Seattle can get a crunchy and savory bite of authentic Chinese street fare, at a food cart whose name brings to mind Johnny Cash.
Bing of Fire bills itself as the only food cart in Seattle that sells Jianbing, a crepe that is sold from street carts and eaten early in the morning in Chinese cities.
While not a household food in the U.S., Jianbing is a popular street food in China. It’s made from a freshly made thin wrapper folded around flavorful ingredients, sauce and fried won ton wrappers, which give the package a nice crunch.
Bing of Fire struggled with how to describe the street food for those unfamiliar — crepe, omelet, burrito — and they settled on “Chinese crepe,” said Alex Strandoo, who has worked for Bing of Fire since last spring.
“The most excited people are usually Asian folks who go ‘Oh my god, I haven’t seen this forever in Seattle,’ ” Strandoo said.
But also, some of the harshest critics can be the customers who are familiar with the authentic street food in China, Strandoo said.
“They will come and just stand directly behind you and tell you that you are not doing it right.”
Anastasia Searfoss opened Bing of Fire in September 2013. She learned about Chinese food and Jianbing when she spent some time in China as an English teacher after college.
“My husband’s co-workers tend to think I am Chinese until they meet me in person,” she said. “I know a bit about Chinese food and culture but I am no expert.”
Bing of Fire offers four different types of Jianbing including traditional, American, “Laurie” (vegetarian and not spicy) and gluten-free (without won tons) Jianbing, or customers can order their own combination of ingredients. All of them have different ingredients such as cage free egg, green onions, crispy wonton cracker, all beef hot dogs, and sweet or spicy sauce.
“I like the traditional without chili sauce because it’s the traditional, which makes it more authentic,” said Lina Zhang, who start working for Bing of Fire since February. “American and Traditional are kind of equally popular, since the difference is just with hot dog or without hot dog.”
Searfoss said she tried to keep the menu very traditional at the beginning.
“No hot dog or Spam,” said Searfoss. “But I got a lot of feedback requesting meat, so we started to add these things.”
Searfoss said Bing of Fire is also working on adding new things to the food cart, however, there isn’t enough room to serve multiple types of food.
“And I very much enjoy the way they do it in China. We serve one thing, we do a really good job of it, but we make only this,” Searfoss said.
Anastasia Searfoss, the owner of Bing of Fire, makes Jian Bing on a crepe pan. (Video by Katy Wong)
Searfoss is also planning for a night market. They are hoping to have a trial night in January.
Bing of Fire hopes to follow the path of others, who have introduced the charms of Jianbing to areas outside of China.
Melissa Fu, owner of Mei Mei’s Street Cart started out with a small stall in Camden Town in London two years ago, and now has food carts throughout the United Kingdom.
“It is really cool to see the other Jian Bing carts in the States. It is interesting to see how each trader has created the Jian Bing in a slightly different way,” Fu said over email. “I haven’t been to Seattle, but I have been in brief contact with Bing of Fire and Jian Bing Johnny [in California]. I did love to try their Jian Bing too.”
Strandoo said described how it would be great to have similar success for Bing of Fire.
“I would love to see five Bing carts going around Seattle,” Strandoo said. “I think that will be awesome. Bing cart on every corner.”