National Pancake day was yesterday, February 25th, meaning free stacks at IHOP and an influx of Instagram posts in ode to the sugary, delicious breakfast. I assumed the “holiday” was a product of capitalism, and simply created by an institution such as IHOP for marketing purposes. However, it turns out National Pancake Day is historically significant!
National Pancake Day falls on the traditional feast day before Lent, known as Shrove Tuesday. The Anglo-Saxon Christians would go to confession, then get busy in the kitchen to use up their remaining animal products that weren’t allowed to be consumed during the Lenten fast.
What does one do with excess eggs, butter, and milk? Make pancakes of course! Thus, Pancake Day was born.
“Pancake” means a lot of different things across the world. Here are some international pancake ventures I’ve embarked on that were particularly tasty.
Taiwan: Dan Bing
Dan Bing is a Taiwanese savory crepe (or pancake) that is a popular local breakfast of choice. It is comprised of a crepe topped with egg and scallion rolled up, cut up, fried on a gridle, and served with a sauce on top. The outside is crispy and light, and the inside is greasy, salty, and oh so delicious.
My first dan bing experience was at a corner street food stall in Taipei. Happy locals were chowing down and it seemed to be a well rooted establishment. No one spoke English, so we pointed at a couple dishes, laughed, and sat back waiting for whatever might come. Two orders of dan bing along with two servings of a noodle dish topped with egg came, and it all cost a whopping 140 NTD, which is about $5.
Dan Bing should make a New York debut, it would make a killing!
Japan: Soufflé Pancake
Japanese soufflé pancakes are giant and impossibly fluffy, and have become all the rage throughout Asia and Western culture alike. Whipped egg white are key in making these pillows of joy. A slow twenty minutes on the griddle makes a cake that is golden brown on the outside with a soft center. They are then topped with anything and everything you can dream of, from strawberries to chocolate chips.
Our first and only true Japanese pancake experience was in Yokohama, Japan. We pinned a shop in the Chinatown area, and were shocked to find the wait was well over an hour. It’s a blessing and a curse that we are no quitters, so we went into various shops and I scored a track jacket from a thrift shop to pass time before being sat amongst the teenage girls in the trendy instagrammable shop. Let me tell you…. they were absolutely worth the wait, hype, and price.
Our second attempt at scoring a Japanese pancake was in Naha, Japan. We found a Hawaiian themed brunch spot, and when our pancakes arrived a mere 8 minutes after ordering, we knew they weren’t the real deal. They were about an inch thick and comically jiggly with an eggy texture that was slightly wet, making for a whole different type of pancake that was still tasty despite being different than expected.
Cambodia: “Chinese Pancake”
Hunger trumped fear of food poisoning as we sat down at a questionable beach front restaurant in Sihanoukville. A few “pancakes” went by, making it seem like a safer choice than seafood hotpot or chicken stir fry. Ten minutes later we were served a thin, omelet-like pancake stuffed with a seasoned meat mixture alongside a bowl of greens and a sauce. It was surprisingly delicious, and I’m happy to report we did not get food poisoning.
Read more about this experience HERE!
Vietnam: Banh Khot
Banh Khot is a mini Vietnamese pancake that is made from a batter composed of rice flour, corn starch, and coconut milk that is fried, then topped with a prawn. You then wrap the Banh Khot in greens, dip it in a sweet dipping sauce, and enjoy! The pancake is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and I was a huge fan.
We tried out Banh Khot in Vung Tao, Vietnam, which is a coastal beach town outside Ho Chi Minh City. The town is allegedly famous for its Banh Khot, but every shop I had pinpointed was closed due to the Chinese New Year holiday. When I thought all hope was lost, we finally spotted an open shop down a side street and were quickly sat on the iconic Vietnam kiddie chairs. The teenagers working quite fancied me, and got a kick out of our ineptitude as to how to eat the dish. With a little guidance, we were still eating like tourists, but I found the experience and taste top notch. Not to mention, two orders was under $2usd.
More Vietnamese food HERE
Amsterdam: Dutch Pancakes
Dutch pancakes are light, thin, as big as a plate, and can be either sweet or savory. The dish came to Holland from Nepal and China in the 12th century and was adapted to local ingredients and flavors. On my second cruise ship contract onboard the Konningsdam, Amsterdam was our homeport and we were there just about every single Sunday.
Every time I walked into the city center, I would pass a massive line outside Pancakes Amsterdam. One Sunday, my friend Victoria and I finally gave it a go, and then the line made total sense. The thin pancake was slightly crispy and slightly bready, and sopped up the fruit and syrup to perfection. I appreciated the fact it wasn’t too heavy, and I didn’t walk away in a sugar and simple carb induced coma.
I have had countless stacks of pancakes in my life, but alas, I have no photo evidence. If only I had known I would be starting a food blog and writing a post on pancakes of the world five years ago. But hey, who was to know?
But check out these protein pancakes from Amber Tacy with Dancers Who Lift! It just takes a few simple ingredients to whip up a healthy stack that won’t have you feeling sluggish all day!
Whether it be a greasy, savory egg-filled Dan Bing or huge American stack topped with syrup, whipped cream and chocolate, pancakes are pretty freaking delicious! Maybe year I will celebrate with pancakes instead of pizza….