AIYA’S JIAN BING
LOCATION: Smorgasburg D.C. (Tingey Plaza, Washington, D.C. 20003)
The trek around the Smorgasburg D.C. market continued, with another one of our stops being the Jian Bing tent. My friend Carlos, who grew up in Taiwan, mentioned he used to see the savory egg crepes on the street food scene. The menu sounded interesting enough that we decided to give it a shot.
From what I can tell, the group that was serving up the jian bing was called AiYa; based on their Instagram, they cook a variety of different Asian dishes at pop-up events to help showcase them to a broader audience. I thought that was a pretty cool avenue to educate people about some lesser-known Asian dishes or perhaps some popular items that aren’t necessarily available in the local food space.
Three types of savory egg crepes were available, with each featuring a different main ingredient: pork floss, Spam, or Enoki mushrooms. Pork floss, also known as rousong, is dried meat that resembles the texture of wool. It’s kind of hard to describe, and I don’t think the English translation really helps its perception either. I was down to try either the Rousong or the Hawaiian (Spam offering), and the votes ended up leaning towards the Hawaiian.
There were two crepe makers set up in the back of the tent, with the guys busting out the crepes as the orders came in. For the Hawaiian, it looked like once the crepe was formed, they would go ahead and fold in the cooked slices of Spam along with some pickled cucumbers, crispy wonton strips, scallions, and musubi sauce. When it got served to us, the entire crepe was folded over into a quarter of its original size, topped with furikake, Japanese mayo, and some more of the musubi sauce.
I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. The only crepes I’d ever really had up to that point were dessert crepes, normally filled with strawberries, bananas, Nutella, or cookie butter (and in one instance, everything mentioned). But once I was able to get a bite that encompassed almost all of the ingredients together, I found it was able to walk the line between savory and sweet very well. The Spam and pickled cucumbers worked nicely in balancing each other, helping make sure that each bite didn’t feel too heavy. I also liked the addition of the crispy wonton strips for some textural contrast as well.
My only comment would have been to provide some plastic knives as well, since we were only armed with plastic forks to take down the crepe. With the bevy of ingredients inside the crepe, it made it hard to get a clean cut sometimes, especially since we were sharing it amongst three people.
For what I would consider a pop-up vendor, I thought they did a good job with balancing out the flavor combinations and at the same time showcasing a type of food that was different than anything else being offered at the market. The portion was pretty sizeable, and I thought the $12 price tag was justified both on how much food you got as well as the exclusivity of the item being served. If you feel like branching out, head over to AiYa’s jian bing vendor stand to see what it’s all about.
Let’s now take a look at the AiYa’s Jian Bing Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
And finally, here are my rankings for AiYa’s Jian Bing:
Food: 4.25 / 5
Visually, I thought the presentation of our Hawaiian egg crepe was really nice. Everything tasted very good, and it didn’t end up being as heavy as I thought it would be. I also liked the exclusivity factor of it, since I hadn’t seen a place serving up jian bing during my time living in the D.C. area.
Smorgasburg D.C. was arranged into a smaller space than the one in LA, but I think that gave it the advantage of having more of a community feel. I never felt like the space was ever too crowded, as there was plenty of room in the immediate area around the market to sit and chill out.
Service: 4 / 5
The guys working the crepe stations must have had their timing down pretty well. I feel like we didn’t have to wait very long before our fully assembled crepe was ready to go.
Price: 4.25 / 5
Like I mentioned above, I thought that the portion size of the crepe helped factor in to a good value on the price point. The other two crepes they were offering got priced at $10 each, which was very reasonable as well.