I have decided to do a series of entries about the little things that filled in the gaps between the more impressive-sounding stuff whilst I was in China; the features of everyday life that, for me, have become much fonder memories than visiting a famous historical site ever could be.
The first of these is the jianbing. A favourite amongst Beijingers as an on-the-go breakfast food (although I don't think I could bring myself to eat quite so much stodge before noon), jianbings are usually sold by street vendors manning little carts at the very reasonable price of 3 kuai or about 30p. The name literally translates as 'shallow fried round foodstuff' which doesn't give many clues as to its contents: essentially the jianbing is a large pancake with an egg spread over it onto which are sprinkled some coriander and spring onions; a dash of spicy sauce is added and lastly a square of fried crispy pastry is put on top before the whole thing is folded up and popped into a plastic sandwich bag.
My first experience of the snack came about rather by accident- I went out one evening in search of some chocolate fish (another tasty street food) but found that the man selling them wasn't in his usual place. Instead was a lady selling from a little cart with a gaggle of Chinese students standing around it. Without any idea of what she was selling, I tentatively went up to her and asked for one. She asked me whether I wanted every ingredient put into my mystery dish, to which I nervously smiled and nodded, and a few seconds later I was handed a steaming bag of unknown food. Unfortunately upon further inspection I realised that my purchase had a large amount of coriander in it, one of those things which I'm just really not keen on, but my enthusiasm for jianbings (I later found the name of it on someone else's blog) remained.
After telling my Chinese friend Christina about my new discovery, she instructed me on how to ask for no coriander and so a few days later I made jianbing attempt number two. This time I snaffled the whole thing up in record time and it was so tasty that I did for a while consider going back and getting another. From then on I became an avid (some would say unhealthily so) fan of the food and since my arrival back in England have been craving it immensely.
Jianbings are best eaten when cold, hungry or short on cash- if you ever find yourself a little peckish whilst wandering the streets of Beijing then I can think of no better thing to buy! Zaijian!