Before diving into the recipe, let’s take a moment to explore the fascinating history of jianbing, a breakfast staple that has stood the test of time and captivated taste buds across generations.
Originating over 2,000 years ago, jianbing has roots that are as deep as they are flavorful. The story goes that during the Three Kingdoms period in ancient China, soldiers lost their woks and were unable to cook conventional meals. Ingeniously, they began to cook batter on their shields, which were heated over an open flame. This makeshift meal was then embellished with whatever ingredients were available—usually some vegetables and sauces—and thus, jianbing was born.
Since then, this simple yet scrumptious dish has evolved and taken on various forms across different regions. While it started as a food of necessity and resourcefulness, today, jianbing is a beloved breakfast dish enjoyed by millions of people in China and increasingly around the world.
In its hometown of Tianjin, jianbing is a morning ritual, often seen being prepared by skillful vendors on bustling street corners. As dawn breaks, the air fills with the mouthwatering aroma of the fresh batter sizzling on hot griddles, drawing in crowds like bees to honey.
But it’s not just Tianjin or even China that’s caught onto this trend. Versions of jianbing can now be found in the cosmopolitan streets of New York, the foodie corners of Sydney, and the bustling markets of London. Though these international iterations come with their own localized twist—be it the fillings or the type of flour used—the essence of jianbing remains true to its roots: a versatile, delicious, and fundamentally resourceful dish.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes per jianbing
Calories: Approximately 250-300 per 100 grams (varies based on fillings)
Serving Size: Makes 4 Jianbings
For the Batter
- 1/2 cup (60g) mung bean flour
- 1/2 cup (60g) wheat flour
- 2 cups (475 ml) water
For the Filling
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (200g) chopped scallions
- 1/2 cup (65g) mustard pickles, chopped
- 1/2 cup (65g) radishes, finely chopped
- Optional: Chinese sausage or chicken, cooked and sliced
For the Sauce
- 4 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili sauce
- 4 tablespoons tianmianjiang (savory bean paste) sauce
For the Crunch
- 4 crispy-fried dough sticks (guozi) or strips of crispy wonton
- Prepare the Batter: In a mixing bowl, combine the mung bean flour, water, salt, and sesame oil. Whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- Prep the Toppings: Chop the spring onions, slice the mustard pickles or radishes, and prepare any optional proteins like Chinese sausage or chicken.
- Make the Sauce: In a separate bowl, mix together the hoisin sauce, chili sauce, and tianmianjiang. Set aside.
- Cook the Jianbing: Heat a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Once hot, ladle a portion of the batter onto the pan, spreading it evenly with a wooden paddle or spatula to form a thin layer.
- Add the Egg Layer: Crack an egg over the batter and spread it thinly over the surface using the spatula.
- Sprinkle Toppings: Add a sprinkle of chopped spring onions, mustard pickles or radishes, and optional protein, if using.
- Add Crispy Element: Place a crispy dough stick or some crispy wonton strips in the middle of the pancake.
- Flip and Finish: Carefully flip the jianbing and allow it to cook for another 1-2 minutes. Before removing from the pan, spread a spoonful of the sauce mixture over the jianbing.
- Fold and Serve: Fold the jianbing into a half-moon shape, allowing the fillings to mingle. Serve immediately.