Yesterday, we were mind-boggled to discover that Serious Eats posted about Kung Fu Bing at the very same time we did! So what led the site’s writer, the insatiable Joe DiStefano, to this yellow beacon? No less than Chinatown resident Zak Pelaccio, who gave it mixed praise: “Is it just a perverse Asian/Western fast-food mistake or is it an insidious government conspiracy to control population growth? I don’t know, but that Panda sure is cute!” Obviously, this mystery is still unfolding like an overstuffed crêpe, so we called a rep who told us that there are no fewer than 6,000 locations throughout China, where they operate under the name Taiwan Handmade Pastry. This would make the chain about six times more ubiquitous than McDonald’s there!
A Google search turned up nothing to support the claim, but the story goes like this: CEO Chai Lei discovered bing in Taiwan and opened the first store — using his own recipe of wheat flour, vegetable oil, and seasoning powder — in 2003. Now there are franchises everywhere except Tibet. The chain is similarly bullish about a U.S. expansion. We’re told that the second store will open next month at 86th Street and 20th Avenue, in Sunset Park, and no fewer than eighteen more are planned for New York in 2009. Surely an impossible feat, but we’re looking forward to watching them try. If you’re not exactly sold on the current offerings, know this: The rep assures us that “We keep developing new flavors all the time.”