How To Make Jianbing?
If you live abroad, you’re bound to get transition shock – for some, it’s gonna be the growing pain of always and forever being treated as an “other”, for others, it’s gonna be the months or even years before you can see your family again.
Everybody’s got their thing- your humble narrator included.
And while I did prepare for the language, and the culture what I just wasn’t ready for, mentally, was China’s lack of Taco Bell.
It is the thing that I miss most.
How To Make Jianbing Guozi?
Those fluorescent-lit dining rooms, those vaguely Tex-Mex offerings of mystery meat of unknown providence, they’re just burned into my limbic system.
I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t at times woken up in teary cold sweats dreaming of those gorditas, crunch wraps, and churros.
I have a hole in my heart, and it’s shaped liked Taco Bell.
So just imagine my elation at hearing the news that after a decade-long hiatus, Taco Bell announced that it would finally be re-opening in the Chinese market.
Foreigner communities were abuzz. And on June 3rd, 2020, to much fanfare here in Guangdong, Taco Bell opened its Shenzhen location.
And the result? Well, the best I can describe the experience of Taco Bell China is like when your favorite book gets adapted to the screen and everything’s just off.
This was not the Taco Bell of my dreams, it was a mutant a simulacrum.
It feels like Taco Bell corporate took their reputation as food-for-the-not-sober a bit too literally, and rebranded as a sit-down up-to-mid-market bar and restaurant with a slight hipster aesthetic.
There’s draft beer.
There are cocktails and espressos.
You order everything by phone using a little QR code.
The menu got a hatchet to it – in place of chalupas they’ve got French fries, fried ribs basically, bar food minus the burgers.
Even Taco Bell fire sauce was nowhere to be found – in its place they’ve got Sriracha mayo.
Because of course.
But. Even in the midst of my cloud of disappointment, there was a glimmer of hope.
As soon as I took one bite of their crunchy taco, I was immediately teleported back to everything that I loved and remembered about Taco Bell.
It just felt right. So in spite of their callous betrayal, I don’t wish any ill against Taco Bell China.
I do not want them to fail.
To the contrary, they have to succeed.
Now, I’m not blind to the ways of the world.
See, YUM Brand China’s MO is adaptation – after all, this is the same company that got rich turning Pizza Huts into sit down restaurants and selling Macanese Egg Tarts at KFC.
I’m not against adaptation, I just think they need to do it smarter.
See, the critical error in their analysis was to think of Taco Bell as ‘drinking food’. It’s not. It’s drunk food – a crucial difference.
Allow me to explain:
You see, what most people consider ‘drinking or drunk foods’ is actually a broad classification of three distinct categories of food.
First, there’s the food you eat before you start drinking heavily – stuff to fill you up… burgers, fancy gastropub fare, feasts of Sichuan food, and the like. Second, there’s the food you eat as you’re drinking heavily – this is usually light, salty stuff like peanuts, smashed cucumber, chuan chuan, this kind of thing.
And lastly, there’s the food that you consume in a haze at 2am AFTER you’re already blasted.
Taco Bell is in this third category.
So for a Chinese equivalent, I think you’d need to explore the world of late-night street snacks.
These can span from the sublime like rou jammies or Hunan stinky tofu, to more basic fare like just some random deep fried stuff.
This is the space that Taco Bell China needs to compete in.
And to prove it, today we’ve reformulated one of the most classic northern Chinese street snacks – Jianbing Guozi
– to use nothing but Taco Bell ingredients.
And the end result? is a tour de force – a perfect fit for both Taco Bell and Jianbing.
So. To get started with your Taco Bell Jianbing, you’re gonna need Jianbing batter.
Simple enough – just mix 180 grams all-purpose flour together with 60 grams of cornmeal, 60 grams of mungbean flour, one teaspoon of five-spice powder, one teaspoon salt and 420 grams of water.
Definitely don’t skip the mungbean flour here though – for whatever reason, mungbean flour is the critical ingredient that lets the Jianbing actually form, and not stick. Mix well, and set that aside.
Next up, homemade Taco Bell meat. Now, a good chunk of this copycat recipe is courtesy of Josh from the channel Mythical Kitchen, but I do have a couple of disagreements with his approach.
See, everybody knows that Taco Bell beef is like 80% beef, the rest water and thickeners.
So. Over there Josh stewed his mince and thickened at the end, with the end result being a loose sort of beef slop.
But, taking a closer look, I don’t think Taco Bell’s beef is actually that saucy.
I believe the water and the starch is added before cooking, not after.
I think we’re looking at an emulsified meat mixture, ala chicken nuggets or?
So luckily, we’ve actually gone over emulsified beef mixtures before on this channel.
So today, we’ll gonna be going for the ever so rare cultural appropriation hat trick and basing the broad strokes of our Taco Bell
meat off of Cantonese Dim Sum beef balls.
So. Here we’re using 400 grams of beef loin and 100 grams of pork belly, finely dicing each one up, then grabbing a pair of cleavers and just going at it.
And while you could just use a food processor here, we strongly believe that food processors are for cowards and milksops and that nobody really wants to have to clean one anyhow.
So then after a quick five minute chop or so, transfer that now-pasty meat over to a mixing bowl.
Then just add in five grams of salt together with thirty grams of water and give that a quick stir, or until the water’s completely absorbed.
Then season with a quarter teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, and MSG a half teaspoon cumin powder I forgot to film, half teaspoon sugar, half teaspoon cocoa powder, a half teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika, one teaspoon Mexican chili powder, couple cracks of black pepper, and ten grams of chopped oats.
Taco Bell actually adds those oats in order to give things a bit of texture, and interestingly we’ve also seen the same approach before in a few Cantonese meat cake recipes.
Then mix fifteen grams of water chestnut starch in with another thirty grams of water and a tablespoon and a half of tomato paste.
Add that mix to the beef, stir it all really well, and set that aside.
Now to fry the filling. In a non-stick with a spritz of oil, toss in your meat mixture and start to break it up.
See, unlike most Chinese meat emulsions where you want everything to combine together into a springy uniform whole here we’re
looking to separate it into something a bit more ground beefy, and I find these Japanese-style chopsticks to be an effective tool for the job.
Then once it’s mostly broken up, continue to chop at the remaining clumps with a spatula, and after about six minutes or so in all your beef should be looking pretty taco-belly.
Then just add in about three tablespoons of water together with a teaspoon of dark soy sauce, and mix that to your desired consistency.
And with that, we’ve got some meat that I’m pretty sure hits what I remember from Taco Bell.
So then, back to the Jianbing. As we went over in our original Jianbing video, this does take some special equipment, so if you’d like to see an-adapted-to-a-Western-kitchen version of the same thing
See, the secret to a good Jianbing is even heating, so for us, at home, this means the largest cast iron pan you own lifted up from
your flame so as not to develop hotspots.
So with your pan pre-heated up to about 100 centigrade, pour roughly a quarter of your batter in and spread it evenly – hitting it
with an extra spoonful or two to patch up any spots that you missed.
Then, crack open an egg – and we like two – and break it up, spreading it over your pancake together with an optional bit of black sesame seeds.
And now? Just let that cook – on the street, they can pump these out a bit faster, but because we’re at home with this off the flame, it’ll take about five minutes or so over medium-high heat until it’s ready to flip. You’ll know it’s done once the edges curl up a bit and you can scrape it off without any stickage.
So then flip, and arrange your Jianbing.
Now just brush on some Taco Bell fire sauce, which according to our research can be mimicked with a mix of hot sauce and tomato paste, and a dollop or two of sour cream.
Then sprinkle over a bit of cheese – here we’re using a cheapo mystery quote-un-quote Mexican cheese blend in order to best mimic Taco Bell and spoon on your meat.
Then once the cheese’s melted, toss on a bit of diced onion, tortilla chips, diced tomatoes, and of course, a veritable mountain of lettuce.
Fold it over, slice it in half and with that, you’ve got a Taco Bell Jianbing.
The evolution that Taco Bell should’ve – and still can – have in China.
Ok, alright. So. Taco Bell Jianbing let’s give it a try first.
So right. I actually don’t know what Taco Bell tastes like, when we were in the US we would always go for authentic Mexican food so I’ve never tried Taco Bell, but I really like this one, it’s very tasty.
And I don’t think Taco Bell is gunna, you know, like make this stuff but KFC China – I know you’re watching and – do this
You are bringing back the Mexican chicken roll anyway, so might as well make a Mexican Jianbing right? It’s really on-brand for you guys.
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