This weekend, I was in Coimbatore for a live event with Dainik Bhaskar and I am humbled by the response, love and appreciation we got from the people of this beautiful city. While at the hotel I got talking with a British gentleman who told me how wowed he was by the ‘South Indian savoury pancakes.’ It took me a minute to realize that when he said ‘South Indian savoury pancakes’ he was talking about the humble dosa which is indeed a type of pancake.
Now, pancakes are prepared all over the world and are referred to by different names. Pancakes are made with little over ¾ cup of liquid to 1 cup of flour. It’s a fluid mixture that can be beaten vigorously to make a smooth batter without developing the gluten extensively. Pancakes should be picture perfect golden brown on the surface and should be round. The size is strictly a matter of personal preference. They should be light and tender. Over mixing of the batter or too much flour in relation to the milk can cause pancakes to be tough. Several condiments can be added to batters to enhance nutritive value as well as create intriguing variations of pancakes. Additional variety is gained by using fruits and sauces for toppings. Crepes are pancakes with extra liquid added to the batter creating a very fluid mixture that produces very thin pancakes. Turns out, there is a lot of trivia about pancakes that is as interesting as the dish itself.
On Pancake Day in Newfoundland (the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent), items are placed in the pancake batter before it is cooked to foretell the future for family members. If a boy receives an item for a trade, it means he would enter that trade. If a girl receives an item for a trade, it means she would marry a person from that trade.
Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day in Britain, is the day before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – ‘Shrove’ stems from old English word ‘shrive’, meaning ‘confess all sins’. It is called Pancake Day because it is the day traditionally for eating pancakes as pancake recipes were a way to use up any stocks of milk, butter and eggs which were forbidden during the abstinence of Lent.
The first ready-mix food to be sold commercially was Aunt Jemima pancake flour. It was invented in St. Joseph, Missouri and introduced in 1889. It did not become popular until 1893 at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, when the then current owners of the name and formula, R. T. Davis Milling Company hired Nance Green to be the ‘real life’ Aunt Jemima. She demonstrated the pancake mix at the Exposition and both Nancy Green and the mix were a big hit.
In 1986, an event that bills itself as the World’s Largest Pancake Breakfast was revived for the 350th anniversary of Springfield, Massachusetts. The breakfast has been held every year since then. Hundreds of volunteers help with the event. In 1999, more than 71,233 servings of pancakes were served to more than 40,000 people. If you stacked up all those pancakes, they’d be more than 2 miles high!
In India, the pooda (sometimes called cheela) is a pancake. They can be made either sweet or salty and are of different thicknesses in different places. They are made in a frying pan and are of a similar batter like their European counterparts.
Dosa, appam, neer dosa and uttapam could be said to be other Indian pancakes. They are prepared by fermenting rice batter and split skinned black gram (urad) blended with water. What Punjabis call a meetha pooda is a common breakfast food item in Punjab. It is a sweet pancake which can be eaten with pickles and chutney. Most of the pithes in Assam are types of pancakes served on occasions such as Bihu. In Bengal is found a semi-sweet pancake calledpatishapta which is sometimes stuffed with grated coconut and thickened milk and dunked in sugar syrup. In most parts of India there is a sweet pancake called malpua which is served during various festivals and otherwise as well.
Like I said before, pancakes can be created with several variations. So, we tried making a Black Pepper Malpua. May sound a little odd, but trust me the taste is perfect. Every time you take a bite of the sweet malpua you are pleasantly surprised by the slight hit of the fresh black pepper on your taste buds. I think all of you should try this recipe out as I am sure it won’t disappoint and also because this is something you won’t get to eat at any mithai shop. Don’t forget to tell me about the interesting food experiences you have had over the weekend.