Unusual Jianbing in Beijing
- James G Jun 26, 2006 09:37 AM
While in Beijing two weeks ago, staying near Wangfujing, I went in search of a jianbing maker for breakfast. I was not surprised not to find one in this rather gentrified part of the city, but what I did find was something I had not seen before. The vendor and his wife had a jerry-rigged griddle like a jianbing maker, but instead of making a crepe they made a mandarin pancake (like you'd eat Beijing roast duck in). They would heat up their pancakes on the griddle, put a little dab of oil underneath, and then slide a beaten egg under the pancake to cook quickly. When the egg was cooked he'd flip the pancake, slather on some bean sauce and hot sauce, and then fill it, taco-style, with lettuce, scallions and cilantro. It was actually very tasty, but I have never seen such a thing before. Anyone else have more experience of these, and perhaps know what they call them?
Here's a photo: http://shuanglong.smugmug.com/gallery...
I've had Jianbing of sorts in Zhengzhou, Henan....as well as recently in Flushing, NY, but never in Beijing so I'm not sure how similar these are. I'm curious to hear how they are done in Beijing.
The ones in Zhengzhou were made with fresh crepe batter - turned over - an egg cracked over it - turned over again - bean sauce and hot sauce applied - some bean sprouts and raw shredded lettece and cilantro added, fold up in a square, about the size of a average greeting card.
The one in Flushing didn't have any raw veggies in them, but had a piece of deep fried crueller as the filling. These are called on their menu, "Jianbing Guozi"
Interesting - did he call them "jianbing"? In my extensive Beijing bing research (unhappily on hiatus since a bad bout of la duzi) I've discovered lots of different kind of pancakes/breads that are filled with fried eggs. I always thought of jianbing as a crepe. The big, flat tortilla-like bing are called lao bing or da bing and they're often filled with veggies, fried egg and sauce. There are also tudou si bing, which are lao bing stuffed with crunchy strips of stir-fried potato. And, of course, there are shaobing - baked buns - which you can also get filled with fried egg. Or, my favorite, jidan guanbing, small pancakes with an egg cracked in the middle. Yum!
He did indeed call them 'jianbing', despite the fact that he used the 'tortilla'. I am familiar with the other bings you describe, and this was unlike them. If you are in Beijing, and want to check it out, he's in a hutong just off of Wangfujing; enter the hutong at the north end of the first big department store on the south end of the street (cannot recall the name--it is recessed off the street and has one of those big drinks stands in front); he is at the end of the alley leading off of Wangfujing on the left hand side before it dead-ends at the little restaurant.
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re: James G
I've also seen a bing similar to the one described by James in the initial post at the Sunday antique flea market in Xian (no beans sprouts but yes, shredded greens). The folks who made these are from Shaanxi province and also called them jian bing. Note that the word "bing" encompasses not just cakes and cookies but almost all types of thin crepes as well. The paper-thin rice flour crepes used as wrapper by the Fukienese throughout SEAsia (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines etc) are called "pia" (thus, the lumpia of the Philippines etc) which corresponds to the character for "bing". Incidentally, there's a sidewalk stall near the east end of Dazhalan Jie in the Qianmen area that makes these thin bing but filled with a "wet" (the "lun" of lumpia) stirfry (in actual fact, done on the flattop griddle) of vegetables (thin batons of carrots etc). These looked intriguingly like Fukienese lumpia but I was in a hurry and could neither stop to taste nor to inquire further.
There are many regional versions of the jianbing that HLing describes, i.e. enclosing a doubled yiu tiao (cruller). One of these version is among the most famous hsiao zhi (snacks) of Kunming and is called the er kuay (er = ear, kuay is the kuay either of fast or of chopstick: I have to check if either "er" or "kuay" take a meaning-transforming radical). I was lucky enough to try er kuay in the area close to the University in Kunming.
I have seen various ways of writing er kuay (and the vendor I spoke to was herself not very certain of the exact words) but the official characters seem to be er = ear but with a shi (food) radical + the kuay not of "fast" or "chopstick" but kuay the unit of measurement (i.e. yi kuay = one piece). Er kuay of course refers not just to this particular snack-form but to the very dense, very compressed rice pancake which is considered one of the most typical food forms of Kunming/Yunnan (it's called one of the shi ba kuay eighteen odd things of Kunming). For more on er kuay, see the chapter called "Ba ba jiao er kuay" ("The pancakes called er kuay") in the excellent guide to Kunming snacks called Kun Ming Hsiao Ji (Snacks of Kunming) by Lao Kai (pen name of Chang Kai Mo) published in 2004 by the Yun Nan Min Tsu Tzu Pan Sheh. I found this book in the immense Xin Hua bookstore in the center of Kunming.
(Guys, I know that my transliteration is nearly incomprehensible. Sorry-never learned romanization and am guessing the corresponding letters in the Latin alphabet. Hope the Chinese words can be guessed from the context.)
Incidentally, another very tasty Kunming snack (also found near the university) is a thin crepe (made a la minute on the griddle) filled with chile-flecked potatoes cubes cooked down till very soft. I could swear that these were also called jian bing but I have to recheck my notes.