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Flushing Chinatown "Jian Bing" Street Vendor

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In 2007, there was a Chowhound thread ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3852... ) discussing a northern China street vendor food called “Jian Bing Guo Zi,” and it was lamented why no northern Chinese immigrant had yet opened a “Jian Bing” stand in Flushing Chinatown.

Well, seven long years later, a “Jian Bing” street vendor has recently opened in front of the “Barone Pizza” restaurant (40-27 Main Street) just north of the LIRR train trestle, in Flushing Chinatown.

According to the woman making the “Jian Bings,” she does not use a mixture of mung bean, millet, and wheat flour batter, but just uses a wheat flour batter. This vendor also does not use the flat crackers, but uses a “You Tiao” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYLoxm... ) to put inside the crepe. The crepe is only one third of the traditional size and costs $3.50 each, which is high for Flushing Chinatown, but nevertheless, the vendor had a brisk business, as there was always a line of people waiting for a “Jian Bing,” whenever we happened to walk past the “Jian Bing” stand.

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide an opinion on whether the Flushing street vendor’s “Jian Bing” tastes good, as we did not make a purchase. Our preference is for the “Jian Bings” using the flat crackers, as we feel that they taste better than the crepes with the “You Tiao.” While we do enjoy eating “You Tiao,” we feel that the chewier texture of the “You Tiao” overwhelms the soft texture of the crepe. And it is possible that just using wheat flour alone might result in a different texture of the crepe.

Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before another “Jian Bing” street vendor opens in Flushing Chinatown, making them with the flat crackers and using a mixture of mung bean, millet, and wheat flour for the crepe batter.

Several Youtube videos of “Jian Bings” being made:

a. “Jian Bing” in Xiaman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1WUsC...

b. “Jian Bings” in Beijing:
1) Jian Bing made on a spinning griddle with a flat cracker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOcmUl...
2) With a flat cracker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68kSZd...
3) With a flat cracker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyZb9e...

c. “Jian Bings” in Shanghai:
1) With “You Tiao”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M0jIM...
2) With “You Tiao”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZ92y7...
3) With flat cracker and sausage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWHIkS...
4) With flat cracker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krlwDH...

c. “Jian Bing” in Nanjin:
1) With a flat cracker: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C9rTE...

And for those who cannot wait for a Flushing street vendor making “Jian Bings” with the flat crackers, below are a number of different recipes for making “Jian Bings”:

a. The Beijing Hao Chi website has very comprehensive and detailed instructions for making home made “Jian Bings,” and also provides a history of “Jian Bings”:
1) Recipe for “Jian Bing”: http://beijinghaochi.com/jianbing_recipe
2) History of the “Jian Bing”: http://beijinghaochi.com/travels-in-t...

b. “Jian Bing” recipe: http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/eat/di...
c. “Jian Bing” recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/jian-bin...

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  1. The business near the bus stop on the side of the Golden Mall, sometimes called Halal Food/BBQ Chicken...

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingi...

    ...also serves jian bing wrapped around you tiao, or did as of 2012. I'm not sure what custom options might be available.

    Dave Cook
    www.EatingInTranslation.com

    1 Reply
    1. re: DaveCook

      Thanks for the information about the Halal Food/BBQ Chicken store.

      The funny thing is we had stepped into the store earlier last year to see what food items were available and completely missed the fact that they serve “Jian Bings.”

      But after reading your reply, we dropped by the restaurant again and asked if they still serve "Jing Bings," and were told that they still make them. However, only with "You Tiao," as you had mentioned, similar to the "Jian Bing" vendor on Main Street, instead of making the "Jing Bings" with the better flat crackers.

      Years ago, one of the mini-Malls on Main Street also sold “Jian Bings,” but they were cooked on a normal flat grill and after trying one, we were very disappointed. Here is the link to the Chowhound discussion: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4196...

    2. ah cool thanks for reporting

      1. I was extremely excited to see a crepe stone set up outside of the pizza place on Main street, a few doors down from the parking garage at the New World Mall a few months ago… there was a crowd gathered and everyone was ordering dan bing. I have never been to China but am very familiar with the dish from my obsessive youtube viewing.. anyway the dan bing I got was disgusting! I threw it away after a few bites. She was using hot dogs… hoison sauce, an egg.. that's about it. The crepe did not taste good at all. If you really want to try dan bing look for this cart - but I personally cannot recommend it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: shiwujoe

          Hot dogs are now quite popular in China now....

           
           
          1. re: scoopG

            Just to add, spent the summer in Chengdu and scoopG is right - virtually every jian bing vendor used tubed hot dogs. Of 4 or 5 in the neighborhood, only one didn't (they used a pork belly/bacon thing which really was no improvement over the hot dog).

          2. re: shiwujoe

            A "Jian Bing" made with an American skinless hotdog? We can understand why it did not taste good. (LOL) Plus her crepe batter did not have the fluffy texture as shown in the many video links in our original post.

            As shown in the videos, a "Jian Bing" is typically made with just the crepe, an egg, scallions, the flat cracker, a sweet sauce, and seasoning. Although like pizza with different toppings, a "Jian Bing" can have many variations also. But we have always preferred eating the plain "Jian Bing."

            Sorry to hear the news that the street vendor does not make good "Jian Bings."

            Everyone will have to be patient until a good "Jian Bing" street vendor shows up hopefully in the future in Flushing.

            Here is another link with more "Jian Bing" videos for your obsessive video viewing (http://www.tubeofmusic.com/?v=4M0jIM3...).

          3. Late to this thread - I think jian bing can use innovation - especially in the area of the crunchy cracker filling - I was thinking baked kale chips (seriously) or chicharrones.

            Wonder if the time to cook can be brought down further by pre-mixing the egg like delis do for breakfast sandwiches, 34 seconds for a single serving beats the pants off of just about any cooked American breakfast item, that I can think of at least.

            2 Replies
            1. re: avial

              you can cook a jian bing very quickly, it needs to be eaten almost immediately as well, it gets soggy really fast

              1. re: avial

                You want to improve on a classic food that is 1400 to 2000 years old? (LOL)

                However, like everything else in life, Jian Bings are not immune to evolution, although your proposals for "baked Kale chips" (possibly some bitterness?) and "Chicharrones" (maybe too crunchy and too much pork flavor?) may change the traditional flavor of Jian Bings. But your ideas are as valid as any other proposed changes to Jian Bings, but this would require that vendors adopt your ideas and customers enjoy eating these new Jian Bings sufficiently long enough to either effect permanent changes to the Jian Bing recipe or as good additions to Jian Bing variations.

                Your idea for "pre-mixing the egg like delis do for breakfast sandwiches" for quicker cooking, may not be the best change, as pre-mixing the eggs and letting them sit around may lose the freshness of the eggs, especially when it only takes about 10 to 15 seconds to crack the egg and mix the egg into the crepe batter. In reviewing the Jian Bing video links in the original Post, the Jian Bings only take between 1 to 1.5 minutes from ordering to handing over of the Jian Bing to the customer. You want to possibly compromise the taste of the Jian Bing with pre-mixed eggs, just to save 15 seconds at the most? You are one New Yorker in a hurry! What do you do BTW? You are not one of those HFT traders who must do everything at the speed of light, are you? (LOL)

                A number of years ago, we had engaged in a debate on a Chowhound thread regarding "age-old traditions and authenticity" ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6889... ), that turned rather acrimoniously with another poster, but the debate is a good summary of our views on authenticity. One paragraph from the thread summarizes our view:

                "But we still stand by our primary premise and statement that `authentic' foods have generally passed the long test of time and that there is generally some consensus as to the proper way to cook or eat that particular food. And everyone has the right to buck the authentic way of doing things with new ways, but then these new ways will also have to pass the “long test of time” to prove that they have the right to supplant the “age-old traditions.” In those areas of life where subjectivity holds much sway in the decision making, such as food, the arts, and literature, the only true criteria for greatness and goodness is does it pass the test of time. Will future generations also consider it great and good."

                Below are links to several sites that discuss the history of Jian Bings, and for a restaurant chain in Australia, "Bing Boy," that has adapted age old Jian Bings with modern updates similar to your proposed innovations:

                a. Bing Boy's history of Jian Bing - 1400 years old: http://www.bingboy.com.au/bings-story/
                b. Claim of Jian Bing being 2000 years old: http://kaleidoscope.cultural-china.co...
                c. "Bing Boy" menu: http://www.bingboy.com.au/menu/hey-bi...

                An American woman, Ana Stasia, recently opened a street cart making Jian Bings in Seattle (http://english.cri.cn/11354/2014/02/2...), but according to the article, most of her customers are Asian at the present time, although Ana is confident that "Jianbing will gain popularity among Americans." Time will tell if Jian Bings will eventually become as American as Apple Pie, similar to pizza, tacos, egg rolls, bagels, and other foods with a distinct ethnic or foreign character.

                You do not like the original authentic Jian Bings and this is the reason for your proposed changes to them? There would be many people who would disagree with you on the need for innovation, including Mr. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, of the "Jean Georges" restaurant empire fame, who pronounced the present Jian Bing as "the best breakfast in the world."

                Here is the quote from the old 2005 NYT's article (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/tra...):

                "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.'”

              2. I just posted this in the 2007 thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3852...

                Short story is, I asked my Chinese friend to find me a place in NYC that had jian bing guo zi. It took him all of 5 minutes on the internet. The key is he searched in Chinese. Here is the result: https://plus.google.com/1130572327661...

                And here is the Yelp page: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sheng-jin-eat...

                The place is supposedly at 41-40 Main Street. It's called 紐約天津風味小吃-盛津美食, or Niǔyuē tiānjīn fēngwèi xiǎochī - shèng jīn měishí (New York Tianjin flavorful snacks - Sheng Jin eatery). The photos of the jian bing on Yelp look promising. I'm not in NYC but if anyone can go check it out and report back, I would be extremely curious.

                Here's the secret for jian bing seekers: search in Chinese!
                煎饼果子 - Jiānbing guǒzi

                纽约 - Niǔyuē (New York

                )

                法拉盛 - Fǎlāshèng (Flushing)

                13 Replies
                1. re: tstone1227

                  The creator of pinyin, Zhou Youguang, born in 1906, recently celebrated his birthday. In the words of his brainchild, gongxi, gongxi!

                  As for jianbing, I distinctly recall trying at least two types while in China; one had a crunchy starch (perhaps an oversized fried noodle commonly found in Americanized Chinese restaurants, and the other was youtiao (sticking with the theme). Does Flushing have both?

                  Jonathan
                  http://buildingmybento.com

                  1. re: BuildingMyBento

                    The crispy stuff is called 薄脆 (báocuì: literal translation, "thin and crisp"), which is basically a fried wonton wrapper. I prefer it with the baocui. I bet if you order in chinese you can ask for it instead of the youtiao.

                    Again, I'm not in NYC now, so someone go to the Shengjin Eatery and find out for us!

                    I did find a good (thin-and-crisp-filled) jian bing out here in LA, but I'm sure you NYC folks couldn't care less about where that is...

                  2. re: tstone1227

                    Thank you for the information on the Jian Bing.

                    When we first saw the post, we were excited that there was a new restaurant in Flushing Chinatown that sold Jian Bings, but after reading further, the store "Sheng Jin" that is at 41-40 Main Street is the same store that was discussed in the old 2007 "Chinese Breakfast Crepe - Jian Bing?" post. After the J&L Mall closed, "Sheng Jin" moved to the new location at 41-40 Main Street. They sell a number of good food items, but the Jian Bing we tried years ago with their version of the flat cracker was not one of their better items. As Dave Cook posted in this thread, there are other stores that sell Jian Bings in Flushing, but not the ones with the flat crackers that we like better.

                    It should be noted that the Jian Bing street vendor we first posted about last year in this thread is no longer in business or at least no longer in front of "Barone Pizza." Every Jian Bing fan in the Flushing area will have to continue to be patient, especially waiting for a vendor that specializes in Jian Bings making them on the typical round Jian Bing cooking surface that street vendors use. The Jian Bing vendor discussed in the OP was one of the first street vendors of Jian Bing in Flushing. All of the other Jian Bing vendors discussed thus far in Flushing have been indoor vendors who do it as a sideline.

                    We are surprised that someone who does not live in NYC would be searching for Jian Bings in NYC. Are you doing research for a future trip to NYC in search of the elusive Jian Bing snack food?

                    1. re: lwong

                      "Are you doing research for a future trip to NYC in search of the elusive Jian Bing snack food?"

                      Bingo! I'm from New York but on the west coast now. Next time I go home I wanna be ready. Also I have a bet with my chinese friend who just moved to Long Island that the only (worthy) jian bing in the US is here in LA. Which has always been surprising to me, because of all the chinese food I've ever had (and I've had a lot) I would expect jian bing to be a big hit with the average American. I think if McDonald's had a jian bing, it would outsell the Big Mac.

                      1. re: tstone1227

                        Well, we must say that is a very extravagant claim to make that a Jian Bing would instantly outsell a Big Mac, considering America's attachment to one of the few distinctly American food items. Everyone in America knows what a Big Mac is. In fact the whole world knows Big Macs. But how many people in America would know what a Jian Bing is?

                        However, you are preaching to the choir, as we would definitely choose a Jian Bing over a Big Mac.

                        Coincidentally with your revival of the old Jian Bing post, we were in Flushing Chinatown yesterday going into the JMart Supermarket in the New World Mall via the Main Street entrance and noticed a small takeout food section on the left side of the entrance before the escalators that was selling a variety of food items. Out of curiosity, we went over to see what they were selling. There were sandwiches of various types (fried fish, pork, turkey, and others) for the low price of $2.00 each, and then we noticed the round grill and a sign for crepes and meat crepes. We asked the woman if they sell Jian Bings and upon being told that they do sell Jian Bings, we asked if they use the flat crackers and the woman pulled open the drawer showing both the flat crackers and the round You Tiao. We were told the plain Jian Bing costs $4 and the meat ones costs $6. We ordered a plain Jian Bing and do not know if it was by mistake, but they also put a skinless hot dog in the Jian Bing. We went upstairs to the JMart supermarket and immediately ate the Jian Bing while browsing and trying to decide which Chinese vegetables were the freshest to buy. The taste was not bad, but not as good as the ones we have had in China, as the flat crackers used in China had much more krinkles and a slightly softer texture with a little more give and the crepe batter could be improved with a little crispier texture, but this may have been due to the griddle not being hot enough, as the young lady forgot to increase the power on the electric griddle or possibly due to using flour rather than a mung bean flour. The skinless hotdog was fairly tasteless as expected.

                        In checking the Internet, Jian Bings are beginning to show up in many other American cities besides the usual big three with large Asian populations (NYC, LA, and San Francisco):

                        a. Chicago Jian Bing: http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/201408...

                        b. Seattle Jian Bing: http://www.bingoffire.com/

                        Are we witnessing the dawn of the ascendency of the Jian Bing in America in the 21st Century that will make people forget the Big Mac in the future? Should McDonalds be afraid? (LOL)

                        1. re: lwong

                          man if someone could reproduce the jian bing i had last time i was in shanghai, i would pay like $20 per jian bing and i would eat them all the time. the one thing jian bing though is they seriously have like a 2 mins half life, they get soggy and much worse if u leave them waiting at all

                          btw ive heard of them putting hot dogs in them before (strange as it sounds)

                          1. re: Lau

                            They are making them in golden in the bubble tea place across from the dumpling place next to xian. If looking at xian it's to the right and in that path leading to the street

                            1. re: Lau

                              If there's youtiao in the middle, sogginess doesn't matter as much.

                              The worst part about jianbing (in China anyhow) is the plastic bag in which they're placed. The jianbing vendors should really collaborate with pot holder vendors...

                              1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                Actually, I kind of appreciate the plastic bag because it keeps my hand from getting overly greasy. I mean, you gotta hold the thing (forget utensils!!!!) and I don't know what else you can hold it in without getting your fingers covered in oil. Paper towels might stick.

                                I had to eat a jian bing in LA without any plastic bag (it was given to me in the traditionally American Chinese Food take-out Styrofoam) and it was a messy disaster.

                                The best way to eat a jian bing is out of a tiny disposable barely detectable plastic bag on the dìtiě with one hand. Like those Taco Bell commercials but not disgusting.

                                1. re: tstone1227

                                  I had one today in the newly located Corner 28 on 40th Road. I will try to upload the video. It was delcious and used a big hunk of fried wonton in the center.

                                  1. re: ZenFoodist

                                    Video couldn't be uploaded but here's the photo.

                                     
                              2. re: Lau

                                Mmmm, that must have been one tasty Jian Bing in Shanghai for you to be willing to pay $20 for an equivalent Jian Bing in NYC.

                                We must hope that the few Jian Bing purveyors in America do not read Chowhound and learn about your desperate offer to pay $20 for a Jian Bing, otherwise there could be severe repercussions with price increases that will price everyone out of enjoying Jian Bings. But luckily, it is doubtful the many restaurants now selling Jian Bings in Flushing Chinatown read Chowhound. From the many recent posts on this thread, there appears to be a veritable explosion of restaurants in Flushing selling Jian Bings.

                                Lau, do you happen to have a small Chinese Trust Fund to be able to afford $20 Jian Bings on a daily basis? That's a $600 monthly habit just for Jian Bings, and we know that you must have other "must have" favorite costly food items, and not to mention possible other vices. (LOL)

                                ScoopG and Wildman496 mentioned in this thread that putting hotdogs in Jian Bings are now the rage in many cities in China. What do Chinese in China and in Flushing Chinatown know about good Jian Bings to sully them with skinless hotdogs.

                                1. re: lwong

                                  haha supply and demand my friend....provide a quality product and people will pay up for that