Americans love their pancakes. We like them sweet (and all the sweeter when doused in maple syrup), we like them fluffy, and we like them for breakfast.
Not so in the rest of the world, where a pancake needn’t be eaten in the morning, it doesn’t need to be floury, and it most certainly doesn’t need to be sweet. Essentially, if it’s round and it’s flat, it’s a pancake—and you’ll find some variation on that theme almost anywhere you travel.
In South India, diners do enjoy their uttapam in the morning, but these light little rounds, made of rice and/or lentil flour and studded with diced vegetables, bear little resemblance to an American pancake. While you’re there, you should absolutely try a dosa, a thin and crispy fermented rice and black lentil crepe rolled around spiced potatoes, onions or paneer.
Head farther east, and you’ll find bánh xèo, a pancake of rice flour and coconut milk, wrapped around shrimp and mung bean sprouts in Vietnam, and in China, cong you bing, chewy, flaky scallion pancakes served with a gingery soy sauce or vinegar.
If your sweet tooth is feeling neglected by now, it’s time to head to Europe, where variations on the pancake get sweeter. Crepes, a French (and global) favorite, need no explanation, of course. And, if you like your pancakes shredded, head to Austria. That’s where you can indulge in kaiserschmarnn: fluffy pancakes spiked with plump raisins, cut into small pieces and gilded with powdered sugar and berries.
If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, take a look at this week’s Your Shot gallery, serving up some visual pancake delights from around the world.