Scoop batter onto pan. Spread thinly. Crack egg. Spread egg over batter. Let cook 30 seconds. Sprinkle with chopped greens. Spoon sauce on with right hand while simultaneously squirting another sauce on with left hand. Top with pieces of crunchy fried ‘cracker.’ Loosen edges of pancake. Fold opposites sides in towards each other, and lightly tap to reduce volume. Fold in other sides to create square, slide quickly off and onto parchment. Re-oil pan, and repeat again. And again, and again, and again.
These were the steps I watched yesterday, as the woman behind the counter at O’Tray Noodles expertly prepared wrap after wrap for a long line of customers.
In the 10 minutes I was waiting, I watched, mesmerized, as she expertly prepared the wraps, working with such speed and consistency it’s obvious she’s done this thousands of times. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of times.
The Tianjin wrap is one of O’Tray’s specialties, and it’s sort of like a Chinese version of a savoury crepe. Nearly everyone customer orders one, so I did too.
O’Tray Noodles is in the President’s Plaza food court, and serves food Tianjin-style food (Tianjin ia a large city in Northern China). They’re most well known for their wraps ($3.75), Tianjin ‘burgers,’ soft tofu soup, and noodle soups. I don’t know how a Tianjin business ended up with a name like ‘O’Tray,’ but sometimes the food court world moves in mysterious ways, and I’m not one to question it.
I asked for a wrap, the soft tofu soup, and a burger. Unfortunately, they were sold out of the burgers (my heart broke a little because the picture of it on Chow Times looked unreal), so instead I asked for the pork buns ($5.50). Then there was a mixup and they didn’t realize I wanted the soup, so I only ended up with the buns and wrap! Oh well, such is life. The wait had already been quite long, and I just wanted to get eating. Fyi, other write-ups on the soup describe it as soft and custard-like, with the tofu in a slightly spicy broth, with fungus and bamboo shoots. Sounds wonderful, and I’ll surely try it next time.
The buns were fairly standard – steamed dough with pork inside – and while they were tasty, they’re not something I’d necessarily recommend.
What I WOULD suggest, however, is the wrap. For just $3.75, it’s a wickedly good vegetarian lunch or snack.
It tastes like a very egg-y crepe, with sweet and spicy sauces that get soaked up by the crackers. There’s a bit of crunch, a bit of heat (you can request no spice), a satisfying chew, and it’s filling.
I’m still kind of fascinated by the fact that until yesterday, I’d gone 346 days in Richmond without even knowing the President’s Plaza food court existed. It’s small and not particularly glamorous, but there were a few other places that looked worth checking out, including a handmade dumpling stall.
I’ll be back, and highly recommend O’Tray. Just don’t be in a rush – there are only two people there, and they’re very busy!
One place I HAVE visited countless times in Richmond is the La Chocolaterie shop in Izumiya Market, where I headed yesterday after lunch to get some chocolate.
They have two new flavours of truffles: dark chocolate with chili, and lavender.
I tried the chili chocolate, which was rich and spicy, though I tragically dropped my second truffle on the ground. Was that the Fitness Gods punishing me for eating chocolate after a workout? I shall never stop eating chocolate – NEVER! I think it just means I’ll have to return and buy more.
Vegetarian options available
Expect a bit of a wait at busy times
VERY reasonably priced