Story by Lilian Zhu
Photo by Sarah Lee
While dumplings and chow mein have become Chinese cultural food icons throughout the world, jian bings remain one of the culinary gems that is largely unknown outside the country’s borders. Traditionally, jian bings are savory crepes that include green onions, soybean paste, and eggs, and are generally prepared and served as an inexpensive snack in the street markets of China.
Me + Crepe, one of the few restaurants in greater LA specializing in this dish, caters to the needs of both jian bing enthusiasts and adventurous foodies alike through its authentic ingredients.
Situated in the chaotic buzz of Old Town, the frenzied cooking in the front kitchen combined with the chatter of customer conversations to create the same busy atmosphere in the restaurant as the market streets of urban Beijing.
The emphasis of the restaurant is clearly on the food rather than the decor, as the interior of the small restaurant is crammed with clusters of small yet welcoming tables and chairs accented with splashes of green from fake plants adorning the walls.
Although a unique food, jian bings are easily and quickly made at Me + Crepe. To start, mung bean flour is thinly spread on a hot surface and mixed with a beaten egg. Chopped green onions and sesame seeds are then added into the thin pancake to develop a more nuanced and appetizing flavor, and the customer is given the option to include less traditional add-ons such as cucumbers and corn in their crepe.
Me + Crepe offers 14 different types of crepes ranging from classic choices, such as the meatless Original, to more specialized fusion dishes like the California Chicken. Despite their different fillings, each of these crepes are based on the same authentic jian bing components.
The new beef crepe was comforting through its familiar textures and flavor of Americanized food. The cheese was a tad stringy and the flavor dissipated quickly, but the lingering tenderness of the beef more than made up for this shortcoming. Although it lacked satisfying aftertaste, the overall crepe was flavorful and aromatic. The Peking Duck crepe was even more of a treat, and had a simplistic and fresh appeal. The tangy duck meat mixed with soybean paste proved to be the perfect balance of earthy and rich flavors.
The two jian bing’s flavors are greatly enhanced by the traditional add-on of fritters, or deep fried batter. The thin fritters are directly embedded into the crepe, and bring a crispy and satisfying texture to the dish.
The restaurant is exceptional at keeping the authenticity of the time honored snack through its interpretation of China’s jian bing while creating a diverse blend for people that are foreign to the food. Through its unique fusion of cultures and approach in allowing customers to customize jian bing, Me + Crepe is certainly worth a visit for those looking for a novel take on traditional Chinese food.
Address: 89 East Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91105
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
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