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Chinese Breakfast Crepe - Jian Bing?

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I think that's what they're called, based on what my googling. I just got back from a short vacation in Beijing, and we bought these for breakfast from a streetcorner stand and I fell in love. It's a savory crepe that's filled with scallions, sesame seeds, an egg, two different sauces (maybe something like hoisin and a bean paste) and a hunk of puffy fried dough, then folded and stuffed into a baggie to eat by hand on the go. I wish I could've had them for breakfast every morning! I was just about to post to see if anybody knew a place to get these in NY, when I noticed there's already a thread. But there's only one suggestion (a cart near the 6 train entrance at Canal and Lafayette) with no report back of whether it was successful. I'd be so excited to find a place to get them in NY, I'd even get up early for them!

Any ideas? In Manhattan or other boroughs?
Thanks!

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  1. Not sure if the one post that you found on Jian Bing pancakes was this particular long posting (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/338677) , but this thread has the title of “Scallion Pancake with Egg,” and there are a large number of posts (50 replies) discussing the Jian Bing or Scallion pancake with egg and where one could possibly find them, but the end result of the long thread is that there are probably no Jian Bing pancakes to be found in NYC.

    We are with you about the tastiness of the Jian Bing pancakes, but we have yet to find or hear about any Jian Bing vendors in any of the Chinatowns. Since the Jian Bing is a northern Chinese food, it would probably show up first in the Flushing Chinatown, but we frequent the Flushing Chinatown quite often and have not seen a Jian Bing vendor yet. Our guess is that if none of the NYC Chinatowns have them, it is doubtful that there are any in NYC. Like your self, we first ate a Jian Bing while on vacation in Beijing. After a long day of sightseeing and hungry, we came upon this street vendor with his little round stove on a cart and we ordered several Jian Bings. It was unexpected how good this simple little snack tasted, and especially when one is hungry, it tasted doubly good.

    Good luck in trying to find them, and of course, if you find a store or street vendor that sells them, we would be very interested in knowing the name of the store, since we enjoyed them very much also.

    1. I believe the menu in one of the stalls in the incredible mall at 41-82 Main lists them.

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/24790...

      For more on that food court, see
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/339644

      22 Replies
      1. re: Brian S

        Thanks Brian S for the info.

        The funny thing is that we have been in that mall many times, but have never seen a Jian Bing being made. We will have to make a more explicit and thorough check of the vendors at that Flushing Chinatown mall in search of the elusive Jian Bing pancake the next time we are in Flushing Chinatown.

        1. re: lwong

          Jian bing guo zi is the name, and we've been on the lookout for a decent version in NYC for years.

          Yes, the stall in the J&L mall in Flushing does have it listed on the menu.

          Squid kun’s Jan 27, 2007 post here has the photo of the menu. See the first column to the left:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/24790...

          It also fits the description in this recent Village Voice article of the “specialty” of what appears to be that same stall (except for the 50 cent discrepancy in price):

          http://www.villagevoice.com/nyclife/0...

          "When asked for the stall's specialty ($2), the dude cracks an egg, whips it, and pours it on the griddle. When it finishes cooking, he folds the egg around one of the blistered frybreads on the counter, first swabbing it with a tangy sauce. The result is yellow, crunchy, and scrumptious."

          Over a year ago now we saw a jian bing guo zi prodiced by this stall, and it did not look that appealing, so we have not ordered one.

          But after all this hype, we should; maybe they were just having an off day, or it could depend on who makes it

          We had already been burned once in Flushing by a jian bing guo zi offered at the now shuttered 2 story food court that used to be on Main St. back toward Northern Blvd. It was not the jian bing guo zi we had in mind.

          We are particularly wary of jian bing guo zi because of an episode in Shanghai last year -- the two stalls that we found selling them were manned by immigrants from elsewhere in China, and the product was not much better than what we found in Flushing.

          Later in Beijing we halfheartedly kept our eyes open for jian bing guo zi stalls. In the end we did not come across any.

          Anyone who has had an authentic Tianjin-style jian bing guo zi and can comment on the J&L stall’s version would be most welcome.

          Incidentally, there is a sign in this J&L stall indicating it is halal.

          Also, the Voice article says the proprietor is from Tianjin. And the link to the other post above indicates a customer was there who hailed from Tianjin.

          Is someone from Tianjin running a halal/islamic stall? Is the proprietor a Hui from Tianjin?

          1. re: eade

            Wow, thanks for the info! I have to go check out some of these suggestions. Even if I don't find jian bing guo zi, at least now I know what it is I'm looking for and how to spell it!

            1. re: eade

              I saw those enormous frybreads but was turned off by the sheer fried-ness of it, but if this is the jian bing, then wow, I'd love to get it. what I miss is the "da bing bao shiao bing" from Taiwan's Shihlin market which is almost a miniature version of this thing, but much smaller, with crunchy pieces broken up and wrapped by another crepe, along with various sauces, fresh herbs and condiments.

              1. re: eade

                Thanks Eades for your detailed and informative response.

                From the description by Sietsema of the specialty at that particular stall, it does not appear to describe the Jian Bing that we ate many times while in Beijing. The Sietsema article describes the Jian Bing being made as follows:

                "the dude cracks an egg, whips it, and pours it on the griddle. When it finishes cooking, he folds the egg around one of the blistered frybreads on the counter, first swabbing it with a tangy sauce. The result is yellow, crunchy, and scrumptious."

                Our understanding of a Jian Bing is that a crepe pancake batter is first ladled onto the round cooking surface and after cooking for a minute, than an egg is cracked onto the crepe and mixed into the crepe and than the pancake is flipped over. After more cooking, a sweet paste is brushed onto the crepe pancake, scallions and other spices are sprinkled, and a fried cracker is put onto the crepe and the crepe pancake is folded around the fried cracker and the Jian Bing is finally served to the customer. What Sietsema described in his article lacks the crepe batter for the pancake. Here are several Youtube videos showing Jian Bings being made:

                a. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjkIaE... (this video has a cool rotating cooking surface, which we did not see ourselves while in Beijing
                )b. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lQ5IQ...
                c. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPUWgX...
                d. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIw_XW...

                Take a look at these videos and advise if this is the same thing you saw being made at the stall in the J&L Mall on Main Street. Notice that all of the Jian Bings in the videos are made pretty much the same way with minor variations. The person making the Jian Bing with the rotating cooker and in one of the other videos did not flip the pancake over, however. While Sietsema’s “Jian Bing” has the egg and the fried cracker, it lacks the crepe pancake, hence despite what the menu might say, it is not a true Jian Bing pancake, unless Sietsema forgot to describe the crepe batter, but since Sietsema is a professional writer, this would probably be unlikely.

                But the next time we are at the J&L Mall, we will look up the stall with the Jian Bing pancake menu item. Seeing is believing.

                Note: We had originally made an additional post to this thread with the above Youtube video links to let everyone who views this thread see what a Jian Bing pancake looks like, and one additional slightly off-topic link for some very unconventional Beijing street fare, but our entire post was deleted we assume as being off-topic. With the present heavy hand of Chowhound moderators, it is not clear if this post will be allowed to stay, although we have self-censored the off-topic link to increase our chances of “staying alive.”

                1. re: lwong

                  Agree-- the next time we are at the J&L Mall, we will check out how exactly they make it.

                  The last time we saw this being made was a while ago, and can't trust fuzzy memory with something that has moved into everyone's radar!

                  1. re: lwong

                    "...unless Sietsema forgot to describe the crepe batter, but since Sietsema is a professional writer, this would probably be unlikely..."

                    Actually, from a Chinese person's point of view, I have found incorrect informations and translations in Sietsema's writing when it comes to Chinese food. He's not alone in this. I don't expect non-Chinese people to get everything perfectly in concept or in understanding the Chinese food, though, since it is just a different culture altogether. I would have to go back and find the stuff I've read that made me shake my head and just give up. Often it's not worth pointing out, because most people don't really care, anyway. Still, from time to time, it does get to me to read the general chowhound public's take on Chinese food based on half-truth and guesses (some very good ones).

                    But, aside from all that, the place at J & L Mall does indeed offer Jian Bing Guo Zi. It does have a pancake/crepe, but I didn't like their version, either! It did not have the street vendor taste, I'm sorry to say. I think if I remember correctly, Bigjeff have also had it and didn't really like it, either.

                    And I would not say whether it's "authentic" or not, unless you want to give the Chinese street vendors a label : "...Nah, these people are not from the "Street" region..they can't make an authentic jian bing guo zi...." (half kidding)

                    Let's just stick with whether it's tasty or not, forget the who and the where's.

                    1. re: HLing

                      well, I didn't have it, but I saw it, and I couldn't comprehend how you could wrap something around it since it looked so fried. It was like a giant flattened empanada except with no filling, and looked nothing like the thin crackers in those youtube videos which seemed to collapse instantly when under the crepemakers tools. but in the interest of empirical science, I will definitely have one, the next time I'm there picking up my muslim big breads.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        wait, so maybe you didn't see the fried wheat sheets, then...because they wouldn't make the Jian Bing Guo Zi ahead of time. They'd make it only when someone orders it. Mine came pretty late, and was already cold. The fried wheat sheets i saw were nothing like empanada. They were rectangular sheets with bubbles, blistards all over.

                        So, just to clarify: They DID have those extremely blistard-y dark, thin sheets/cracker laying around, but they didn't put that in my jian bing guo zi. Instead they put Youtiao, which of course, didn't have the crackling effect. Plus I was too full when it finally got made, and therefore didn't enjoy it much.

                        1. re: HLing

                          ya when I saw it, it was stacks and stacks of the stuff, definitely bubbly, blistery, etc. when I said empanada, I meant like . . . . deep fried and crackly and thick, like a huge flattened chebureki or something.

                          so they put you-tiao? that's weird. again, all this talk, and no action, I gotta get myself over there!

                          1. re: bigjeff

                            http://www.chowhound.com/posts/22908/... check out this yemini jian bing....

                            but yeah, when i had it at the mall way back when, they put youtiao in mine..actually, i think in some areas the Guo Zi refers to youtiao...But then they obviously put the deep fried wheat sheet in the Jian Bing they made for Sietsema. Maybe just to be safe you can ask for Jian Bing Bao Shao Mai. (Shao Mai being what this stall calls those deep fried sheets, not to be confused with the Cantonese shu mai (or however it's spelled)

                            1. re: bigjeff

                              you know, i looked up my references again, and yes, Guo Zi is usually referring to You tiao in Beijing. In the same reference, written by a Beijianese in exile in Taiwan (way back when the nationalist first went to Taiwan), he said that Shao bing, You Tiao with Soy milk, isn't really what the Beijing locals have for breakfast..that's more of a Mainlander in Taiwan evolution, or as he said, that it's probably from the South.

                              Anyway, and then I searched online for Jian Bing Guo Zi, and guess what? Tianjin (the city the guys at J&L Mall are from) is the proper place where this particular breakfast food started. In the receipe I have attached, they specify that the Guo Zi can be either Youtiao, or what they call "Bao2 Chui4" 薄脆 (which literally means "thin" "crispy"). The article says that a good Jian Bing should be made not with regular white flour, but with "green bean" flour, which I'm not sure if it's talking about Mung Beans, or some other type of legumes. The article said that the Tianjin version came over time from Shandong (East of the mountain) region, but then in the next page (not cited here) Shandong's own proper version of Jian Bing's recipe calls for a special blend of Yam and Corn flour.
                              In any case, this article also mentioned the Guo Ba Cai,( which is that soup with dried cut up Da Bing that we've explored in the J&L's thread.) as another item that's also of Shandong influence and that is a typical accompaniment to the Jian Bing Guo Zi.

                              But, I just want to say again, this does NOT mean that the guys at J & L Mall will give you a verison that's like the one you enjoyed so much in China or in Taiwan! So, please don't be disappointed. Besides, often, when i crave something, it's not just that food, but the air and water, and the surrounding and maybe even the company, the whole package that I miss. I'd still say, get a plane ticket and let's go already....!
                              --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                              http://www.csonline.com.cn 2004年04月28日3时47分 星辰在线

                              天津的煎饼果子

                                且不提文明全国的十八和街麻花还是狗不理包子。今天就说说这儿普普通通的煎饼果子。

                                处在九河下梢的天津人爱吃,恐怕不是那么难于理解的事情。对于"卫嘴子"的称号,天津的饮食的确有着与其他城市不同之处,就连一日之初的早点,都有着与众不同的风味。

                                煎饼果子最是出名,饭店酒楼里是吃不到的,唯有到一个个推着小车的商贩处才能品 味到含着浓郁津味文化的市民小吃。说它是市民小吃一点也不为过,它是千千万万天津人每天的必备早点,虽然平民之极,但是却也别有一番精致在其中。

                                首先,卖煎饼果子的小推车一定要干净,让人看着舒爽。其次,作煎饼果子的原料要好。摊煎饼的面一定不能是白面,用白面摊出来的煎饼不但入口发粘,而且还会有一种淡淡的酸味。面一定要用绿豆面,越纯越好。有的商贩干脆把青花的小石磨搬到推车旁,边磨边做,让这些食客看得已然流出口水。卷在煎饼里面的果子(油条或者薄脆)一定是当天新炸的,脆香焦黄。另外,撒在煎饼上的一定要是切的细细的香葱末。

                                舀一勺面摊在平底炉上,磕上鸡蛋,快速摊匀,撒上香葱,将煎饼迅速翻转过来,然后把油条或者薄脆放入,依次抹上面酱、辣酱,撒上一些椒盐和芝麻,浓浓的面香和鸡蛋的香气早已经把食客的肠胃刺激的咕咕作响了。接过来咬一口,绿豆面爽滑,果子脆香,还有酱的浓郁和芝麻的诱人,这一天的好心情已经从早点开始了。

                                一些在津过路的南方商旅,竟将煎饼果子作为礼物买回家乡,虽然路途的颠簸这份礼物早已失去了刚出炉时的诱人味道,但是带回家,放到微波炉里稍稍加温,还是能感觉到这与众不同的"早点风情"。

                                光有煎饼果子的早点好像仍旧没有尽兴,再要一碗锅巴菜,这早点才算是美央美奂。它是将锅巴(即薄煎饼)切成柳叶细片,放到卤内,这卤讲究也是颇多,要用清油煸茴香、葱姜末,加盐、酱油、芡粉、水制成卤汁,纯素,保证清晨的肠胃不至于受到油腻的"骚扰"。然后盛碗,再加麻酱、腐乳、辣椒、芫荽、香干制成。

                                青瓷小碗,碗内五彩斑斓,以素香为主,多味混合,清香扑鼻。吃到嘴里,卤润滑,锅巴香嫩有咬劲,再加上麻酱的酱香,腐乳的咸香,辣椒的辣香,芫荽的异香,香干片越嚼越香,激人食欲大振。

                                据传,煎饼果子和锅巴菜都源于山东的煎饼,后经演变,成为两种不同的风味饮食,恐怕煎饼的故乡也没有这样传奇的做法。天津旧时曾居住着许多在北京政坛不如意的达官贵人,天津的饮食也区别于近在咫尺的京菜,充满了奇思妙想,但却在平民之间平淡的流传不息。

                              1. re: HLing

                                thanks very much HLing for the research, I'll have to print out the above and get a translation . . .

                                1. re: HLing

                                  We may be completely out of luck trying to find decent jian bing guo zi here--

                                  There was a story in the Wall Street Journal today that indicated that it is not possible to find decent jian bing even in Shandong these days.

                                  The author and her grandfather visited his hometown in Shandong. She commented, “Dezhou, a relatively poor, but improving city about a 3½-hour train ride from Beijing, is a very different place from what my grandfather remembers. He speaks wistfully about the sweet watermelon, fresh dates and "jian bing," or paper-thin circular sheets made from corn-meal he recalls from childhood. These days, jian bing is considered tasteless, "old-fashioned" food by his grand-nieces, my cousins.”

                                  Ouch!

                                  The Flushing search must be truly futile.

                                  1. re: eade

                                    Maybe Mr. Jean-George Vongerichten is our only hope according to Gary Soup's post. I have no doubt in Vongerichten's ability to see the parallels in multi-cultural cuisine and to be able to recreate something magical. I'm also impressed to hear that he's out there sampling street food.

                                    This is how it might go: Jian Bing gets picked up by the Western world, turns into the next fad, and then gets re-discovered by the streets of China again...it will then be considered "new-fashioned".

                                    Unfortunately, I just KNOW I will never be able to afford it by then.

                                    1. re: eade

                                      The Shandong style jian bing/dan bing is still pretty easy to find in Shanghai, especially in the University District (Tongji-Fudan environs). Here's a YouTube video of the making of exactly the style that's popular in Shanghai. The poster told me it was shot just outside the Shanghai University of Economics, but I know of some others in the area. You'll stand in line and watch them hand-making your very own jian bing for the princely sum of 25 cents or so!

                                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPUWgX...

                                      1. re: Gary Soup

                                        Just got back from China. The jian bing I had in Shanghai was very tasty, much better than the two I had in Beijing. The Shanghai version never flips the egg part onto the griddle whereas they do that in Beijing. Flipping it seems to make it a wet mess instead of the perfect combination of crispy and saucy.

                                        Would kill for the Shanghai version in the states, but not the Beijing version.

                                        1. re: Gary Soup

                                          Looks great and we are getting closer. It's better than whan what we found in Shanghai last year, but the video dan bing lacks:

                                          1. scallion
                                          2. they did not put you tiao in it, it looked like a flattened version of you tiao

                                          1. re: eade

                                            What you are thinking about is probably the Tianjin version:

                                            http://tinyurl.com/2w7hdb

                                            The video, and what's most commonly found in Shanghai, is known as the Shandong version. Some stalls, in fact, like the one in another video from Shanghai, specifically advertise "Shandong Jian Bing":

                                            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ftEu7...

                                            The crispy thing put in this version is not youtiao at all, but what I believe is a fried doufu "sheet".

                                            1. re: Gary Soup

                                              Yes, you're right. We were looking for the Tianjin version.

                                              It could be obtained in Shanghai 20 years ago. Unfortunately last year we did not see it in either Shanghai or Beijing (and can't find it in Flushing either).

                                          2. re: Gary Soup

                                            Looks good! It's better than whan what we found in Shanghai last year, but the video dan bing lacks:

                                            1. scallion
                                            2. they did not put you tiao in it, it looked like a flattened version of you tiao

                                2. re: HLing

                                  Thanks for confirming that one of the stalls at the J&L Mall does indeed made proper Jian Bing Guo Zi pancakes, but we are saddened to hear from you that the Jian Bing pancakes there were not tasty. The Jian Bings we ate in Beijing were all tasty no matter where we bought them as long as we bought them from a street vendor who specialized in Jian Bings and made them in a round Jian Bing griddle. One time we bought a Jian Bing from a restaurant that was cooked in a frying pan and it just did not taste as good as the ones from street vendors who specialized only in making Jian Bings.

                                  We have been to the J&L mall numerous times, but never saw a Jian Bing being made there or seen any line for them, hence one possibility as to why the Jian Bings at the J&L mall are not good is that there is insufficient demand for the vendor to always have fresh ingredients (crepe batter, sweet bean paste, scallions, spices, and fried crackers) and to have an absolute super hot griddle (we assume that the stall had an authentic round Jian Bing griddle as shown in the many Youtube videos in our previous posting) to cook fresh and good tasting Jian Bings. Another possibility is the one you suggested in your last post in the thread titled “Northern Chinese Breakfast” that it is:

                                  “due more to the lack of the right equipment and ingredients than to where they are from. Some things just aren't duplicable, and some people just aren't as much a stickler in wanting to fully recreate what they've had from home.”

                                  And the final reason may be that this vendor just does not know how to make good Jian Bings, which is just too bad for us Jian Bing starved Flushing Chinatown denizens. But we believe that sooner, or later with all the northern Chinese immigrants surging into NYC, someone will open a Jian Bing street vendor cart in Flushing Chinatown.

                                  As to your observations that:

                                  “I don't expect non-Chinese people to get everything perfectly in concept or in understanding the Chinese food, though, since it is just a different culture altogether. I would have to go back and find the stuff I've read that made me shake my head and just give up. Often it's not worth pointing out, because most people don't really care, anyway. Still, from time to time, it does get to me to read the general chowhound public's take on Chinese food based on half-truth and guesses (some very good ones),”

                                  we would tend to agree with you about this for the general non-Asian population (all chowhound readers excepted of course) to a greater degree and to a lesser degree for the professional food critics, since they would be expected to do their homework and get things right or at least not to make inaccurate statements to mislead the reader.

                                  Hopefully, we will get a chance to check out the Jian Bing at the J&L Mall shortly.

                                  As to your suggestion to “get a plane ticket and let's go already,” to China to satisfy one’s craving for a Jian Bing, we are definitely with you about this, but our wallet unfortunately doesn’t agree. We wish we had that sort of freedom where one can make decisions without regard to cost.

                                  Thanks also for taking the time to research the origins of the Jian Bing in the earlier posts, but unfortunately we have to sheepishly admit that we are unable to read Chinese.

                        2. You, me, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten would get up early for them, I reckon. Here's an evocative description of "the best breakfast in the world" from the late, great, R W Apple's piece on Shanghai (ji dan bing is just another name for jian bing):

                          "There were crepes at other stalls - delicate cong you bing, or scallion pancakes, and ji dan bing, a kind of breakfast burrito. To make that, a short-order wizard spread batter on a drum-shaped grill with what looked like a painter's spatula, broke an egg on top, added a dab of fermented soybean sauce and threw in some chives, coriander and mustard-plant leaves. The whole process took just a minute. Then he slapped either a salty cruller called you tiao or a piece of crisply fried bean curd skin across the finished product and rolled it up like a scroll. Mr. Vongerichten, in seventh heaven, pronounced it "the best breakfast in the world."

                          http://tinyurl.com/2s67qt