We’ve never been a breakfast family. Breakfast was always meant to be inhaled rather than consumed—it’s simply a means to an end rather than an experience or a meal to be enjoyed. But there’s one breakfast item that I will always go for: dan bing, the Taiwanese street-food answer to a breakfast burrito.
Dan bing has been a part of my arsenal for as long as I can remember, most likely because my mother preferred the ease of making a hot meal for us before school without using processed junky ingredients that American breakfast-food options presented to us. Some mornings, we had congee, made from the leftovers of last night’s rice, served with pickled daikon and funky fermented tofu, topped with a tangle of rou sung. Most of the time, though, we had dan bing.
Dan bing is a simple dish, made with ingredients you probably already have at home. A quick dough made of water, flour, and cornstarch is whisked together briskly and spread into an oiled pan. An egg or two, beaten with a dash of salt and some scallion, sliced thin, goes on top of the pancake. Once the egg is just cooked you flip the whole thing over, cook it for a few more minutes, and then slide the whole thing off onto a waiting cutting board, where the egg-pancake is rolled, sliced into pieces, and plopped onto a plate.
Dan bing is just American enough to be recognizable and therefore non-threatening to an American audience staunch in their dedication to scrambled eggs and complex carbs.
Dan bing is just American enough to be recognizable and therefore non-threatening to an American audience staunch in their dedication to scrambled eggs and complex carbs. It’s essentially a stripped-down breakfast burrito, absent the frippery of salsas and chorizo. You don’t have to eat with utensils, either: Dan bing is best consumed straight out of the frying pan, steaming hot next to a puddle of savory soy sauce, tempered with a drizzle of sesame oil and a dash of rice vinegar.
My mother makes dan bing the lazy way, using store-bought wrappers procured at Ranch 99 specifically for this purpose. When my sisters and I make it at home, crowded around the island in my kitchen, we level up and use a homemade dough. The consistency of the homemade dough varies. It will take you a few tries to get it right, but once you do, it’s worth the effort. The crispiness of the crepe makes you feel like what you’re eating is slightly illicit, like dessert for breakfast. The egg and sharp bite of the green onion remind you that yes, this is breakfast, but really, it could be eaten for any meal. Like the best breakfast dishes, dan bing doubles as the perfect drunk food, made while slightly wobbly and drinking a big glass of water in your kitchen late at night when everyone else is asleep. It’s a delight. Try it once and you’ll be hooked.
Note: My mother’s recipe usually uses pre-made egg roll wrappers.
For the crepe
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
For the egg
¼ - ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Dash of sesame oil
2 to 3 scallions, chopped
For the sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Chili oil and sesame oil, to taste
¼ teaspoon crushed garlic (optional)
How to Make It
Mix the flour, cornstarch, and water together in a small bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
For each crepe, beat 1 egg with a tablespoon of scallions, a dash of sesame oil, and a pinch of both salt and white pepper.
Heat a lightly oiled nonstick pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, add about a ½ cup of the batter to the pan, swirling as you do to coat the bottom. Cook the crepe for about 3-4 minutes, until the top has set. Flip the pancake out onto a plate and then slide it back into the skillet with the cooked side facing up. Pour the egg onto the crepe and spread it with a spatula, keeping most of it on the crepe itself. Cook until the egg is just about set and then flip to the other side for about 10 seconds and slide off the plate onto a cutting board. Roll the crepe with the egg side on the inside into a long, rectangular roll. Slice into sections.
For the sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to incorporate.