Jian Bing is a Don’t Miss Breakfast in Shanghai


Living in the SGV, with its dizzying selection of regional Chinese restaurants, has its benefits, but there are some things I still miss from Shanghai. One of these things is the jian bing, a savory egg crepe that’s best eaten seconds after it comes off a hot plate. I feared that the fast modernization of Shanghai which was quickly replacing the old style tenements with luxury apartments would be the death of street food like this. I was grateful that on my last trip to Shanghai, there was not only still jian bing to be had, but that it was only a block away from where I was staying.


The telltale sign of a jian bing vendor is a large, round hotplate. It’s something that can be spotted from far away. The small crowd of people waiting for their breakfast is also a good sign. For less than one US dollar, I got a crunchy, savory breakfast that I had been looking forward to for years.

The jian bing vendor, a woman with a friendly but no-nonsense face, was a seasoned pro — quickly manipulating a thin layer of batter onto the hot, coal-heated hotplate. While the wheat batter cooked to a crisp, she broke an egg over the top, quickly spread and scrambled the egg before it set, smeared on a sweet and salty bean paste, some thin, spiced potato strips, a sprinkling of cilantro, and then a deep fried wonton wrapper. With her hands and a spatula, she deftly turned up the edge of the crepe, rolling it over itself into a long tube. Then “crunch!” as she used the edge of the spatula to crease the middle of the crepe, folded it in half, placed it into a thin plastic bag before handing it to me. She told me to eat it on the spot, reminding me to bite through both halves in one go. Still steaming from the heat, and pungent from the spiced potatoes, it was a great start to the morning.

On subsequent mornings, it became fascinating to watch the different customizations of jian bing customers were getting. Some prefer the added crunch of adding a you tiao (fried crueller). While she has a handful of you tiao (for 1RMB) for those who prefer it, one can also walk across the alley, buy a freshly fried you tiao from another vendor, and bring it over. One customer who lived nearby brought her own egg, saying she had extra at home, and got a 1RMB discount on her jian bing. Another brought his own sausage to add inside. And another wanted a cucumber inside. The customization options are endless. The jian bing vendor also remembered the preferences of her more frequent customers: less sweet, or no cilantro, or extra egg.

When she was done making all the jian bing orders of the morning and the customers were gone, the vendor packed up her stuff to go off to her second job, cleaning the house of a tenant of one of the luxury apartments nearby.

Where to Eat in Austin: Easy Tiger

Bread, pastries, and beer next to a creek. What could be better? While I unfortunately only had time and stomach space to eat a pastry from Easy Tiger, I liked what I ate.  So much so that I forgot to take a picture of it before taking a bite out of it.

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It’s called a Tiger Claw and it’s like a bear claw, but better. It’s not as sticky sweet, and it’s filled with a spicy, sweet, and savory mix of crushed pecans and some sort of warming spice. If you’re like me in that you don’t like pastries to be too sweet, it is the perfect thing. And yes, it has a nice kick.

Easy Tiger
709 East 6th St.
Austin, TX 78701

Where to Eat in Austin: East Side King

I was in Austin for a couple of days last week.  Besides eating a lot of breakfast tacos, I tried out a lot of other new spots and a couple of old favorites that I was glad were still around.  One thing I could not get over was how vegetarian and vegan friendly most places were. It definitely made eating out with Will a lot easier. And the quality of the food was in some ways better than the average place in Los Angeles.

I was going to make a simple list of places to eat in Austin, but since I have so much to say about each place, I figure a short post about each would do them more justice. So first up:

 

East Side King

Maybe not as well known as the quintessential breakfast taco, but ESK is one of my favorite places to eat in Austin.  If you’re over 21 and don’t have a child, I recommend the original trailer behind Liberty Bar in (duh!) the east side.  Sure, some may say the neighborhood can get a little rough, but man up and visit that place.  Get a tall glass of beer, walk back to the patio, and anything you order from the truck will be delicious.

Because we had a toddler with us, we couldn’t go to the Liberty Bar location, but the brick and mortar spot on Lamar sufficed. To first-timers, I recommend the classic bento to get a little bit of the greatest hits: beet fries, brussels sprout salad, Paul Qui’s buns.

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I’ve eaten pretty much everything on the menu and my favorite thing is the tako taco.  Octopus taco may sound chewy and tough, but this was not at all. The thin slices of octopus braised in butter was well…buttery soft and the acidic punch of the pickled onions and vegetables brought this to a whole other level. Don’t like the yonic shape of the crispy taco scare you away. This taco is great.

What I love about ESK is that while each dish is a flavor explosion in your mouth, it’s not some obscene umami bomb. You could tell some thought went to how flavors and textures are combined. And unlike some restaurants, this one isn’t afraid to have a handful of vegetarian things on the menu that actually taste good to omnivores.

East Side King (south lamar)
Suite 101, 2310 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 383-8382