BEIJING DRUNK-FOOD, JIANBING
WITHOUT THE BRAVERY FROM WITHIN A BEER CAN… YOU CAN NOW MAKE THIS SIGNATURE BEIJING STREET-FOOD AT HOME
What the hell’s this? Well… let me refresh it for you.
If you have ever lived or travelled to Beijing. It was nightfall. Granted that you should be excused by the overwhelming remorse that soon followed the moment you stepped out of the airport, you thought, it would be in your best redeeming interest to hang out with some old or newly acquainted companions for a night of bad behaviors around the Work’s Stadium in Chaoyang District. After what probably felt like a mirage of flying alcohols, soul-murdering-ly bad musics, and an unbroken stream of ugly faces, you woke up the day after, half-alive, with a banging headache and wondering how the hell did last night end. While other histories were less certain or best left forgotten, chances were, whether you remembered it fully or from the swamp of broken memories, that without even knowing what it was called, you ended it with this.
This, this is called jian-bing.
Here, before I say anything more, I want you to listen carefully. It is not, your fault. We’ve all done it. We’ve all, for more than once, either unconsciously or with full consent, stood under the dingy lightbulbs from a hygienically suspicious food-stall in a notoriously poisonous country, and ate this thingy that highly resembled a french crepe on one side, but marbled with beaten egg on the other, made by someone reaching into buckets of some things that both screamed highly dubious at best. Yes, that was a long sentence, because I just wanted to rip it off fast like a bandage for you. It’s ok, my friend. It’s just a Beijing thing. It probably didn’t hurt you as bad as you thought it would. It probably, if memories are slowly coming back, tasted much better even in the haze of your drunken skepticism. Between it’s thin, soft and slightly chewy body, there was the appetizing aroma of a skillet-fried egg, the pungent and salty punch from the smothering of chili sauce, and to your surprise, a shattering and crunchy contrast from an unknown source that you were too drunk to identify. Most likely, it was actually, really really tasty. And dare I say, it has probably, been missed.
Now, without the bravery from within a beer can, or the risk of losing a liver, you can make this signature Beijing street-food at home, knowing that none of the ingredients contains traces of stray cats. Ha ha, just kidding.
No I’m not.
Makes: 3 jian-bing using a 12″/30 cm pan.
The original jiang-bing (also known as jian-bing-guo-zi) was popularized in Tianjin. This recipe features an adapted Beijing-style jian-bing, not Tianjin-style, which is a different thing entirely. There are, obviously, things that we need to do differently at home than how it’s done at food-stalls:
- First of all, jian-bing stalls use a T-shaped spatula to spread the batter, in a circular motion, across a giant preheated griddle (very much like how French crepe-stall does it). I doubt that the majority of us has the kind of equipment or skills to pull that off at home, so, here we are going to start by swirling the batter evenly across a COLD pan, and once we have an even layer of batter, then we apply heat.
- Secondly, because the pan I used wasn’t nearly as big as theirs, my jian-bing was expectedly smaller. And if your pan is even smaller than mine, which is a respectable 12″/30 cm crepe-pan, then your jian-bing will be even smaller-er. But that shouldn’t affect the flavour or texture.
- Thirdly, as much as I try to keep the flavour/texture as authentic and close as the jian-bing in Beijing, there are compromises that need to be made. For example, most Beijing jian-bing uses batters made from wheat flour plus a variety of ground Asian grains, ranging from mung bean (the “classic”), millets, purple sticky rice, and etc. The grains are usually soaked for several hours then ground through a stone mortar to make a batter… yeah, I know. And even if I was willing to spend all that effort and time to do so, the difference just doesn’t justify it. Because to be honest, they don’t actually taste all that different from one and other! Even when I switched the grains to using buckwheat flour, and rye flour, the result tasted/felt almost indistinguishable (because the batter is still mostly flour). So I would suggest, instead of soaking/grinding your own mung beans, just use buckwheat or rye.
- Finally, perhaps the weirdest compromise ever. Beijing jian-bing is stuffed with something called “bao cui”, which are thin sheets of crispy and blistered fried dough that, as much as the crunch is lovely, all look like they are from a single, unknown, suspicious and unreliable source (The Only-idiots-would-eat-things-made-in-this-place Factory). The texture can be closely described as fried dumpling-wrappers. If you want to fry a bunch of dumpling wrappers for this, knock yourself out. I on the other hand, decided to use… lightly salted potato chips instead. That’s right. It works. It’s yummy. Their crunch is lovely. You choose.
Needless to say, the possibility of this recipe is endless. But before you embargo on your own “adaptation”, I would strongly urge you to try the “original” first. It is Beijing’s most well received street food for a reason.
UPDATE 2017/08/06: Rye flour does not work as well as buckwheat flour so I removed it from the recipe.
- 1/2 + 1/8 cup (90 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (35 grams) buckwheat flour
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup (223 grams) water
- 5.3 oz (150 grams) ground lamb, or beef, or pork
- 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp salt (the sauce is salty so we're not going to salt the filling too much)
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 cup (32 grams) finely diced scallion
- 1/3 cup (22 grams) chopped cilantro, or mint (I prefer mint)
- 1/4 tsp each of ground black pepper and white pepper
- 1/4 cup (78 grams) sichuan douban paste/broad bean chili paste (you can use other brand you prefer)
- 2 tbsp (40 grams) honey
- 1 1/2 tbsp (30 grams) smooth peanut butter
- 2 grated garlic
- 3 tbsp water
- 3~4 large eggs
- 3~4 large handful of lightly salted potato chips, or fried dumpling wrappers
- TO MAKE THE BATTER: At least 30 min before using, whisk together all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour (or rye flour), cornstarch and water together until lump-free (DO NOT worry about overworking the batter). Set aside.
- TO MAKE THE FILLING: Evenly mix ground lamb (or beef, or pork) with cornstarch, salt and ground cumin. Add 1/2 tbsp of oil into a skillet over high heat, then cook the ground meat until evenly browned. Transfer to a large bowl, and let cool for 15 min. Mix with finely diced scallion, cilantro (or mint, which I prefer), ground black and white pepper. Set aside.
- TO MAKE THE BROAD BEAN CHILI SAUCE: Mix sichuan douban paste, honey, smooth peanut butter and grated garlic together until smooth. Add 2 ~3 tbsp of water until the sauce loosens up into the consistency of mayonnaise. Set aside.
- TO MAKE THE JIAN BING: Choose a non-stick crepe-pan as large as possible (mine is around 12"/30 cm). Rub the surface of the pan with an oiled paper-bowel, not too much, just so it has a light sheen (too much oil will deter the batter from grabbing onto the pan). Pour enough batter into the pan to coat the entire surface with a thin layer, swirling the pan while the batter spreads outward to the very edge. Then set the pan over medium-high heat. The batter will set fairly quickly, in under a min.
- Crack 1 large egg directly onto the crepe (*NOTE: if your pan is much smaller, you may only need 1/2 egg for each crepe, in which case, beat the egg in a separate bowl then pour 1/2 onto the crepe). Use a wooden spatula to gently mix the egg and spread it across the entire crepe. Let the crepe cook until slightly browned on the bottom, which will take approx 4 min.
- Once the first side is slightly browned, TURN OFF THE HEAT, then flip the crepe over (the residual heat is more than enough). Brush the sauce generously across the whole surface (this is where all the seasoning is from so don't be shy), then add a thin layer of the meat-filling around the center, and a large handful of lightly salted potato chips. Use two spatulas to fold 1/3 of the crepe over from both sides, flattening it by pushing it down with your spatulas. Then turn it 90 degrees, and fold the 2 ends over again. Serve immediately.
- Start the next crepe with a cold pan again. Simply rinse the pan with a bit of running water then dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Laura (Blogging Over Thyme)April 24, 2015 at 1:44 AM
KenApril 24, 2015 at 2:02 AM
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I lived in Beijing for 5 months and ate these whenever I could – mostly while sober. Can’t wait to try your version!!
KenMay 8, 2015 at 2:27 AM
Tried these for breakfast last Sunday morning. Outstanding!!! The potato chips were brilliant. Thanks again!
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 8, 2015 at 2:41 AM
Yay!! Someone else mentioned that she didn’t have so much luck with it, and I was just getting worried. Phew, glad to know it works for you!
Ursula @ LilVienna.comApril 24, 2015 at 2:20 AM
Looks dreamy. I like the potato chips in the filling ;-)
LaurenApril 24, 2015 at 2:34 AM
This is so on point. All of it. THANK YOU
Dini @ Giramuk's KitchenApril 24, 2015 at 3:16 AM
That Egg yolk on the outside… holy moly!! I am so loving the filling to… I haven’t had this before, but LOVE street food! Somehow those dubious street “cafe” places are where the best food comes from! I’d hate to think of what the secret ingredient must be… but then who the hell cares!! :D
Abbe @ This is How I CookApril 24, 2015 at 3:24 AM
I am loving this! I also suppose these are available in Shanghai where my man boy lives, and that I presume he eats after his drunken stupor? Or at least when he wakes up? Well, if he ever comes home, I will surprise him with these. But I don’t want to wait that long.
cynthiaApril 24, 2015 at 3:32 AM
This is absolutely magical.
MelindaApril 24, 2015 at 4:00 AM
Mandy – consider a “drunk food” category . . .
JessMay 9, 2015 at 8:38 AM
I second that!
StephanieApril 24, 2015 at 4:43 AM
You nailed my experience of Beijing nightlife lol… glad things haven’t changed THAT much since late 2007. I also remember these delicious things, but pretty sure I had them when I was sober too. Btw did I tell you you’re one of my biggest food heroes now? You, and Jonathan Gold formerly of the LA Weekly, because of your fearless approach to food. Fuck the Food Network celebri-chefs. I would love to meet and cook with you someday.
JJ BermanApril 24, 2015 at 5:05 AM
Oh my! I spend a year in Beijing and got hooked… I have been on a mission to find jian bing in restaurants all over the country. I literally would try different combinations and spellings in Google and Yelp with no luck… I can’t put into words how excited I was to read this post! Thank you!
Emily LangelandApril 24, 2015 at 5:16 AM
Thank you! I’ve been looking for some reincarnation of what I ate in Beijing 2 years ago. :)
Candice CarsilloApril 24, 2015 at 7:11 AM
When we first moved to Shanghai, without being able to speak Chinese, we would call these things “Egg McMaos.” Literally our favorite Saturday morning treat. Thanks so much for posting this; I was despondent that I would be missing these things when we return the states later this year. Love your blog!
Rebecca @ DisplacedHousewifeApril 24, 2015 at 7:16 AM
Makes me miss Beijing. YUM. xx
Jackie FletcherApril 24, 2015 at 7:16 AM
Wow! Very good! Can’t wait to make it. (Will give you a full report). Love how you presented the steps. Very good.
TaiApril 24, 2015 at 7:48 AM
OMG. Potato chips. You’re a genius, and I could hug you. But seriously. I’ve been trying to crack the jianbing recipe for years, and failed colossally. You are officially my favorite person on the internet this week, possibly month.
RuthApril 24, 2015 at 9:46 AM
Hao hao hao chi!! I am really looking forward to making these and amazing my 6 years living in China family.
You might want to edit paper bowel up there in number 4 though.
I do enjoy eating bowel/intestine, but…
LaurieApril 24, 2015 at 11:47 AM
Ha! Good one! One might need a towel after eating bowel/intestine…….
Erin @ Shanghai SpiceApril 24, 2015 at 10:49 AM
Amazing use of the potato chips. This made me want a jian bing for lunch, I think I’ll go get one :)
LaurieApril 24, 2015 at 11:54 AM
Hey Mandy- I’m liking the looks of this one! Anything eggs are our thing because we have chickens and their eggs are delicious. Love the potato chip addition. When my husband and I were growing up everyone put potato chips on sandwiches. If you didn’t do it, you were strange……..
How is Dumpling?
mandy@ladyandpupsApril 24, 2015 at 3:49 PM
Hi!! I think Dumpling is defying all doctor’s prognosis and decides stick around for longer. He’s not exactly “comfortable”, but his condition is “stable” I guess. The hardest thing is to try to get him to eat more. He’s lost a lot of weight. Are you thinking of another dog? Is it time yet?
LaurieMay 6, 2015 at 12:52 AM
I’m glad Dumpling is hanging in there! We still have our other dog, Jade, and she is a lot to take care of. She has terrible allergies. I really want to get another dog but I’m not sure I have the energy, yet. You may want to try feeding some organic, unrefined coconut oil to Dumpling. Most dogs love it and it might help him gain a little weight. It has helped with Jade’s allergies a lot.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 6, 2015 at 1:48 AM
Laurie, you’re always such a dear support :) I do have coconut oil! I’ll try if he wants a lick tomo. Thanks!!!
Millie | Add A LittleApril 24, 2015 at 3:21 PM
This looks amazing Mandy – the textures and flavours! Gah! Too good!
EllieApril 24, 2015 at 7:27 PM
Wow, ok. Seeing the mix of flavours and textures in this I can see exactly why it appeals when drunk (or even sober) despite the seriously dubious stalls so thank you for a chance to try it without risking regretting it the next day
Charlie (Chockywoky)April 24, 2015 at 8:55 PM
I seriously have to get around to making this sometime!! It reminds me so much of the time I spent in Taiwan when our host bought us these sort of delights for breakfast along with the really thick/creamy soy/peanut milk – which is probably why I love your blog so much.
Ps. I really do hope that Dumpling’s better now!
shindoggiiApril 24, 2015 at 8:56 PM
I always wondered where those crispy inner bits came from too, they all had a striking similarity from each street vendor…. but those guys with the spinning hot plates … now they rocked bing’s to a whole nother level!
SamApril 25, 2015 at 12:59 AM
Oh, you are my favorite person right now. During my time in Louyang, I think I had what must be the Tianjin style jian bing, but this is going to help me immensely in my recreation. Well, I’ll probably try this version first. ^_^ Thank you!
MariApril 26, 2015 at 9:52 AM
I feel so lucky; the crispy dumpling wrappers are so popular here that you can literally buy them at the supermarket. The most ubiquitous brand is made by the local company Maebo (http://one-ton.com/) but pretty much all local snack companies have their own version. Clearly, I have to make this!
ellie | fit for the soulApril 27, 2015 at 7:30 AM
This seriously does sound awesome, Mandy! Oh man I thought it was a burrito at first, haha. It’s so different and the flavors seem unique. And aside from the fact that you’ve scared half of us from eating in Beijing (Ah, who am I kidding? I’ve eaten chicken from remote villages before!) You’ve convinced me I need to try this soon, haha.
But can I step on my soap box of memory lane for a second? When we were on India missions the funniest thing happened (funny to us, not funny to vegs). We were going into a villager’s sweet,cozy little home to dine and have Bible study with them. We notice a cute little hen clucking around the yard and thought, “awww cute wee bird. we don’t see those in our area, do we?” until they bring us out the yummiest spicy curry-type broth with super fresh chicken with all the bones in. We step out of the house an hour later and….where’s the bird? *shrugs shoulders as the host smiles ever so proudly* :P It was awesome!
ErinApril 29, 2015 at 6:01 AM
First time commenter here – HUGE fan of your blog!
Had to share, though, that I made these last night, but rather than using just plain ole ground meat.. I had just made your Kimchi Meatloaf a couple of nights ago, so I smashed that up in a pan to reheat it, mixed in the green onions and mint after still, but used that instead.
One of the best meals you could possibly do. SERIOUSLY.
So double thank you! :)
mandy@ladyandpupsApril 29, 2015 at 2:38 PM
Erin, brilliant idea!! Next time the meatloaf-day comes, I will replicate :)
emmaMay 1, 2015 at 12:41 AM
So i made this last night as well. I thought it would be good pointers for others. My problem was with the batter. I used normal plain white flour. The batter was too thin, so it wont just work at all. I ended up finishing up the whole batter trying to make the first one, but it wont work. So i made a new batch, basically pancake recipe and it worked perfectly fine. But u were aiming for a bread like end product rather than anything else. I was thinking of making very thin flat bread, it would work perfectly then. Any suggestions to make it the way you made it???
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 1, 2015 at 1:26 AM
Emma, did you use the exact ratio in the recipe? By volume or weight? Because the cup of water I used, measured out to a slightly less in weight than what a full cup of would (around 235 grams). The consistency of the batter is somewhat like a loose pancake batter, but without any eggs or baking powder/soda. It should not “puff”. If you want to try again, slowly add water to the flour mixture, until it resembles a loose pancake batter.
AprilMay 1, 2015 at 12:59 AM
First-time commenting – you make the most gloriously complicated food! I seriously want to quite my job and work through your recipes day by day. A cart recently opened in Portland, OR serving what I think is very similar: http://www.bingmiportland.com/jian-bing-.html and it has become my new favorite. It is a new favorite for lots of other people, too, meaning that picking one up at lunchtime requires about an hour! Another reason to quit my job and cook at home :)
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 8, 2015 at 2:39 AM
April, I quit my job and cook all day at home, so believe me, it’s not always that much fun :)
EmilyMay 18, 2015 at 2:56 AM
I have a serious peanut allergy, and was wondering if I could substitute any other nut butter for the peanut butter in the sauce, or if it would ruin the whole dish.
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 18, 2015 at 1:13 PM
Emily, sesame paste should do :)
JohnMay 31, 2015 at 7:23 AM
Did you just call everyone in Beijing ugly?
mandy@ladyandpupsMay 31, 2015 at 1:32 PM
John, they are pretty ppl but I just haven’t seen them. Unlucky me.
Abbe @ This is How I CookSeptember 4, 2015 at 10:30 AM
So I just made these for dinner. Totally stuffed. But in a good way! Thanks!
SarahSeptember 11, 2015 at 9:40 PM
shut the hell up. This is breakfast.
I used to order this every morning for breakfast in Shanghai and get yelled at by the “nice” old woman cooking it for me.
“You know, white girl, only two people order this with two eggs. Fat people, and you. You’re going to get fat.”
Well old lady, I’ll be eating my jian bing without the embarrassment now.
mandy@ladyandpupsSeptember 11, 2015 at 9:52 PM
Sarah, ahhahaahaaa classic!!
Kim ZhouOctober 3, 2015 at 11:13 PM
Mandy! I just started reading your blog, and it’s all so reminiscent of my own year spent in Beijing right after college. And yes, I ate this semi-dubious maybe poisonous yet delicious thing from street stalls way to often for my own good (cholesterol). You’re inspiring me to write more about my Beijing experience and bring back all the yummy and halfway dubious-looking snacks into my blog Day7Kitchen!
THough I have to say…jianbing is quite difficult to make without the flat skillet and the wooden stick stick spatula to spread out the batter thinly and evenly, Muchos proud of your endeavor!
~Kim from Day7Kitchen
EmilieApril 25, 2017 at 10:25 PM
Hi Mandy, I love the photos jumping from one an other in order to see all the steps of the recipe by images…can you tell me what do you use to do this? A plugin? Thank you very much!
mandy@ladyandpupsApril 26, 2017 at 1:26 PM
Emilie, it’s done in photoshop! Google “how to do GIF” and there’s a ton of videos about it :)