Recipes for Egg Crepe Sauces (jianbing 煎饼), part 1 of 4

How many jianbing photos does a blog need, really?

We think it’s important that the unabated love affair with jianbing on Beijing Haochi continues with these photos from a vendor located off the corner of Jiaodaokou Dajie and Gulou Dajie.  She makes her jianbing with exceptional loving care.  There’s no slopping here, no hurry, no pressure because of customers lined up during rush hour, just the smooth and practiced caress of jianbing batter over the crepe pan; broad swathes of evenly painted sauces; the use of one.and.a.half crispy fried wonton skins, ending up in one of the best jianbing we have eaten in Beijing.

What is the essence of a jianbing?

The steps to making a jianbing can be found here,  but what is the soul of a jianbing?  We won’t pretend that this isn’t tainted with personal biases, traumas, and possibly a few deadened tastebuds.  We opine: a jianbing is primarily that perfect contrast, balance and interplay between the pliant crepe and the crispy lightness of the fried dough.  It’s a texture thing, as it is in so many Chinese foods.  Add to that layers of savory sauces that range from sweet to earthy to salty to slightly fermented, the crisp cool crunch of some herbaceous matter, and the comforting nutritiousness of a egg cooked just-so, and that, my friend, is the essence of a jianbing.

Chewy bing, crispy bing, complex sauce, fried egg, herbs.  Here’s what’s inside, and what you’ll need to make one, or several, on your own.

Sauces

Typically, there are four sauces in a jianbing: the hoisin-based sauce, chili sauce, fermented tofu sauce, and leek flower sauce.  The recipes below are in the order that they are typically applied, and if you watch a jianbing vendor, you can see that the hoisin-based sauce is brushed all over, the chili sauce is sporadically dabbed, while the fermented tofu sauce is usually just applied just around the perimeter, with perhaps one stroke down the center.  The leek flower sauce is extra, but adds a beautiful roundness to the flavor.

Left to right: hoisin sauce, chili paste, red fermented tofu, and leek flower sauce

Hoisin-based sauce

The most important thing about this sauce is that we always thought it was hoisin sauce straight out of a jar, and it isn’t.  It’s thinned down and enhanced with other flavorings.  Many thanks to Baidu… we scaled down the proportions of the linked recipe, as it’s clearly meant for someone opening their own stand.

  • oil, 50 grams/1.7 oz
  • hoisin sauce (tianmianjiang 甜面酱), 100 grams/3.5 oz
  • water, 40 grams/1.5 oz
  • bouillion powder, to taste
  • fresh ginger, about a two-inch piece, ground very fine into a paste
  • green onion, about two stalks, minced very fine
  • salt to taste

1.  In a deep and heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat until it is medium warm-ish.  If it starts smoking, you’ve gone too far and need to cool it down before proceeding further.

2.  Turn the heat on low, and put the ginger and green onion into the oil.  You want it to infuse the oil slowly, so take your time.

3.  Add the rest of the ingredients: hoisin sauce, water, salt, and bouillon powder.  Cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring and whisking constantly to prevent sticking.  It’s done!  This should keep for a few months.

Chili sauce

Pick your favorite chili sauce from the store; we like one that is a bit drier, with wisps of chili flakes.

Fermented tofu sauce

  • Red fermented tofu (hong doufuru or nanru 红豆腐乳/南乳)

Red fermented tofu is a variety of preserved tofu, often called tofu cheese, that is often used as a condiment over congee and to flavor meaty braises.  It has a rather pungent flavor and a distinctive (rather gross in its slimy solidity) texture.  There’s a extravagant variety that is flavored with rose as well.

This is fairly easy to locate in an Asian grocery.  For the sauce, pull out a chunk of the tofu and mash it up — it will turn a nice creamy pink.  Dilute with water until the texture is quite thin.

Leek Flower Sauce
  • Leek flower sauce (jiucaihua 韭菜花)

This is a lovely green sauce made from the tips of Chinese chives (jiucai 韭菜), with clear garlicky overtones.  It’s also widely available at most Chinese groceries in the States. It can leave one’s breath powerfully odiferous, so often the jianbing vendor will ask if you want to opt out.

Sauces down, now on to innards and batter….

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19 Responses to Recipes for Egg Crepe Sauces (jianbing 煎饼), part 1 of 4

  1. FN says:

    I shouldn’t have looked at your blog before breakfast. Hungry! I would love one or two of these things.

  2. Dan says:

    I have to take a stand here. The English name of 煎并 is not Egg Crepe! It is jianbing.

  3. the ladies says:

    is egg pancake any better, dan? don’t make us go there.

  4. C. Maoxian says:

    Where do you get the big ass hot slab to cook it on?

  5. KG says:

    Really? You are going to make jianbing at home? You two are my heroes. I cannot wait to see the follow-up posts.

  6. the ladies says:

    Maoxian – no slab…we made mini-jianbing. trying to help out the lovers of jianbing who have a craving but no giant slab!

    KG – we’re just trying to do our part to spread the jianbing love! we’ll post the rest of the experiment soon.

  7. 白牦牛 says:

    Damn. Now I’m really missing Beijing. I have dreams about these. I used to get them from an old couple from Shaanxi who slept in a little stand by the subway station. If you two figure out a way to faithfully recreate them at home (do I need a little wallpaper roller?), I will always read all your blog posts forever. Although, honestly, I’m going to read your blog anyway.

    And where’s the 儿 love? Surely it’s 煎饼儿。 Or is that just understood.

  8. the ladies says:

    We tried our best to do a faithful recreation – but… couldn’t get them quite as large, since our point was to be able to make them in a normal kitchen, which, in my case sadly, does not have a giant crepe griddle! as for the taste…you will have to see once we post the rest of this epic blog, which is soon – and thanks for reading :)

  9. Wow! You have a fantastic site and this looks really delicious! I cant seem to get enough of reading your posts :)

  10. the ladies says:

    Thanks Alisa! 3 more parts to go, then you can help us judge if we made good on our promise to deliver a decent jianbing recipe!

  11. Patty says:

    Interesting recipe, the foodie in me is just dying to try it out so that’s what I’ll do, wish me luck!

  12. the ladies says:

    Patty, good luck! We’ll post the batter recipe and assembly instructions soon. It’s delicious, if time-consuming :)

  13. MarcSeattle says:

    Thank you for documenting what I have been trying to recreate for YEARS. Jianbing is always the first thing I seek out when I go to china, and my home efforts have not been memorable. You have made my year!

    Any chance you can figure out how to make the spicy, lamb-filled guo-cui like you can find in the muslim street-food area of Xi’an? That’s the other recipe on my china street food wish list :) You are my heroes!!!

  14. Joseph says:

    Wow! You have a fantastic site and this looks really delicious! I cant seem to get enough of reading your posts :)

  15. misterjustin says:

    Thanks for the posts!

    After spending nine months in China this is the food we miss most. I spent about a year working on a recipe before I got close — and NOW I can head into the kitchen and do this properly.

    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find leek flower sauce at any of the local Asian grocery stores. I can’t even find it online :(

  16. Daniel says:

    In the U.S. if you are desperate for a very large slab you can get an extra large 2 foot diameter crepe griddle for $1000 to $4000 or if willing to look around and take your time you can get a used one for about $400. That is how I got my gas one and I love it.

  17. Pingback: Hvis du ikke kommer igen anden gang, er det min fejl. Hvis du ikke kommer første gang, er det din! | Therese i Kina

  18. Lauren says:

    Just returned from Beijing, went looking for any street food recipe online….what a wonder to find this! We stayed at the Drum Tower Hostel, and I’ll bet yuan to jianbing we ate at this lady’s place most mornings… What fantastic breakfast.

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