Not quite a muffin, not quite a pancake – the humble, holey crumpet is in a league of its own. The famous circular teatime snack hails from England, where it’s often found slathered in butter and dolloped with jam. In Australia, crumpets make for an ideal after-school snack, a tower of three or four stacked on top of each other used as the base for an unreasonable amount of golden syrup.
Crumpets’ popularity in Australia and England notwithstanding, the griddle-pan sensation has found life all over the world, taking on different forms as cultures reinvent and reinterpret the concept. From Myanmar to Morocco, here’s what the rest of the world thinks of England’s great invention.
Baghrir is a kind of Moroccan pancake, generally eaten in Northwest Africa. Like crumpets, baghrir are circular, spongy and holey (they’re known as “the thousand hole cake), made with flour or semolina flour.
In Morocco, baghrir are usually eaten for breakfast with warm butter and special honey. The active yeast is what gives baghrir their pockmarked texture and chewy consistency, and what makes them excellent vessels for all kinds of toppings.
A word of warning – baghrir will stick together if they’re stacked, especially if they’re stacked while warm. Although we’re not sure if there’s anything particularly wrong with a giant, sticky mass of stacked Moroccan pancakes – it actually sounds like a great way to start the day.
Try making your own Moroccan pancakes using this recipe.
2. Ban chien kuih (peanut pancake)
Peanut pancakes are an East Asian sweet staple, found mostly in Singapore, China and Malaysia. While exact wording and recipes differ depending on where you are in the world, the concept of the peanut pancake remains more or less unchanged: yeast cakes are cooked in a pan until light and fluffy, then filled with sugar peanuts, creamy sweet corn and butter. Lots of butter.
Ban chien kuih (sometimes referred to as min chiang kueh) is a popular breakfast snack in Malaysia, and it’s not uncommon to spy early bird hawkers slow cooking the pancake over charcoal embers in the crowded streets of Kuala Lumpur.
3.Mont pyar tha let
Made using rice flour, these savoury Burmese crepes are instantly recognisable as the country’s favourite street food. Market vendors cook these fluffy pancakes in their street-side kitchens for locals and visitors alike, topping them with nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, palm sugar syrup, and occasionally red bean paste.
For the more savoury-inclined, mont pyar tha let can be served with tomatoes, chickpeas, cabbage and chilli.
4. The Crumpet Shop
Pre-packaged crumpets have inevitably hit The US in grocery stores like Trader Joes, but this long-standing Seattle café has taken dedication to the English treat to a whole new level. The Crumpet Shop specialises in handmade organic crumpets that come topped with sweet, savoury or egg-based ingredients.
While the crumpets themselves are a true homage to their British ancestors, the toppings are a world apart from your classic butter and golden syrup. There’s The Ram, with ricotta, almond butter and marmalade, or the Maple Butter with walnuts and cream cheese. When lunchtime rolls around, crumpets are served with pesto, tomato, parmesan and ham.
These yeasted Polish pancakes sit somewhere on the scale between pikelet and crumpet – while they’re springy and light like a crumpet, they’re more pikelet-like in appearance.
Racuszki is made with a simple, yeast-based batter, which is mixed for an hour in order to achieve the airy, slightly bubbly pancake. They’re traditionally served as a sweet, alongside fruit preserve and sour cream.
It’s a case of more than meats the eye with these Korean snacks – although light on toppings, it’s the fillings that make them a popular sweet street food during the winter months. Made with yeasted dough and filled with fruit and nuts, hotteok are then cooked in a griddle pan until crisp.
Supermarkets in Korea may sell ready-made hotteok mix, which comes with brown sugar and ground peanuts or sesame seed filling. If you’re not lucky enough to be there at the moment, try this recipe for a hotteok with sujeonggwa (persimmon), or this one for a brown sugar version.
Think of Yemenite lachuch as the lovechild of flatbread and a pancake. Like crumpets and baghrir, lachuch is made from a yeasted batter, the kind that forms gorgeous little holes (ripe for soaking up toppings) when cooked in a griddle pan without flipping. As is the case with most items on this list, there are few rules when it comes to devouring lachuch – although the slightly denser, bread-like consistency makes them ideal for savoury breakfasts. Our tip? Take your lachuch with a side of Yemeni hot sauce.
These puffy Arab dumpling-esque desserts are usually served during the month of Ramadan in the Islamic lunar calendar. Lightly yeasted dough is shaped and filled with a cream or walnut filling – sometimes both, as in this recipe. Home chefs are advised to work quickly when cooking katayef (or qatayef) – if left too long, the pancakes dry out and become difficult to fold.
And an honourable mention goes to Knead Bakery’s chocolate crumpets! Yes, we said chocolate!
Given these chocolaty creations hail from the proverbial crumpet mecca – Britain – they can hardly be classified as an international invention. Then again, who can pass over chocolate crumpets? We certainly can’t. Neither, it seems, can the Instagram community.
London’s Knead Bakery gets an honourable mention from us – and not just because of their chocolate crumpets. We’re quietly hoping they start exporting their cinnamon and raisin crumpets to Australia very soon.
Craving crumpets? Try Matthew Evans’ recipe for homemade crumpets right here.