Jianbing, Traditional Chinese Breakfast Crepe


If you are a fan of Chinese street food, there’s one Chinese breakfast item that you must know about: jianbing (煎饼 /jiānbing/), or Chinese-style breakfast crepe.

And today, in the form of a short Q&A from our students, let’s explore jianbing’s past and present.


Jianbing Chinese breakfast crepe

Q: What’s a jianbing?

A: Jianbing are pretty similar to crepes. It main ingredients are:

  • batter made of wheat and grain flour,
  • eggs 鸡蛋 (jīdàn),
  • crispy cracker for the filling (cuì bǐng);
  • sauces 酱 (jiàng).

It can be topped with various vegetables such as diced green onions and cilantro, and may come with extra toppings such as one more egg, a chicken breast, lettuce, or other ingredients – depending on your preferences.


Q: What’s a jianbing guozi, and how is it different?

A: Jianbing guozi (煎饼馃子 /jiānbing guǒzi/) is a famous snack in Tianjin, and one of the most popular variations of jianbing. Tianjin people take it as early as possible!

This dish contains mung beans (绿豆 /lǜdòu/), eggs (鸡蛋 /jīdàn/), and fried dough sticks (油条, yóutiáo). It comes with sweet bean sauce, diced green onions, fermented tofu and chili sauce (optional).

Instead of the crispy cracker filling, one of the main ingredients in it is youtiao (油条, yóutiáo), or Chinese oil stick. It’s called 馃子 (guǒzi) in Tianjin, most parts of Hebei, northern Shandong, and other parts of China – that is why this variation of jianbing got their name jianbing guozi (煎饼馃子 /jiānbing guǒzi/)!

(Note: Many local people in Shanghai, including us, can’t tell the difference between 煎饼 (jiānbing) and 煎饼馃子 (jiānbing guǒzi) – simply because every stall that sells them provides an option between a youtiao and a crispy cracker.)


Q: When to eat jianbing?

A: Jianbing are extremely popular in the morning, and you can find them literally on every corner! Look for a stall that looks like a giant round frying pan, especially designed for cooking jianbing.

By the way, it takes only 1-2 minutes to cook them, so even if the line is long – don’t worry, you will get your breakfast very fast.


Q: How and where was the first jianbing invented?

A: According to the legend, chancellor Zhuge Liang 诸葛亮 (Zhūgě Liàng) encountered the problem of feeding his soldiers. He ordered the cooks to mix water with wheat flour to make batter, then spread it on shields, or flat copper griddles over a flame.

The dish raised the soldiers’ morale and helped them win the battle!

After that, 煎饼 recipe was passed down through generations in Shandong province 山东 (shāndōng), and gradually spread to other parts of China.


Q: Can I find jianbing outside China?

煎饼 is gaining popularity outside China – it’s on its journey to the West!

It’s already popular in cities such as New York, Seattle, Austin, Chicago and San Francisco. Sometimes vendors adjust the flavor and fillings to for the local customers, but the idea of jianbing remains!


Have you tried 煎饼 (jiānbing) before?

Did you like it? And if not, would you like to try it?

Share in comments – or tweet us at @thatsmandarin!

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That’s Mandarin Blog offers tips and advice on living and studying Mandarin in China, and explores the stark cultural differences between the East, the West – and everything in between.

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