fine food - Pancakes
Written by Craig Butcher
There are few dishes that truly unite world cuisine, but pancakes achieve it with delightful aplomb. A sweet or savoury batter of varying depth, filled or topped with all manner of ingredients. Here are three diverse taste sensations.
While Colombia and Venezuela have their cornflour cachapas and North America its wheat-flour pancakes, apam balik is the tour de force in Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Available primarily at roadside stalls, apam balik translates in English simply as ‘turnover pancake’. It takes on the slight sweetness of rice flour in a crumpet-like batter that is then folded in half and filled with a sweet peanut sauce. Alternatively, it may be filled with durian or yam, but regardless of filling, the pièce de résistance is that it’s often served upright.
From the thin blini pancakes of Eastern Europe to the thicker crêpes of France or galettes of Belgium, European pancakes are typically sweet. The Austrian Kaiserschmarrn are sweet, and exceptional. They are named in celebration of a former Kaiser, Franz Joseph I, combined with schmarren – shredded pancake. These fluffy pieces of caramelised pancake traditionally contain raisins (occasionally soaked in rum – ask if you are unsure), and are served with a sugar dusting, fruits, and sometimes nuts. Expect a fruit compote on the side, usually apple or plum, to complete the ensemble.
Japanese okonomiyaki are savoury pancakes. Their fantastically varied nature is suggested by their English translation – okonomi meaning ‘what you want’ and yaki meaning ‘grilled’. Common across Japan, they’re also referred to as ‘Japanese pizza’ or ‘soul food’. Made with flour, egg, shredded cabbage, and a dizzying choice of whatever ingredients you want, they are often topped with seaweed, Japanese mayonnaise, and pickled ginger. Modernise your dish by ordering a modanyaki – the same dish but on a bed of fried udon or yakisoba noodles.
Pikelets, drop scones, galettes, or crêpes – as many different names as there are similarities. They are leavened as in North America or unleavened (no raising agent) in England and elsewhere. Typically fried in a griddle pan, they are most often served circular (not so the rectangular Finnish pannukakku).