Originally from Taiwan, Juǎn bǐng (Chinese: 卷饼) is served as a portable street food snack or meal throughout the day. It comes with a thin pancake smeared with sweet and spicy sauce and wrapped around a variety of fillings that are garnished with lettuce, scallions and cucumbers before being rolled up and served. Their prices range from 9 to 15 yuan depending on the protein and add-ons chosen.
The pancake dough is usually pre-made or pre-bought and made of flour, water, salt and oil. Hoisin and chili sauce are spread inside the pancake. Fillings can be anything from roasted duck, braised pork, char siew, or a poached egg. Proteins are garnished with lettuce, julienned cucumbers and scallions, cilantro, and chili oil.
Juan bing uses a pre-made dough that is first flash-fried in oil to be heated. Hoisin and chili sauce are smeared evenly over the pancake’s surface before the protein and add-ons are placed in the center. Add-ons can be anything from roasted duck, braised pork, char siew, or a deep fried egg. The fillings are then garnished with lettuce, julienned cucumbers and scallions, cilantro, and chili oil. The pancake is rolled and served in wax paper.
Legends tell a story of a talented boy named Duan Lin Xue who lived during the Qing Dynasty in the period of Emperor Guangxu’s reign. At the age of 10, he could write poems; and he was able to pass the imperial examination at the country level by the time he was 13 years old even though most people couldn’t achieve that feat until they were 30. Because his family was very poor, his mother made him an over-sized gown so that he could wear it for many years. When he wore this gown to see his professor to give thanks, the professor stated the first line of a couplet, pointing out that his clothes didn’t fit and it was dragging on the floor. Duan Lin Xue cleverly responded with a second line of a couplet, complementing the red pearls on his hat. The professor was highly impressed, praising him for his intelligence and wit.
Because the boy’s family was so poor, he couldn’t afford to go to college, so his mother Hu Shi taught him on her own. He didn’t know much about the city because he didn’t venture out far from his home, but one day during the Lantern Festival he walked around the streets. He came upon a delicious smell wafting from a juan bing stand, and returned to his home to ask his mother what it was because he couldn’t afford to buy it. His mother became very sad that she could never buy her son good food, so she brought a few pancakes home. She added pickles and scallions to attempt to replicate the food he saw on the street. He thought it was very tasty, and asked his mother what it was, and she called it “Shou Pa Zi Bao La Za” or “handkerchief with a lot of random things inside.”
jianbing 煎饼– Chinese-style crepe
cong you bing 葱油饼– scallion pancakes
shou zhua bing 手煎饼– hand-grabbed pancake
jidan bing 鸡蛋饼– egg pancake