"Dan bing is quintessential grandma food to me," Frankie Gaw, author of "First Generation: Recipes From My Taiwanese-American Home" says of the egg crepes he first ate as a kid. Gaw grew up in Cincinnati, but visited his grandmother in Memphis every year around Thanksgiving. From around age 5 through his 20s, she'd make a batch of dan bing for breakfast. It was just the thing to get Gaw, who describes himself as "not a morning person," out of bed.
There'd always be a plate of the crepes, rolled into cylinders and sliced into bite-size pieces, on the kitchen table when Gaw wandered downstairs. The three-person table was always set with a knit cloth - "very Asian grandma," Gaw says. Nibbles like Chex mix, persimmons, peanuts and tiny mandarin oranges were set on and near the table.
"As I ate the first batch of dan bing - with some scrambled eggs and orange juice - my grandma would start frying another batch. I remember listening for the sizzle, waiting for the smell of the crepes to fill her kitchen, and then taking that first bite of a fresh one," Gaw says.
Hot and warming, tender and just slightly sweet, fresh dan bing are a treat, and though they're typically a breakfast food, there's nothing wrong with having breakfast for dinner every once in a while.
After he moved to the West Coast in his 20s, Gaw started making dan bing for himself. "I was wanting them after a night out, almost like a midnight snack," he says. "Plus, they're so easy."
Indeed, dan bing are easy. The batter takes a few minutes to whisk together, and then, because they're thicker than French-style crepes but thinner than American-style pancakes, each one seems to come out perfectly flat and round without much trouble. It's the kind of recipe that's easy to memorize and make for yourself early in the morning or late at night after one too many drinks.
It's also indicative of the kind of recipes Gaw features throughout his book. "First Generation" isn't a 101 course on Taiwanese food. It's more like a memoir told in recipes. "For the book in general, I wanted to feature nostalgic and sentimental foods, things you would encounter in a family members' home, but wouldn't really see in a typical big food spread in a typical food magazine," Gaw says. "This is not food you would see unless you're part of someone's family. ... These are real, everyday meals."
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