Jianbing are Chinese breakfast crepes. After I graduated from college, I moved to Shanghai to study traditional Chinese dance at the Shanghai Theatre Academy's Dance and Opera College. I trained 8+ hours every day and so breakfast had to be a hearty meal. As I hurried to school in the morning, I would stop at the little alley of food vendors near my apartment in the French Concession. There were so many enticing choices: soft steamed mantou, fluffy buns filled with Chinese chives, glass noodles, and tofu, dumplings, scallion pancakes, bowls of warm soy milk with fried cruellers, and jianbing.
These super thin, tender crepes are made of millet or mung bean flour. The street vendor had two large circular, beautifully seasoned griddles. He would pour a tiny stream of batter and then smooth it across the hot surface with a wooden spreader. He cracked an egg on top, sprinkled on chopped aromatics and some Sichuan pickled vegetables. When the egg had set, he deftly flipped the crepe, spread it with hot chili sauce and folded it into a triangle. I would savor the jianbing as I walked to catch the metro to school.
It's hard to replicate street food at home, especially this recipe, since the flavors and the meal are so attached to being in a certain place. Variations abound among jianbing recipes -- you can sprinkle the crepe with cilantro instead of scallions, replace the korean hot paste with other kinds of chili sauce etc. (note: using the korean hot paste is not traditional, but I find it delicious!) I use a medium sized, well-seasoned cast iron pan to make these, but a non-stick crepe pan would work well too.
Test Kitchen Notes
Student Epicure's home version of Jianbing made us want to travel to China just for the street food! Millet and white flour are mixed with water (we added a bit more water to thin the batter), spread out on a hot skillet to form a crepe, topped with eggs, scallions and in this instance, pickled vegetables, finished with hot chili paste and folded into a neat little package. Amazingly simple and simply amazing! One adjustment we made in the directions: Student Epicure would have you "flip" the crepe over once the egg is set. Instead, after the eggs were set, we folded one-third of the crepe over onto itself, spread that third with the hot sauce, and then folded the other side over that before finishing it up. —wssmom
- Makes 4 crepes
scallions, finely chopped
Sichuan pickled vegetable
Korean roasted hot pepper paste
- In a small bowl, whisk together first five ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat the pan you're using over medium-high heat and enough oil to thinly coat. When the oil begins to shimmer, pour in 1/4 of the batter. Use a spatula to gentle spread the batter as thinly as possible. Add 1/4 of the egg, then sprinkle with 1/4 of the scallions and pickled vegetables. When eggs has set and edges of the crepe have started to curl, flip. Spread the top side with hot pepper paste and let continue to cook for another minute. Fold in half twice and serve immediately. Repeat with remaining ingredients.