Our love and near-obsession with the jianbing is well documented (for a total of six posts on this one simple street food). We've made the pilgrimage to Tianjin, birthplace of the jianbing, we’ve pestered numerous jianbing vendors around Beijing for tips, and of course, we’ve discussed amongst ourselves the ins and outs of how to make the magic happen in our tiny, crepe griddle-less kitchens.
We even contemplated the brilliant (we thought) idea of renting our Tsinghua jianbing vendor's cart for the day to get some practice, learn a few tricks of the trade, and hopefully bag a few kuai in profits. However, seeing as she thinks we are one and the same person, we thought it might try her sanity to show up together with our odd little proposal – and one should never mess with the sanity of the woman who provides one's daily breakfast.
So, go time. We've waxed poetic on jianbing long enough, and explained (perhaps in over-excruciating detail) all the bits and pieces that go into one of these wondrous snacks – now, we’ll divulge our attempt in putting this tasty critter together. It’s certainly not the giant, Big Mac-sized bundle of joy that we get from our friendly jianbing vendors, but we’d like to think our mini-jianbing tastes pretty damn authentic.
Here we go.
Jianbing Recipe 煎饼 (Amounts below are for one mini-jianbing, so multipy as appropriate)
- Hoisin sauce (tianmianjiang 甜面酱) (see Sauces post for recipe)
- Leek flower sauce (jiucaihua 韭菜花)
- Red fermented tofu (hong doufuru or nanru 红豆腐乳／南乳) (see Sauce post for recipe)
- Chili Sauce (lajiang 辣酱)
- Scallions, minced, a teaspoon per jianbing
- Cilantro, minced, a teaspoon per jianbing
- Pickled mustard greens, diced, a teaspoon per jianbing
- Black sesame seeds (optional)
- Deep-fried wonton skin, one per jianbing, unless you love crunch, then go nuts with two (see Innards post for recipe)
- Batter, approximately 2 tablespoons per jianbing (see Batter post for recipe unrecipe)
- Egg, scrambled, half an egg per jianbing
- Oil, for greasing the pan
Note: Before you begin making the jianbing, all the ingredients should be prepped and at the ready. It takes just three minutes to make the jianbing, so all the sauces must be ready to slather on, the greens ready to sprinkle on, raw eggs scrambled and ready to pour on, the wonton skin fried and ready to fufill its destiny as the heart of a jianbing.
1. Heat up your largest saucepan on low heat, and once hot, add a bit of oil to grease the pan. Given our unrecipe for batter, you may have to test cook a couple samples of batter to make sure your consistency is right – it should be quite thin, like crepe batter. (The batter in our picture is a little too thick, actually.)
2. Pour two tablespoons of batter into the center, and using a crepe-batter spreader (if you are so lucky to own one) or just t
he flat end of a wooden spatula, spread the batter as thinly as you can into a circle.
3. After the batter has been spread to create a crepe and has set a bit, pour approximately half an egg’s worth of scrambled egg on top of the batter and spread egg evenly over the whole crepe. There should be just enough egg to create a thin layer on top of the crepe, so depending on the size of your crepe, adjust accordingly. It's not quite an exact science, this recipe.
4. Sprinkle the teaspoon of cilantro, spring onion and black sesame (if you opted to go hardcore) on top of the egg.
5. After the egg starts to set, carefully flip the crepe over, so the egg side is down in the pan. Then, saucing. Using a pastry brush (or just a spoon) brush a thin layer of each sauce on top of the crepe. We recommend covering the whole crepe with the hoisin sauce, and just a smear of each of the leek flower and fermented tofu sauces, as those flavors are pretty strong. As for chili sauce, well, that is up to personal preference, as it usually is with chili. We love the stuff though, so our dollop was rather large.
6. Sprinkle the diced pickled mustard greens on top of the crepe after saucing.
7. The crepe is now ready for the crisp. Given the size of your crepe, you may need to break your crisp in half to fit it into the crepe and still be able to roll it up. Feel free to overstuff the jianbing as well, since we all know the crispy bit is for all intents and purposes, the soul of the jianbing.
8. Now, it’s rolling time. Given that our crepe is mini, there is no way to fold it entirely around the crisp tocreate that multi-layered rectangular jianbing burger we all know and love. Thus, we decided rolling up the crepe into a jianbing tube, pigs-in-a-blanket style, would serve our tastebuds just fine. Just use the spatula (and perhaps fingers) to roll up the crepe, but be careful, since the mungbean flour tends to make jianbing crepes much more delicate than actual crepe batter.
9. Cut each mini-jianbing in half, just to make it pretty, or hell, just chomp down. It’ll just take three bites, but that is three bites of deliciousness that you can make at home when it’s too cold to run downstairs to your trusty vendor, or should you (tragically) live in a city that is jianbing-less. Enjoy!
And this is the end of our jianbing journey. We still need to fine tune the batter recipe somewhat, since without the crepe griddle or a crepe spreader, we found that getting the crepe thin enough was tough, but tinkering with the batter proportions should help iron out that problem. As for the taste, well, you can give our recipe a whirl and let us know what you think.
We hope we’ve managed to capture a jianbing's essence – the subtle fragrance of egg and scallions, the play of salty, spicy, bitter, and sweet sauces, the pickled surprise of the mustard greens, and the piece de resistance, the crispy crunchy center integral to balancing out the eggy crepe. And there you have it, ladies and gentleman, the home recipe for jianbing.