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Jianbing 煎饼



36cms (W) x 28cms (H)

Oil on panel

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I painted this as part a 'twin', by which I mean I painted 2 of the same image twice at the same time. The first one i'm keeping as part of my ongoing series depicting daily life in Shanghai, the second is a donation for the annual art sale run by Heart for Heart, raising money for heart operations for children who families can't afford the treatments.

The subject is the making and selling of my favorite street food in China; the 'jianbing' 煎饼 (jee-yen-bing). If you've never tried one, it's essentially a light pancake (or crepe) that's prepared on a circular hotplate. The chef adds a dollop of dough, spreads it out with the spatula and wipes off the excess. After a few seconds they will crack an egg (or two) onto the batter, and spread it out to cover the whole pancake. Then they'll sprinkle some standard toppings (chopped scallions, and some pickles), and then some optional ones (usually chosen from a selection including pork sausage, shredded potato, lettuce, shredded cucumber, pickles). After adding the toppings, the circular pancake is then usually folded in half, and on the cooked half is spread two sauces; firstly tianmianjiang 甜面酱 (tee-yen mee-yen jee-yang) which is a thick sweet sauce made from fermented flour, and secondly, spicy oily chilli sauce. The final addition is either a rectangle of crispy deep fried wonton skin, or a donut stick. The pancake is folded around the skin/stick, chopped in half and then dropped into a plastic bag ready for you to take away. Locally to me, they'll normally cost between 5 and 10RMB.

I wanted to paint this subject matter because i love the experience of watching someone prepare food from scratch, and because the kind of 'hole in the wall' jianbing vendor in the image seems to be decreasing in number; certainly in the area in which I live; and I need to walk further and further to get my favourite breakfast.  There are some more modern vendors appearing (which is probably good from a food hygiene perspective), but i do miss the utterly messy appearance of the old style, who often look as though they made all the equipment themselves. 

There is also something fascinating about the lives of these people who usually sit completely inactively in their stores, springing to life when a customer appears. In that moment, there's a link in the preparation of this pancake, then once the transaction is complete, both go their separate ways. For me it's a bit of a symbol of the instances where peoples lives intersect.

In that respect, I wanted the younger girl and older women in this picture to mirror each other. Someone with most of their life ahead of them, someone with most of it behind them, their completely different paths crossing momentarily over a delicious pancake.

Incidentally, the store where I took some research photos of the female seller and her hotplate has now closed, as has the store on wulumuqi lu where I used to buy a crepe every weekend. I do wonder what has happened to them and how they now earn their living.


这幅画的主题是我在中国最喜欢的街头食品——煎饼的制作和售卖。如果你从来没吃过,它其实是放在圆形加热板上的薄饼。煎饼师傅会取一团面团,用抹刀将其摊开,然后擦去多余的面。几秒钟后,它们会将一个鸡蛋(或两个鸡蛋)打到面糊上,并摊开以覆盖整个煎饼。然后,他们撒一些经典的的浇头(切碎的葱和一些泡菜),然后撒一些可选的(通常从猪肉香肠,土豆丝,生菜,黄瓜丝或咸菜)。加入馅料后,通常将圆形薄煎饼对折,在熟了的一半上摊上两种调味料;首先是甜面酱(tee-yen mee-yen jee-yang),它是一种由发酵面粉制成的浓稠甜酱,然后是辣油状辣椒酱。最后放上长方形的脆饼或油条。将薄煎饼折叠,切成两半,然后放入塑料袋中,方便拿走。对我来说,价格通常在5到10元人民币之间。





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