Ask anyone who lives in Beijing what one of their daily staple meals is, and they will answer ‘jianbing’. These traditional Beijing-style crepes are sold on every street corner, usually prepared off the back of a bicycle… and now the jianbing has come to Hong Kong in the form of Mr Bing!
Leaving the bicycles behind but maintaining the feel of Beijing with street maps, photographs and music from emerging Chinese DJs, Mr Bing is a cool colourful and modern street crepe joint on the corner of Wellington Street in Central. Mr Bing’s founder, Brian Goldberg, fell in love with jianbing while studying Mandarin in Beijing in 1998 and has since then had his heart set on bringing the concept to Hong Kong.
Since opening around a month ago, Mr Bing has queues outside every breakfast, lunch and dinnertime… Yet as each ‘bing’ takes around a minute to prepare, the queuing time is never very long!
Not to be confused with a French crepe, the original jianbing is made from green bean flour, with other options of millet flour, buckwheat flour and even purple rice flour available too. The batter is smoothed over a hot crepe plate (which does come from France!) – a rather challenging technique to master, as I witnessed when I did a taste test at Brian’s flat before Mr Bing opened! An egg is cracked onto the batter, sprinkled with black sesame seeds, coriander and spring onions, brushed with various all-important sauces and finished with a sheet of baocui (fried wonton skin), before being folded up and served in a Mr Bing branded paper bag.
Mr Bing’s Original Jianbing is utterly delicious (and costs a mere $30 to boot). Admittedly I have never tasted the real Beijing street crepes, but I do know that Brian brought over a jianbing master from Beijing to teach the chefs how to get the batter exactly right, complete with a secret blend of Chinese herbs and spices, and how to smooth said batter perfectly over the hot plate. The contrast of textures, (particularly the crisp baocui) and the sweet versus spicy sauces make for the perfect meal. Extras such as pork floss, kimchee or fried garlic can also be added at an additional cost, and sides of garlic cucumber, spinach with sesame sauce and marinated lotus root are also available, freshly prepared several times a day.
Mr Bing’s signature jianbing (and one that would never be found in Beijing) is the Peking Duck Bing. With the addition of pickled ginger, hoisin sauce and of course some roast duck, this ‘bing’ is sweeter than its original counterpart and even more dangerously moreish. We tried ours with some additional youtiao, the kind of long deep-fried batter rolls usually served with congee. Although it didn’t add much in the way of taste to the ‘bing’, again it’s all about the texture.
Meanwhile, the Char Siu Bing was my personal favourite, carrying all the original flavours but enhanced by the barbecued pork. We tried the purple rice batter here, a slightly sweeter option that balanced the saltiness of the pork. I’d also recommend asking chef to add a touch more chilli paste to the mix here.
Unique to Mr Bing are their sweet jianbings, which of course we couldn’t resist! The Singa-Bing, a combination of kaya, shredded coconut and baocui was delicious and light, although definitely something for those with a very sweet tooth! I preferred the HK Cha Chaan Bing, which oozed peanut butter and condensed milk – a medley of salty and sweet that reminded me of salted caramel.
The Wellington Street Mr Bing is the first of what will become a chain of restaurants around the city, all likely to be just as successful as the first. Of course, the staff still have some kinks to iron out but Mr Bing is definitely going on my list for quick, cheap and, most importantly, delicious eats.
Mr Bing LG & G/F, 83 Wellington Street, Central
2568 8248 www.mr-bing.com
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!