Just off Charing Cross Road, Chinese Tapas House is a Chinatown institution, specialising in a selection of Chinese snacks, yet the jianbing is the tiny shop’s main draw. Literally meaning ‘fried pancake’, Chinese Tapas House’s jianbing recipe uses a blend of wheat and mung bean flour, topped with a selection of fillings.
Believed to date back to the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220–280), jianbing is said to have originated when Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei’s chancellor in Shandong Province, encountered the problem of feeding his army who had lost their woks. As a result, the cooks were ordered to mix water with wheat flour, and to spread the dough onto flat griddles suspended over fire. The jianbing has since been passed down through generations of people from the Shandong province.
Traditionally, jianbing is particularly popular as a breakfast dish, served in the early hours. Almost every metropolitan neighbourhood in China has a jianbing vendor, which quickly attracts long queues, as the jianbing are freshly cooked to order. Although synonymous with breakfast, it’s also an ideal snack for any time of day – substantial, inexpensive, and easy to eat on-the-go.
Described as falling somewhere between a crepe and a dosa, jianbing are typically made with batter that’s spread thin, a beaten egg, fresh herbs, pickles, dried chilli, sweet and spicy sauces, and a selection of customisable toppings – most popular of which features a crispy shard of fried wonton skin.
This jianbing recipe from Chinese Tapas House is simple to make at home, with the wheat and mung bean flour batter cooked in a circular pan, then flipped and slathered with sweet bean (Tianmian) and chilli sauces, topped with Frankfurter sausages and spring onions. It’s also worth adding an extra egg (to be cooked on the inside, before adding the sauce), a fried wonton wrapper, or sticks of fried bread for additional crunch.
- 50 g flour
- 50 g mung bean flour if there is no mung bean flour available, just increase the flour to 100g
- 2 eggs
- 2 Frankfurter sausages cut into chunks
- Cooking oil
- Sweet bean (Tianmian) sauce
- Chilli sauce
- 4 spring onions chopped
- Mix 180ml water with both flours to make the batter. Beat the two eggs together.
- Add a little oil to the frying pan. Once hot, spread the pancake batter on the pan, add the eggs to the top of the pancake. Leave for 1 to 2 minutes in the frying pan.
- Flip the pancake over. Drizzle over the sweet bean and chilli sauce, top with the chopped spring onions and Frankfurter sausages.
- Roll it up and cut in the middle. Ready to eat.
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