For many people, dabing 大饼 is their first introduction to Chinese street food. And what a great place to start!
A huge round of flaky bread, leavened or unleavened, dabing is cooked in a contraption that looks like a giant waffle maker, leaving it oil-crisp on the outside and flaky, chewy and soft within. Dabing are always savoury – topped with white sesame seeds and green scallions; or brushed with a red, spicy, garlicky sauce made from pixian soy bean paste.
Bing 饼 is an all-encompassing word describing any food that is flat and round. The fine wheat pancakes used to eat Peking Duck are bing, the small flaky scallion filled pastries of Shanghai are bing, and moon cakes, whether savoury or sweet, are also bing. The word isn’t exclusive to Chinese foods either – French crepes, pizzas, and tortillas are all types of bing. Da bing 大饼 (big bing) simply refers to a large flat round.
Da bing are eaten at any time of day as a snack, but in Shanghai they are one of the ‘Four Kings of Breakfast’, the other being deep fried dough sticks (youtiao); sticky rice balls filled with salted egg, pork, and pickles (cifan); and fresh soy milk (doujiang).
To buy dabing, simply nominate a monetary amount – one yuan, two yuan, and so on, and the vendor will cut up a triangular slice for you of the correct weight.
|Dabing vendor with folded dabing ready for sale – plain on the left, spiced on the right|
|Leavened dabing with sesame and scallions
|Flaky unleavened dabing with spiced soybean and garlic sauce|
Shanghai Street Foods – The Complete Guide:
Number 24 Guotie – potsticker dumplings
Number 25 Nuomi Cai Tou – fried clover pancakes
Number 30 Shengjianbao – pan-fried dumplings