Marco Polo Taiwanese Pizza

Taipei, Taiwan

Pizza! My head practically does a 360 when I hear that magic word. It brings up dreamy utopian thoughts of Oompa Loompa’s dancing, and singing, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s Amoreeee!” It’s simply “SALIVATION SALVATION!” There are so many fucking different types of pizza in the world, it truly is like our universe … or my ex-wives’ mouths: never ending.

The debate on what style of pizza is best is also … endlessly debatable. Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Pizza didn’t originate in Italy. I know what you’re thinking: OK, Mister Smarty-fucking-pants, where in the hell did it come from then? Well, grasshopper, pizza originally came from, uh, China. Yes yes, you read correctly: the land that gave us Bruce Lee and Panda bears also invented the planet’s number-one delivery food. Shit, you’d think Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Round Table, and Papa John’s could at least have a Kung Pao Chicken Pizza, just out of respect for the history, am I right? Still, chances are very good that you won’t see it listed on your fav Chinese restaurant’s menu or at your local dim sum restaurant. WTF?

Last year, while traveling in Taiwan—it’s an island off the mainland of China—I was on a food tour in Taipei when I was introduced to what is considered to be pizza 1.0. As the story goes, during the 13th century, when Marco Polo, the globe-trotting Venetian, took a spin through China, he was introduced to this layered bread. He loved it so much that when he returned home to Italy, the first thing he did was to try and recreate the bread using local ingredients: tomatoes, mozzarella, and prosciutto. Mama Mia! Fast-forward seven or eight centuries, and you’d be hard pressed to find a country that doesn’t have some form of pizza or other. It’s a bona fide international dish.

The bread I tried in Taiwan, known as “cong you bing” (scallion pancake), was crusty on the outside, with multiple soft, moist layers on the inside. A combination of scallions, cheese, salt and sesame seeds, it doesn’t sound that complicated, but I’m told that the technique to create it takes years to master. All I can say is, the shit was good. There’s nothing like scallions and cheese mixed in soft doughy moist layers, all encapsulated in a crusty case. It just screams for dipping sauces! Duuuude, pass me the bong and hand me some ranch!

In the video, you can see the booth at a local market. The line was around the corner, and this Pancake/Pizza is all they serve (and you know how much I love myopic focus when it comes to restaurants). After my first piece, I went in for seconds and then started trying to figure out how to get an entire wheel into my carry on luggage. Hmm …

So next time you’re enjoying a slice, a pie, or a piece, slap your nearest Chinese friend on the ass and say, thank you! Then run screaming Marco! Polo! as they chase your ass down the street.

If you like stories on food check out another story I wrote about My Five Star to Dive Bar philosophy .

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