Chinese Cooking Method Jian 煎

A Different Kind of Frying
More Oil, Less Salt

“Laying them more-or-less flat against the surface of the wok, a method known in Chinese as jian (pan-fry), rather than chao (stir-fry).” — Fuchsia Dunlop

Over centuries, Chinese cooks have developed so many distinctive cooking methods, many of them unfamiliar to cooks in other cuisines.

There’s wind curing — useful for game birds, even turkey. There’s convection cooking in hot cinders — maybe the best way to roast chestnuts. [1]

And there’s the shallow pan-frying method known in Chinese as jian —  煎   This technique means, specifically “slow pan-frying on a greased surface without mixing or stirring, as when frying eggs, etc….”: [2]

More Oil, Less Salt: To jian  煎 uses more oil than chao   炒  or stir-frying, which is not actually frying, but much less oil than ja    炸   or deep-frying.  It omits the braising liquid used in stir-frying. This method omits the braising liquid used in stir-frying and uses little or no soy sauce or salt.

So this method is a healthy cooking technique and is useful for people concerned about sodium levels. [3]

Street Food and Brick Tea: Chinese cooks use the term jian in the phrase jian bing, a very thin fried pancake, a kind of Chinese street food. They also use the term jian cha meaning “to boil brick tea.”  [4] [4a]

Purple Perilla Recipe: There is a good Sichuan dish made with cucumbers and purple perilla cooked using the jian method — Fuchsia Dunlop has published a version.  You can make the dish more substantial by including, for example, thinly sliced bean curd, which neds the same careful pan-frying as the cucumber slices. [煎5]

Pan Fried Cucumber with Purple Perilla

It’s worth looking for the term jian 煎 when you’re browsing Chinese menus. [6] The jian 煎 method, once mastered, can be applied at home with good results to many thinly sliced foods!

For Further Information:

[1] Buwei Yang Chao, How to Cook and Eat in Chinese  —
[2] Charles Hockett, Dictionary of Spoken Chinese  —
Yuen Ren Chao, and Lien Sheng Yang, Concise Dictionary of Spoken Chinese
R. H. Mathews, Chinese-English Dictionary
[3] Chinese cooking methods and terms ––
[4] R.H. Mathews on jian   煎
[4a] Jian Bing — picture
[4b] Video of Jian Bing cooking process —
[5] Fuchsia Dunlop on Purple Perilla  —]
6] James D. McCawley, Eater’s Guide to Chinese Characters  —


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