In the Chinese blockbuster comedy “Jian Bing Man,” a street vendor turned caped crusader wields ingredients as weapons: raw eggs, a fistful of scallions. “It doesn’t matter who I am,” he declares. “Harmonious society is what really matters.”
Some may argue that the humble dish he sells on the streets — jianbing, a savory crepe with an omelet underbelly and a crackly heart of fried dough — is contribution enough to the world.
It starts with batter ladled onto a round cast-iron griddle. An egg or two are not so much scrambled as scrawled across the surface. If you’re in Beijing, it’s flipped; in Shanghai, it stays put, for a crisper finish.
Ingredients and order vary: scattered scallions, cilantro and zha cai (pickled mustard root); fat brush strokes of tianmianjiang (sweet bean paste) and chile sauce; and fried dough in the form of fluffy batons (you tiao) or flat blistered rectangles (bao cui). The crepe is folded like a triptych, creased or cut in half and handed over still steaming.
In New York, jianbing was once elusive, occasionally spied in Flushing, Queens, home to many Chinese immigrants. But now some chefs are trying to make it as familiar and essential a part of the city’s food scene as tacos and falafel.
Based on a canvass of local jianbing vendors, this may be a difficult mission. I tried gummy jianbing dripping a sauce like liquid candy, and soggy jianbing with ground beef and a whiff of ketchup, and otherwise respectable jianbing hiding bouncy strips of hot dog.
When Mr Bing — originally Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes in an early business plan — first opened in 2012 in Hong Kong, Mr. Goldberg hired a Beijing street vendor he calls Master Ban to train his staff. He staged a series of pop-ups in Manhattan beginning in 2015, and in January, he secured a kiosk at UrbanSpace Vanderbilt in Midtown Manhattan.
2012年，老金煎饼——在早期的商业计划中，它最初被命名为“戈德伯格的中国煎饼”(Goldberg’s Chinese Crepes)——在香港开业时，他聘请了一位他称为班师傅的北京街头摊贩来培训员工。从2015年起，他在曼哈顿开了一系列游击摊位，今年1月，他在曼哈顿中城的UrbanSpace Vanderbilt租下一个摊位。
A squad of cooks in Mr Bing caps and T-shirts monitors six griddles, firing all at once. The batter is a mixture of mung bean, rice and wheat flours, suffused with “secret” spices and gilded with a single egg, although more can be added on request. Each pancake is painted (“like calligraphy,” Mr. Goldberg said) with hoisin, sweeter than tianmianjiang, and Lao Gan Ma brand Spicy Chili Crisp sauce, also sold by the jar.
In go cilantro and fried won ton skins, and then extravagant fillings: caramelly red barbecue pork, roast duck with lacquered skin, shredded dark-meat chicken steeped in Shaoxing wine. “It’s Americanized,” Mr. Goldberg said — less snack than sandwich, and as such delicious, if messy to eat as the crepe tears under the teeth and loses hold of what is within.
(Note that in China, street vendors sell jianbing for less than a dollar. Here, it can go for as much as $15.)
As a consultant in Shanghai, Mr. Shorser took a griddle to his office to practice making jianbing for his Chinese colleagues. (They thought he was nuts.) He and Tadesh Inagaki, a childhood friend and college roommate, started Jianbing Company in April as a stall at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn; in the fall, they opened a lunch counter at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
苏永邦在上海做顾问时，往办公室带了一个烤盘，给中国同事做煎饼（他们都觉得他是疯子）。去年4月，他和童年好友兼大学室友塔德什·因那加奇(Tadesh Inagaki)在布鲁克林Smorgasburg美食市场的一个摊位创建了Jianbing Company。去年秋天，他们在布鲁克林日落公园的工业城(Industry City)开了一个午餐柜台。
They use a thick batter of wheat, corn, soy and millet flours that yields a surprisingly thin but sturdy crepe, over which one egg is cracked. (You can ask for more.) The pancake is never flipped and sheds the least oil of any jianbing I ate in New York.
Instead of relying on won ton skins, they make bao cui by hand, resulting in larger planks, with more blisters and snap. The chile sauce is house-made, too, as is the tianmianjiang limned with a proprietary blend of 13 spices, most pronounced among them cinnamon and star anise.
Zha cai is an optional but, to my mind, necessary punch of brine to offset the sweet sauce. Fillings — chicken (free-range) braised in black vinegar; beef (pasture-raised) contoured by hoisin and lime — are more subdued in flavor than Mr Bing’s but less likely to spill.
I liked what I ate, but I wasn’t sure I appreciated jianbing, in these American incarnations, as more than alternative sandwiches. Then, at the Flying Pig food truck’s new storefront in Kips Bay, I began to see the appeal of the pancake itself.
我喜欢我吃到的这些煎饼，但我觉得我可能只是把这些美国化的煎饼视为三明治的变身。后来，在飞天猪煎饼(Flying Pig)美食车的基普湾(Kips Bay)新店，我开始看到煎饼本身的魅力。
You Li, known as Yolanda, was born in northeastern China and runs the Flying Pig with Dolkar Tsering, a friend of Tibetan descent from Sichuan Province. Their batter — made of mung bean and wheat flours, and another flour that Ms. Li prefers not to divulge — is earthier and more assertive than their competitors’, and Ms. Li broke two eggs, unbidden, over my crepe, which gave it more body.
I could have eaten the crepe alone, and almost wished I had. The only additions available when I visited were garlicky sausage (but not enough of it) and pork floss, a cobwebby tangle of dried pork strands that usually taste like a cloud of salt and sugar but here was like eating air.
So I turned to Queens. And at Mojoilla Fresh, along the back wall of the New World Mall food court in Flushing, I finally understood the joy of jianbing.
所以我去了皇后区，在法拉盛新世界购物中心(New World Mall)美食广场后排的魔力鲜小吃店(Mojoilla Fresh)，我终于体会到煎饼带来的愉悦。
It was just a crepe, with a yellow-white scrum of egg, herbs, swabbed sauces, flagrant chile, ham and a great rectangle of bao cui that went in and emerged unbroken. It was so hot I could barely hold it. I ate it and nursed my singed fingers, dumb with happiness.
It cost $5. Even cheaper was one at Express Tea Shop, in the hive of food stalls in the basement of Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing. The counter looked dingy, but the cook was eating a jianbing she had just made for herself, which I took as a good sign. It couldn’t quite match Mojoilla Fresh’s blissful collision of sour, salty and sweet, but it was $3.50 — and came with a cage-free egg.
它的售价是5美元。法拉盛黄金购物中心(Golden Shopping Mall)地下室大排档的快车道珍珠奶茶店(Express Tea Shop)的煎饼比它还便宜。那里的柜台看起来很脏，但是厨师正在吃她刚给自己做的煎饼，我觉得那是好兆头。它比不上魔力鲜酸咸甜味的美妙融合，但它只要3.5美元，而且用的是散养鸡下的蛋。
Everyone, it seems, is adapting to the times. Ms. Li told me that at the Flying Pig’s truck, immigrants from China and Mexico work side by side.
“Neither of them speaks English,” she said. “But they understand each other.”
If You Go
At UrbanSpace Vanderbilt, 230 Park Avenue (East 45th Street), Midtown East; 646-678-8879; mr-bing.com
中城东部公园大道（东45街）230号UrbanSpace Vanderbilt; 646-678-8879; mr-bing.com
The Flying Pig
61 Lexington Avenue (25th Street), Kips Bay; 347-828-2552; theflyingpignyc.com
基普湾列克星敦大道（第25街）61号; 347-828-2552; theflyingpignyc.com
In the New World Mall Food Court, 136-20 Roosevelt Avenue (Main Street), Flushing, Queens; 917-385-1966
Express Tea Shop
At the Golden Shopping Mall, 4128 Main Street (41st Road), Flushing, Queens; 646-881-5386