September 20, 2018

Food for Thought

This is a jianbing I made at home. As I researched how to make one, I came across many different styles of jianbing. It took me a while to figure out a workable recipe given the equipment I have and the ingredients I have access to.

With a Beijing-style jianbing, you flip the crepe, so the egg side with scallions, cilantro, and sesame seeds are on the outside. It uses millet or mung bean flour, so, it can be gluten-free. Pictured above is Beijing-style. I had a good Beijing-style jianbing at Yiwanmen on Mott Street near Grand Street. (I posted it before.) With a Shanghai-style jianbing, you do not flip the crepe, and you use wheat flour. So, the outside texture is smooth like French crepes and is crisper. I had a Shanghai-style jianbing inside DeKalb Market Hall, but it wasn’t so good. It tasted bland. This is not to say all Shanghai-style jianbings are bland. I’m pretty sure I was just unlucky.

Apparently, jianbings are popular for breakfast. Popular foods in most cultures are generally not healthy, but we can learn more about the culture from them than we can from high-end cuisines because they reflect the values and customs of the majority. Ironically, high-end cuisines tend to be culturally homogeneous because their differentiating factors are the higher quality ingredients and the labor-intensive processes. Most cultures do not have a thriving and long-held tradition of high-end cuisines, so when they try to raise the price point, they all end up adopting the cliché like caviar, truffle, and gold leaf.

Veselka, the famed Ukranian restaurant in the East Village, for a few years had a higher-end version nearby. It was an attempt at elevating the Ukranian cuisine but didn’t work because the only noticeable difference was that they used higher quality ingredients. Quality is certainly important to some degree but beyond the baseline, it doesn’t become better but different.

It’s sort of like the difference between common and rare words used in poetry. The rare words, even if they express your sentiments more precisely from a technical point of view, will feel disconnected from everyday life

#jianbing #chinesefood #nycfoodie #homemade #streetfood