Afterthoughts – a taste of Beijing at Mr. Bing 煎饼店
All my Beijing comrades can breath a sigh of relief and rejoice in the arrival of Mr. Bing on the Hong Kong food scene. For us homesick Beijingers, this little jian bing shop brings a welcomed taste of northern comfort.
Jian bing is the poster child of Beijing street food, but ironically originated in Tianjin. Despite its hazy origins, this savoury crepe has grown to be an important part of our local food culture. The combination of thin crepe covered in gooey egg, brushed with a plethora of sauces, sprinkled with green onions and cilantro, all wrapped around a crispy fried wafer of dough, makes it the ultimate comfort food on-the-go. You can spot mobile jian bing carts (pulled usually by a bicycle) all over Beijing, although they are harder to come by these days due to more stringent city planning and health code regulations.
During my childhood in Beijing, I always looked forward to picking up a delicious jian bing on morning strolls with my grandparents behind the Temple of Earth (地壇). During my younger, wilder early 20s years, I always stopped by the jian bing cart outside of the Worker’s Stadium after a night of partying at Vic’s – it was the perfect hangover food after downing copious glasses of Chivas mixed with green tea. Even now, my grandpa would earnestly map out all the nearby jianbing stalls in our neighbourhood before my every visit back to Beijing.
As proof of my dedication to jian bing, I once chased down a jian bing cart in opposing traffic during a police raid (the stall owner didn’t have an operating licence and was running from the law) and begged for this stall owner to stop and make me a jian bing before continuing in his escape. This is how serious I am about jian bing.
Which brings us to this new, exciting Mr. Bing in Hong Kong. The skinny little shop tucked into the hill beside Wellington street is owned by our friend Brian Goldberg, who is also an avid jian bing connoisseur. The shop was packed to the brim yesterday, with a majority of customers sporting a Beijing accent, no doubt all looking for a taste of home. Posters of popular Beijing singers and movies adorn the walls and Mandarin pop songs blare from the stereo – Brian really made this little shop feel like something you can find tucked away in a corner of Sanlituanr in Beijing.
After getting through the massive queue, I managed to take some photos of the jian bing making process.
First up is, of course, the “bing” which is the crepe that holds it all together. A swirling motion guarantees a thin and even crepe.
Now let’s egg-i-fy this – the standard original crepe here comes with one egg but you can add another for $5 extra.
The whole crepe is then flipped over and brushed with an array of sauces.
It’s all about the filling. Mr. Bing offers the original jian bing (with crispy wafer filling) or new funky options like Peking duck, char siu, and pork floss. I am a traditionalist so stuck with the original.
I like how the crispy wafers are fried fresh in the shop.
The wafers, plus green onions and cilantro (I actually hate cilantro so left that out) are then folded into a bundle and sled into a handy paper bag.
Verdict: Pretty solid. Thin yet firm consistency in the crepe and I love the crispy wafer. I also like the variety of crepe mixes on offer ranging from purple rice to buckwheat flour. However, I thought the sweet sauce (甜面酱) was a bit overpowering and made the whole crepe way too sweet. Us Northerners prefer a savoury taste to overpowering sweetness, so I would suggest toning down the sugar and adding more balance with fermented tofu sauce and chive flower paste (韭菜花). Chive flower paste is like a pesto and a popular sauce used in jian bing carts around Beijing. All in all, this is a fantastic representation of jian bing, and has definitely become my go-to place whenever I crave a taste of home. Great job, 老金!
G/F, 83 Wellington Street,
Central, Hong Kong