Jianbing is a traditional snack meal often eaten for breakfast. A crepe made from a batter of wheat and grain flour, it is fried on a griddle with an egg and can be topped with scallions, crispy fried dough, cilantro, soy sauce and chilli paste. The crepe is folded several times before serving. The result? A savoury pancake that is chewy and crispy at the same time. In Tianjin people like to stuff their jianbing with youtiao, which is fried bread stick. Tianjin people name it jianbing guozi, with guozi referring to the youtiao stuffing.
Why is it famous?
According to legend, jianbing was invented two thousand years ago during the Three Kingdoms period (220-280) when Zhuge Liang was faced with feeding an army of soldiers who’d lost their woks. Zhuge ordered his cooks to spread dough onto a copper-made griddle suspended over an open fire. The method worked and the resulting dish lifted his soldiers’ morale and they fought their way out of an ambush. Since then, jianbing has been passed down through generations of families living in Shandong.
Where to eat it?
Jianbing is found on nearly every street corner in China, especially outside subway stations where white-collar workers are often seen hovering around a jianbing stand waiting for a quick snack.
But a young entrepreneur now wants to build a culinary empire based on serving up jianbing (which means ‘fried pancake’).
Last year He Chang, 32, had the idea of giving the traditional snack a makeover, with new sweet and savoury varieties. So he opened a jianbing store named Huangtaiji in the middle of Beijing’s central business district. He used weibo, China’s Twitter-equivalent, to market it by word-of-mouth and told Economic Information Daily that the store was expecting to make more than Rmb5 million ($813,000) in revenue in its first year. He plans to open five more outlets in the next few years with a goal of creating a “Starbucks-like” jianbing chain in China.
At Huangtaiji you can find jianbing guozi (including unique creations like chocolate jianbing). Address: Building 10, 1/F, 39 Jianwai SOHO, Third Ring Road Chaoyang District, Beijing (Tel: 86-10-5869 9887).
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