dull. The vegetarian option saw a melange of cabbage and sweet shallots neatly balancing out the heat and tang of the sauces and garnishes. If you’re not going to have the pork, then the all-veg filling is the way to go.
In a better world, shift workers, late night revellers and tokers with a case of the munchies anywhere in London would be able to line their stomachs with a Pleasant Lady jianbing rather than defrosted chicken burgers and kebabs unworthy of the name. For now though, only those lucky enough to be in, near or passing through Soho (and Spitalfields) will get that distinct pleasure – I envy them every mouthful.
What to order: Pork; Vegetarian
What to skip: Chicken
Name: Pleasant Lady Jian Bing Trading Stall
Branch tried: 23 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 4DY
Phone: none listed
Opening Hours: seven days a week, noon – until sold out (AFAICT).
Reservations? not applicable.
Average cost per jianbing: £7