With festive overindulgence a fast fading memory, the coming of Shrove Tuesday brings much needed mid-winter relief for epicureans (read: gluttons) everywhere. Celebrated in the UK and beyond as Pancake Day, Shrove Tuesday marks the beginning of Lent, traditionally observed as a period of abstinence, with an excuse to gorge yourself silly with delicious, sugary batter. If, however, caster sugar and artificial lemon juice alone won’t suffice to curb your cravings – although, personally, I can think of no reason they shouldn’t – then perhaps one of these Asian influenced pancake treats will be more up your alley.
If it’s a savoury eat that you’re after, Japan’s okonomiyaki is a fine place to start. Originating in Osaka, the dish is created using a batter created from flour, eggs, shredded cabbage and water or dashi, a Japanese stock. To this basic mix can be added a bewildering array of ingredients, from green onion and pork belly to cheese or squid. Indeed, the dishes name is derived from the Japanese for ‘what you like’. The mix is then grilled on a hot plate and finished with any combination of seaweed, bonito flakes, mayonnaise, and thick, fruity okonomiyaki sauce to create a indulgent crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside eating experience. Okan in Brixton Village offers up an authentically delicious taste of this quintessentially Japanese street food.
A popular street food delicacy across Malaysia, Apam Balik have recently arrived in our capital thanks to The Malaysian Pancake Company. A crisp light pancake filled and folded in half, the traditional topping for this slightly sweet delicacy consists of melted butter, creamed corn and a liberal sprinkling of peanuts. Visitors to one of the company’s four outlets across London, however, will be treated to a range of fillings running the flavour gamut from savoury to extremely sweet all at frankly astonishingly low prices.
An inescapable feature of Tokyo’s bustling Harajuku district, these ‘crepes’ do resemble thinner, continental-style pancakes rather than the stodgier fare native to the UK but, frankly, the similarity ends there, with any further comparison likely to be viewed by any self-respecting Frenchman as potentially libellous. Served in paper cones from road-side windows to a largely teenage fan base, the pancakes are loaded with a range of nauseatingly sweet toppings, ranging from the comparatively inoffensive fruit and custard, to frankly monstrous creations featuring whole slices of cheesecake slathered with vast quantities of whipped cream. Savoury options are also sometimes offered, but these are a mere side show to the toothsome main attraction. Frankly, anything which carries such a clear risk of heart attack should almost certainly be illegal, but if you really must insist on trying a Harajuku crepe for yourself, Mr Crepe Pancakes in Brent Cross shopping centre offer up a range of authentically queasy options.
By Sam Jones