Lower East Side, NYC — In a city with 20,000 different and often unique places to eat, it would be impossible for me to keep track of a majority of them, much less every single one.
Lucky enough, there are seemingly enough nearly the same amount of food-related websites and blogs that concentrate just on New York City. And as well, I am fortunate that I have a large network of fellow epicure friends who hip me to restaurants they may want me to check out for them, or get my opinion on.
So was the case recently when a longtime friend, Ron, Facebook Messenger-ed me a link (enticingly titled "This Chinese breakfast food is taking America by storm") about a popular, indigenous Chinese dish called jianbing.
(Ron knows and appreciates my love and fascinations for foods well beyond the mainstream.)
It listed a few places around the country that are making these "savory crepes made with any combination of mung bean, wheat, rice, or millet flour, filled or topped with egg, scallion, cilantro, chile sauce, and pieces of fried cracker". One, lucky enough for me, located right downtown from my on Orchard Street on the Lower East Side called Bing Kitchen.
A quaint little nook with simple yet festive Sino-centric trimmings of decor, Bing Kitchen welcomes with the humble service of its origins, that of being wildly popular, quick, accessible, hearty, and delicious starter meals of Chinese students.
Traditional Shanghai and Beijing versions are available at Bing Kitchen, as are some creatively "Americanized"(?) versions, Bing's best-seller being a bing (for short) called The Imperial, which features Peking duck. I accompanied my order of The Imperial with a order of Taiwanese fried chicken and a can of cold Wang Lao Ji sweet herbal tea.
This fusion crepe/burrito eats very familiarly, my "crispy" version boasting cornmeal in the egg crepe, making for a sturdier hold for all of the deliciously well-balanced fillings. Excellently smoky, sweet, and (nearly) crispy skin of Peking duck lets that protein just share top billing with the heart of the wrap, stacked with layers of flavors — from bright scallion, spiky chili sauce, aromatic cilantro — and textures as well, with lean and meltingly fatty properties of the duck, and the fun inclusion of the crispy fried crackers.
The Taiwanese fried chicken is comprised of two full, boneless, flattened pieces of fried chicken, relatively juicy on the interior, with a crunchy coating liberally seasoned with cumin and curry powder. The filling fried chicken "traditional street snack" is also a small bargain at only five bucks. Two friends could enjoyably split one bing and one order of fried chicken — and each wash it down with a beverage — for under $10 a person and leave fully satisfied.
It is endlessly rewarding when friends and followers understand and appreciate my varied love for all kinds of foods, and how much I love discovering new dishes. One the success of this particular discovery — the word bing I expect to be as common in Western civilization as banh mi and sriracha eventually and quickly became — I look very much forward to my next "search".
Bing Kitchen | 71 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002 | Phone: (212) 226-2710 | bingkitchen.com