Bing brings jian­bing street food to New York

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHINA DAILY in New York

Pour bat­ter onto a round grid­dle, crack an egg on top. Sprin­kle on chopped scal­lions, sesame seeds.

Flip. Add chili paste, spices, crispy wafers. Bei­jing duck, bar­be­cue pork or drunken chicken. En­joy. Sweet, sa­vory, soft and crunchy, the crepes are called jian­bing in Chi­nese. Hav­ing dom­i­nated North­ern China’s break­fast mar­ket for more than a cen­tury, the mouth­wa­ter­ing street food sta­ple is fi­nally heat­ing up in the US.

Mr Bing, a New York City food stand serv­ing tra­di­tional Bei­jing jian­bing, was named “Rookie of the Year” at the 2016 Vendy Awards, an an­nual recog­ni­tion of the Big Ap­ple’s best food carts.

Brian Gold­berg, AKA Mr Bing him­self, is a New York na­tive who fell in love with jian­bing in 1998 as a stu­dent in Bei­jing. He en­joyed them for break­fast ev­ery morn­ing from a ven­dor parked out­side his dorm.

“I was ob­sessed,” he said. “I re­al­ized that this didn’t ex­ist in New York, and I knew peo­ple were go­ing to love it here.”

Af­ter tast­ing 40 dif­fer­ent street crepes in Bei­jing and Harbin, Gold­berg set­tled on his fa­vorite and pur­chased the recipe from a young street ven­dor. He then flew the ven­dor to Hong Kong, where the first Mr Bing booth opened in 2012, so the “mas­ter” could teach his em­ploy­ees how to make au­then­tic jian­bing.

Hon­or­ing the street food tra­di­tion, in 2015, Gold­berg brought Mr Bing back to his home­town, where he be­gan the mis­sion to pop­u­lar­ize his fa­vorite Chi­nese food in Amer­ica.

“We had to make a few changes,” said Gold­berg, “be­cause jian­bing was for break­fast only. But here, we are hav­ing it for lunch or din­ner. We need meat, pro­tein.”

He was right. New York­ers are con­stantly hun­gry for por­ta­ble, ex­cit­ing and ex­otic food op­tions, and jian­bing fits the bill, al­beit a West­ern­ized ver­sion.

Gold­berg said the cra­zi­est time for Mr Bing was dur­ing this year’s Vendy Awards — there were 40 to 50 peo­ple in line at a time. He sold hun­dreds of jian­bings.

“This is very good,” said Lind­sey Kem­merich, a young pro­fes­sional try­ing jian­bing for the first time at Madi­son Square Eats dur­ing lunchtime. “Good tex­ture, good fla­vor… I re­ally en­joy it.”

In the food cap­i­tal of New York, even jian­bing at­tracts com­pe­ti­tion. Last Oc­to­ber, a food truck called the Fly­ing Pig opened, serv­ing jian­bing to Columbia stu­dents and Up­per West Siders alike. And Jian Bing Com­pany, started by a cou­ple of Amer­i­cans who fell for Shan­dong-style crepes, was launched at Brook­lyn’s Smor­gas­burg in April.

“I think it’s a good thing to see com­pe­ti­tion,” said Gold­berg with a smile. “Do­ing Mr Bing in New York re­ally is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of me and my per­son­al­ity. The com­pe­ti­tion only proves that I was right — there’s de­mand.”

At the in­ter­sec­tion of West 25th Street and Broad­way, Mr Bing is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm, and jian­bings range in cost from $8 (veg­e­tar­ian) to $15 (Bei­jing duck).

ZHANG XIAOTIAN / CHINA DAILY

Mr. Bing, a fast food stand serv­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese jian­bing, at Madi­son Square Eats last week.

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