9 brilliant bings and where to get them in Shanghai

When in Shanghai, know your bing

Waipo Congyouning
While Americans have their pancakes, the Chinese have the mighty bing. It's one of the country's most popular street breakfast eats, and you can find a stand slinging them in almost every neighbourhood across the People's Republic. Bing can be grilled, baked or shallow fried in a pan.

Confused by the large variety of bing available here in the city? Here is our guide to the 9 different types of bing you can find here in Shanghai, and the best places to get them. Time to go bing hopping!

Scallion oil pancake (Congyoubing, 葱油饼)

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Congyoubing is a savoury pancake stuffed with pork fat and scallions (spring onions). Scallions are dispersed throughout the dough and folded with oil. Some variations of congyoubing also feature chopped fennel greens and sesame seeds. Another new trend is adding beaten eggs on one side of the bing before frying it in the pan. The texture of the eggs add a succulent flavour to the scallion pancake, and this delicious treat is one of the most common bing found in Shanghai.

Tracing the origins of this bing is complicated as there are countless folktales and legends about it. But here's our favourite one: It is said that when Marco Polo returned from China, he missed congyoubing so much that he got all his Italian chefs to try and make it. Many variations were created and as a result pizza was born. So don't be surprised to hear locals telling you the scallion pancake is the ancestor to pizza.

Get a taste at 5RMB each at Wai Po Congyoubing, 411 Fangbang Zhong Lu, near Sanpailou Lu, Huangpu district. Open 10am-6pm daily.

Chinese-style crepe (Jianbing, 煎饼)

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Another one of China's popular breakfasts, this is a savoury, crispy thin crepe made commonly from mung bean flour. The batter is spread in a thin layer over a large griddle in a swift circular motion before a bold mix of sliced scallions, grassy coriander and tangy mustard pickles are then sprinkled over the batter. The egg is cracked on the surface (still cooking) right after, on which the fermented beancurd sauce and hoisin sauce is smeared.

The crunch comes from the sheet of crispy fried wanton strip wrapped within the crepe, served the way the Chinese like it. Fillings vary from fried chicken to youtiao. Some innovative vendors in cosmopolitan Shanghai even serve them with strips of bacon - yummy!

Like the congyoubing, jianbing also has its story. It is thought to have originated from Shandong province during the period of Three Kingdoms (220-280AD). Chancellor Zhuge Liang faced the problem of feeding his army when they ran out of traditional cooking ware. He came up with the brilliant idea of having his soldiers cook batter on shields held over fire, solving the problem of starvation during war and creating the jianbing we have today.

Get a taste at 6RMB each at Fatty's Jianbing, 261 Qinzhou Nan Lu, near Liuzhou Lu, Xuhui district. Open 6.30am-1.30pm daily.

Turnip strips cake (Luobosibing, 萝卜丝饼)

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Turnip strips cake is a popular pastry that originated from Jiangsu province. Not fried but traditionally baked in a coal stove, this pastry is easily one of the healthier breakfast options in China. Turnip chopped into thin strips, minced ham or meat, lard oil and scallion oil are seasoned together with salt, sugar and white pepper. The mixture is then wrapped into the pastry and baked.

The original Suzhou turnip strips cakes were made by deep frying wet pastry and turnips strips together in a small mould. This type of turnip cake is fondly known as youdunzi in Shanghai. The current Shanghai-style turnip strip cake is a clever fusion between the original turnip pastry and the regular huangqiaoshaobing (originated from Suqian, Jiangsu province), allowing it to keep the juicy turnip stuffing on the inside and the golden brown flaky pastry on the outside.

Get a taste at 3RMB each at Wu Yuan Bing Jia, 255 Yanping Lu, near Kangding Lu, Jingan district. Open 6am-9.30pm daily.

Chinese-style burrito (Juanbing, 卷饼)


Doesn't this look like your regular Mexican tortilla wrap? Well, this is the Chinese take. The thin pancake is smeared with hoisin sauce and chilli sauce before protein and other add-ons are wrapped within. Common fillings are Beijing roasted duck, Taiwanese braised pork and charsiew. Sometimes you can even add in a poached egg. The wrap is usually completed with lettuce, cucumber strips, fragrant scallions, grassy cilantro and a dash of chilli oil. This Chinese-style burrito is then rolled and served in wax paper.

Try the roasted duck burrito for 13RMB at Jing's Master, A30 Shanghai Huasheng Street, Nanjing Xi Lu, near Jiujiang Lu, Huangpu district. Open 8am-9pm daily.

Hand-grabbed pancake (Shouzhuabing, 手抓饼)

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Don't be fooled by the similar appearances of the juanbing and shouzhuabing - they are not the same! Unlike the juanbing, the shouzhuabing dough texture is very much like the roti pratas you find in India. The thin layer of dough is fluffy and flaky, with a texture similar to that of a croissant. The pancakes are usually prepared from frozen pre-made dough which is cooked over a flat grill where the dough is 'grabbed' until the golden flaky layer appears.

Popular fillings such as fried egg, sausage, lettuce, ham, bacon, pork, cheese can be added along with a sauce of your choice - sweet and sour, chilli or salad. These bing originated in Taiwan and were brought into China by a Taiwanese chain, Liang Quan Qi Mei in 2004. Since then, these bing can be found all over the city.

Get a taste at Wan Lai Wan Qu, B1, 118 Pujian Lu, near Nanquan Lu, Pudong district. Open 10am-10pm daily.

Sesame seed pastry (Shaobing, 烧饼)

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Shaobing is a flaky round flatbread sprinkled with plenty of sesame seeds before being baked. It is a popular breakfast food, usually paired with soybean milk or tea. Shaobing can be eaten plain or with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings like sugar paste, red bean paste, mung bean paste, black sesame paste and meat.

The appearance of shaobing varies from town to town, with Shanghai's version baked in a huge cylindrical drum where the flatbread is attached to the heated surface. It takes about a minute to bake.

It is said that during the Tang Dynasty, there was an emperor called Tang Xuan Zhong. The emperor was head over heels in love with his imperial concubine, and neglected his country as a result. The citizens were furious and wanted to kill the cocubine to regain their king's attention. To save his queen, the two escaped the palace. While escaping, they felt hungry. Tang Xuan Zhong's prime minister, Yang Guo Zhong, also the elder brother of Yang Gui Fei then bought shaobing for the emperor. After the news that their emperor ate the shaobing spread among the locals, the street food gained immediate popularity. There was even a shaobing song that was sung about the predictions of China's future.

Get a taste at Gu Yi Wan, S1-09, 588 Nanquan Bei Lu, near Shangcheng Lu, Pudong district. Open 8am-10pm daily.

Thousand layered cake (Qiancengbing, 千层饼)

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The fuss-free qiancengbing is made of three simple ingredients: salt, pepper and flour. The secret to this bing lies in its layers, and dough layering is the most important (and hardest) part of the process. After layering, the bing is pan fried until both sides turn golden brown. Some restaurants like to top it off with sesame seeds for garnish. You would not want to taste a cold and hard qiancengbing, so make sure to have it piping hot. Definitely a worthy alternative to the fluffy qiangbing.

Get a taste at 5RMB per piece at Wang Hao Wang Dian Xin Dian, 802 Kangding Lu, near Jiaozhou Lu, Jingan district. Open 9am-9pm daily.

Burclover pie (Caotoubing, 草头饼)

Probably a child's nightmare, this vegetable bing is as green as it gets. Unlike other bing, the caotoubing is made from glutinous rice flour, giving it its unique springy texture. After blanching and washing, burclover leaves are chopped and mixed together with the flour to form the dough. Some places stir fry minced dried vegetables and mushroom cubes together as filling to add more flavour and texture to the bing. With all the greens in this pie, it's one you can feel a little less guilty about gobbling.

Get a taste at Shan Zuo Long Men Li, Seventh floor, Zijing Plaza, 1628 Kongjiang Lu, near Jiangpu Lu, Hongkou district. Open 9am-9pm daily.

Rose pastry (Xianhuabing, 鲜花饼)

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As the name suggests, this cake features actual roses. After the dough is kneaded, chopped flowers are stuffed into the pastry before being baked in the oven. The flaky golden outer layer makes this pastry perfect for an afternoon snack.

A classic Yunnan food, this rose pastry is one of the four types of mooncake found around China. Made from only the finest roses found in the country, this pastry is known to be an imperial delicacy well-loved by the fourth emperor of Qing dynasty, Qian Long.

Get a taste at 8RMB each at Yunhaiyao Yunnancai, Fifth floor, Metro City, 1111 Zhaojiabang Lu, near Tianyao Qiao Lu, Xuhui district. Open 11am-3pm and 5pm-9.30pm daily.