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. Now the jianbing has come to Hong Kong in the form of Mr Bing.
Leaving the bicycles behind but maintaining the feel of Beijing through the use of original photographs, street maps and music from emerging Chinese DJs, Mr Bing is a cool, colourful and modern street crepe joint on the corner of Wellington Street. 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 not even a month ago, Mr Bing has perpetual queues outside every breakfast, lunch and dinnertime. Yet as each ‘bing’ takes around a minute to prepare, queuing time is never very long.
Not to be confused with a French crepe, the original jianbing is made of green bean flour, with other options of millet flour, buckwheat flour and even purple rice flour available too. The batter is smoothed over the hot crepe plate (which does in fact come from France). This a rather challenging technique, 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.
The original jianbing is utterly delicious. Admittedly I have never tasted the real Beijing street crepes, but I do know that Brian brought over a jianbing master from the outskirts of 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 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.
A variation of the original jianbing is the Char Siu Bing, with the addition of char siu of course. This is my personal favourite as it still carries the original flavours, enhanced by the barbecued pork. We tried the purple rice batter instead, a slightly sweeter option which balanced the saltiness of the pork. I’d also recommend asking your jianbing chef to add a touch more chilli paste.
Unique to Mr Bing are the 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 more of a 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 a little bit of salted caramel.
The Wellington Street Mr Bing is the first of what will become a chain of restaurants around the city, which are 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 (the original jianbing costs only $30).
G/F, 83 Wellington Street
Tel: +852 2568 8248