China's Famed Street Crepes Come to Portland
Typically, if you find yourself in front of a food spot whose name ends in an exclamation mark, I have one suggestion for you: run! This advice will carry you through most of your life, but there’s always a rarity that scoots through the cracks of the law.
We found it recently on downtown’s Ninth Avenue food-cart row: a hospital-white wagon with the words Bing Mi! splattered across the front. The lone giveaway that culinary happiness hides inside is a monitor bolted to the cart, playing a video of a Beijing vendor making jian bing. A Chinese street-food fixation that folds giant savory crêpes and super-crunchy crackers into a many-splendored breakfast thing, the snack (pronounced GEE-N-bing) makes its Portland debut with sizzling-hot eggs, an umami perfume, and customizable flavors. Customers are snapping them up. In a city perennially fixated on brunch, sandwiches, and spicy Asian eats, jian bing should fit right in.
A year ago, owner Alisa Grandy was waylaid at Beijing’s airport. The Portlander took a train into the city, then followed her nose and the lines at a street stall. One bite of the Chinese crêpes changed everything. Back home, she was a woman possessed, learning the art of jian bing through YouTube videos and then jumping into the food-cart world last November with husband Neal and friend Tim Harris.
Bing Mi! crêpes skew pretty traditional: a cracked egg cooked and raked right into a crêpe, which is browned, flipped, and brushed with black bean paste, hoisin sauce, and chile paste. Then comes fresh cilantro, scallions, pickled bamboo and mushrooms, two fried wontons the size of attaché cases, and a swift triple-fold—all of it cut in half and paper-wrapped. It’s a whopper for $6. Recently, a middle-aged Chinese man on the street, giggling at finding his beloved jian bing, whispered an insider tip: order “two eggs, spicy hot, and double crackers.” Bing-o.
SW Ninth Ave,
between Alder and Washington Streets