The Secret Jian Bing of Buenos Aires, Argentina

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One of my favorite foods in the world is the somewhat confusing jian bing 煎饼, or Chinese crepe. It’s a very popular street food in Northern China.

Unfortunately, it can be rare outside of the country. Now, thanks to a chef from Fujian, it can be found at a tiny window here in Buenos Aires, Argentina, too.

If, that is, you can read Chinese.

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In China, the jian bing is not uncommon. It’s a breakfast street food staple in the North, sold on carts where it is made from scratch on a single coal burning hot plate.

Each chef has his or her own unique style (long or short fold, single cracker or double stacked, with or without meat) but the main ingredients are always the same: batter, egg, scallions, secret sauce, and a cracker for shape, all origamied together into a food without analogy—is it a crepe? Pancake? Flat burrito? An omelette? Yes and no. It’s a bing.

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The bing comes from Shandong, a city in Northern China. It is just now beginning its spread around the world. It recently earned a feature in the New York Times.

In Buenos Aires, they can be found at El Cisne Blanco, or The White Swan, a Chinese restaurant on Arribeños, the main street of Barrio Chino.

There is a side room to El Cisne where Chef Biao 标 makes his bings. It’s only identifying mark, a handwritten sign “煎饼果子”, jian bing guo zi, in Chinese (no Spanish, no English, no Romanized letters at all) is the sole indication that you can find jian bing here in the Paris of the South.

I used to live in China, and I’m always looking for really authentic Chinese food. When I walked by this sign, I double, triple, and quadruple-taked before my mind accepted that it was real. There was jian bing in Argentina.

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Chef Biao is from Fujian, China. He speaks Chinese and Spanish and only works Sunday afternoons, where he cooks up jian bings at el Cisne for an audience of mostly Chinese nationals.

There are approximately 130,000 people of Chinese descent in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Chinese diaspora centers around Barrio Chino, and many small supermarkets are run by people of Chinese descent throughout the city.

At El Cisne Blanco, the bings are jianbing guozi, which means youtiao, 油條, a fried Chinese dough, is used to give it that characteristic crunch.

El Cisne Blanco’s jian bing comes with pieces of succulent pork for $80 pesos. In China, they cost less than $1 U.S.D. on the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilberto Velho – A Utopia Urbana – Um Estudo de Antropologia Social – English Translation

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I was reading this anthropology book by Gilberto Velho – A Utopia Urbana – Um Estudo de Antropologia Social about people who want to move to, by any means necessary, the Estrela Building in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s in Portuguese and I couldn’t find any English versions of the book, so I wanted to write up a translation of it in case someone else wanted to read it in English someday. I only did the Conclusion section, though. It’s not a very long book, but I’m not sure when I’ll have time to do the rest.

Velho recently passed away. During his career he was an influential Brazilian anthropologist.

Chapter 5. Conclusions

“Whoever has experienced Copacabana doesn’t want to live anywhere else.” – A Neighborhood Resident

Up to what point can Social Anthropology be useful to research of the urban environment, especially of the large metropolises? Continue reading “Gilberto Velho – A Utopia Urbana – Um Estudo de Antropologia Social – English Translation”

An Elephant Through a Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

pic (132) Continue reading “An Elephant Through a Microscope”

An Elephant Through a Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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At home, I am so busy even though I am retired.

Name:
Xing

Chinese Zodiac:
Cow

Continue reading “An Elephant Through a Microscope”

An Elephant Through A Microscope

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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teddy (14)

 We wanted to come to chase our dreams together in Shanghai.

Names:
Wang Family (Teddy and his Mother and Father)

Chinese Zodiac:
Father: Snake.
Mother: Cock.
Teddy: Monkey.

Teddy: Is the interview over already?
No, we haven’t started yet…

Continue reading “An Elephant Through A Microscope”

Elephant Through a Microscope 5

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

michael (8) michael (5)

I went to go visit my old teacher at another school, and I met a girl there. It was almost love at first sight. I can’t tell my parents. . . We both are choosing the same university and major.

Name:
Michael (as in Jordan)

Chinese Zodiac:
Monkey

Continue reading “Elephant Through a Microscope 5”

An Elephant Through a Microscope 4

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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Mao Zedong told us to go to the countryside to work and learn from the farmers after high school and then go back.

Names?
Zhou family.

Continue reading “An Elephant Through a Microscope 4”

Elephant Through a Microscope 3

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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A common Chinese lady like myself cannot go abroad. I thought I could work in a foreign country on a business trip but it seems like I was wrong.

Name:
Maple

Chinese Zodiac:
Dog

Continue reading “Elephant Through a Microscope 3”

An Elephant Through a Microscope 2

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

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In my childhood, we used to make clothes. I had new clothes from my family every year during the Spring Festival. It was my happiest time with my parents. We had less things, so we didn’t get new clothes often, except for the Spring Festival.

Name:
Niao, Dao, Zhuan

Chinese Zodiac:
Tiger, Cow, Rabbit

Hometown:
Shanghai, Shanghai, Hubei

Continue reading “An Elephant Through a Microscope 2”

An Elephant Through a Microscope 1

Five years ago, when I was living in Shanghai, China, I started photographing and interviewing my neighbors. I called the project “An Elephant Through a Microscope” because I was trying to learn more about the giant city of Shanghai by meeting individual citizens.

I just found my old notebooks with the transcripts of the interviews:

Li (1)Li (2)

I used to live with my Grandfather. He died when I was 30. I miss him still. He cared for me when I was growing up.

Name:

Li

Chinese Zodiac:

Tiger

Occupation:

Jianbing (煎饼) maker [Chinese Pancakes]

Continue reading “An Elephant Through a Microscope 1”

北方門前 Bei Fang Men Qian, In Front of the North Door by Haizi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

In front of the North door,
a little lady,
shook a tiny bell.

I wish
wish to be a pagoda,
built sadly in the night.

At daybreak, she catches sight of me.
Her eyes looking from the high distance.
She watches me, embodying total beauty.

亞洲銅 Yazhou Tong, Asian Copper by Hai Zi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
Grandfather died here, father died here, I, too, will die here.
You are the place to bury people.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
That which loves to doubt and fly is the birds
That which floods everything is the seawater.
Your master is actually the grass, it lives on your tiny waist,
hold the wildflowers’ hands and secrets.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
Have you seen? Those two white doves? They are the white shoes
that Qu Yuan left behind on the beach.
Let’s—us and the river—put them on.

Asian Copper, Asian Copper
After the drums beat, we will name the dancing heart in the darkness
the moon.
This moon is primarily made of you.

日記 ri ji Diary by Haizi

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

Big Sister, tonight,
I’m in Delingha, darkness enveloped,
Sister, tonight I only have the Gobi.

The grassland ends, my two hands,
emptiness.
Grief can’t hold a single tear.
Sister, tonight, I’m in Delingha,
This is the desolate city in the rainwater.

Besides those roads passed
and places lived,
Delingha…Tonight
This is the only, the last, expression.
This is the only, the last, grassland.

I gave a stone to a stone.
Tonight, the barely only belongs
to itself.
Every slice grows,
Tonight, I only have the beautiful Gobi,
emptiness.

Sister tonight I am unconcerned with humanity.
I only think of you.

Rain by Hai Zi 海子的雨

This is a poem by Hai Zi, a Chinese poet, that I translated.

make a fire and walk it to the boat to see the mountaintop, rain soaked, wheat field.
such small, weak, grains.

then extinguish the fire in front of the idols.
we rely on each other in silence.
you are a fairy, you live in the hamlet’s depths.

o moon, you frigid flame, the ever ripe maiden in your rain coat.

tonight’s flame is dressed to appear as a fresh flower.
to swim in the sky’s south.
to swim in the night, rise above the top of my head.

the little village in the highlands is small, impoverished.
it looks like a grain, like an umbrella.
the naked maiden in the umbrella silently doesn’t speak.

the impoverished, lonely, maiden looks like a queen, lives within the umbrella
sunlight and rainwater can only give you dust and mud.
you hide from everything in the umbrella
refusing tears and memories.