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Chinese cuisine

How to make an authentic Chinese pancake: jianbing makers set the rules

The catering association in Tianjin, where the breakfast crepe was invented, has come up with a set of rules to preserve the original as an increasing variety of recipes are found around the world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 7:36am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2018, 3:14pm

Jianbing makers in Tianjin, the home of the famed Chinese breakfast crepe, have joined forces to agree on a set of production standards to preserve its authenticity as it grows in popularity around the world.

The breakfast favourite can be bought every morning from tiny carts or stalls at street corners across China for around 5 to 10 yuan (US$0.80-1.60) in the major cities.

Although recipes vary from place to place, the catering association in the northern megacity, where the snack is believed to have been invented, wanted to protect the original taste.

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According to a new set of technical specifications, which came into force on Saturday, the authentic recipe should really be called a jianbing guozi after its two core elements: the jianbing itself, a pancake made using mung bean flour and egg, and the crispy guozi, the main filing made from soft wheat flour.

Other ingredients such as chopped spring onions, eggs and sauces must also be folded into the snack with the guozi before serving.

Apart from sticking to the approved recipe, vendors in Tianjin will also have to make sure the jianbing is between 38 and 45 centimetres (15-17.7 inches) in diameter and serve it in a special bag that contains the maker’s name, address and phone number and the snack’s expiry date.

The shelf life for half-finished pieces should be “less than a day normally”, it said, and buyers are advised to eat their snack within two hours.

Fans of the pancake may have encountered different versions of the recipe depending on where in the world they sampled it.

In some places the guozi element is omitted altogether and in others there is a wider choice of filings, including mustard pickle, coriander, and chilli or hoisin sauce.

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The snack’s renown increased after it featured in the hit Chinese food documentary, A Bite of China, and it has been hailed as one of the hottest new food trends by New York website Taste Talks.

It is now increasingly easy to find in America’s biggest cities and in places like London and Sydney.