Pancake, A Staple
One of my favorite foods―OK, you will hear me say that often about Chinese food― and one of the most versatile in China is called a pancake, or jian bing. The jian bing is flat like the pancakes we westerners think of, but it’s much larger and thinner. This pancake can be made from all kinds of cereal grains; mainly wheat, whole wheat, corn meal, millet, sorghum meal, and plain flour. In the old days, people would have to use the grinder to grind the grain into a fine spreadable meal to be poured onto a hot cooking stone or metal surface. The cooks would then quickly spread the meal thinly over the hot surface where it would cook very fast.
The pancake, or jian bing, is used in many ways, and I have yet to find a way I don’t like. One common way to use the jian bing is to cut it into several sections, maybe 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Within the rectangular section of pancake, some strips of pork and onions may be rolled up inside the wedge making something similar to a small burrito.
Wraps are another delicious option for the jian bing. I love going to a street vender and getting a wrap made. In a large wok, the street chef will cook tofu; glass noodles (clear noodles made from rice); and chopped, green leafy vegetables. For just a little extra money, the chef will even cook an egg with this delicious mixture. Once the mixture is cooked, it is used to fill the jian bing which is folded, much like a large burrito that is seared on the wok. This makes for one delicious and filling meal!
To learn more, check out my book, Lessons from China: A Westerner’s Cultural Education.