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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.'”