--- The Cook Up with Adam Liaw airs weeknights on SBS Food at 7.00pm. Chase Kojima's Japanese episode airs Tuesday, 10 August. Each episode will be made available after broadcast on SBS On Demand. ---
"Griddle cakes, pancakes, hot cakes, flapjacks: why are there four names for grilled batter and only one word for love?"
So said American stand-up comedian, George Carlin. (In related news, the late Mr Carlin also shared a humorous tweet from the fictitious National Institute of Pancakes). While there's a surprising number of names for sweet pancakes, this figure pales in comparison to the breadth of savoury pancakes served and eaten around the world.
Some savoury pancakes are designed to act as vehicles for curries, sambals and other saucy dishes. (We pause here to reflect on the glories of string hoppers and injera, the spongy flatbread made of fermented teff flour and ubiquitous to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines). Others, such as Italian crespelles — filled with spinach and ricotta are baked in sugo — are complete meals in themselves. Most are infinitely adaptable to the tastes of those cooking and consuming them.
Kenny Yong Soo Son from Sydney Korean restaurant, Sang by Mabasa, says, "Korean pancakes are super seasonal, super regional, super diverse and super personal.
"There's no 'that's right or that's wrong'. It's like making pizza at home and using whatever your family has always put on it. In this day and age, you can't really go, 'no, that’s not pizza'. Korean pancakes are like that too."
Like most Korean restaurants in Australia, Sang has pancakes on the menu, but rather than the ubiquitous pajeon (spring onion pancake), guests might hook in to baechujeon (cabbage pancake), gamjajeon (potato pancake) or maemiljeon, pancakes made with buckwheat. All are Seoul-style pancakes that Son and his parents Jin Sun Son and Seung Kee Son — the chefs in the kitchen — grew up eating in the Korean capital before the family migrated to Australia in 1996.
The other key component of a Korean pancake, according to Son, is the dipping sauce, almost always a blend of soy sauce, rice vinegar and gochugaru, Korea's famous dried chilli powder. On the other side of the East Sea: condiments are equally important to the enjoyment of okonomiyaki, Japan's popular cabbage-based pancake. In this case, katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes), Japanese mayo and the eponymous okonomiyaki sauce — a fruity and savoury brown sauce not dissimilar to tonkatsu sauce — are the final touches added to okonomiyaki hot off the grill. Does the country of origin of the mayonnaise matter? One of Australia's best-known practitioners of Japanese cooking thinks so.
San Francisco-born Chase Kojima of Sydney's Sokyo tells SBS Food, "I grew up in America and remember my mum and I eating okonomiyaki with American-style mayonnaise.
"There was a lot less acidity and a lot less flavour. Honestly, I didn't like it too much."
After travelling back to Japan and getting to try the real deal with kewpie, Kojima changed his tune and now appreciates okonomiyaki's filling nature. His pointers for sharpening your okonomiyaki game: lightly salt your shaved cabbage to draw out some of the vegetable's moisture, and try to track down some yamaimo — grated mountain yam – that helps give okonomiyaki an airy, fluffy texture. (Look for it in the freezer of a specialist Japanese or Asian grocer).
Once you've got these two Asian pancakes, turn your attention to these 10 other savoury pancakes from around the world
Kimchijeon (kimchi pancake)
An excellent way to repurpose older kimchi, this Korean comfort classic is, according to tradition, especially good when it's raining.
"You should always have a pancake and makgeolli (Korean rice wine) on a rainy day," says Son. "That's something that exists within the Korean culture. No one really knows why."
Found throughout the Friuli region in north-east Italy as well as neighbouring Slovenia, this calorific combination of potato and cheese (usually the cow's milk cheese, Montasio) is just to think to (re)fuel for or after a day of mountain activity.
Available in both sweet and savoury versions, appam are Southern Indian pancakes made of rice (and sometimes coconut) that are eaten for breakfast and dinner.
Chong yu bing (spring onion pancake)
Flaky, golden, crisp and studded with scraps of spring onion and chives, these roti-like Chinese pancakes are a popular street food in Shanghai.
Made with a coconut and rice flour batter, these turmeric-spiked pancakes should be crisp, golden and served with plenty of fragrant herbs and green, bean sprouts and a salty-sweet dipping sauce.
These maize flour pancakes feature in both Venezuelan and Colombian cuisine and lend themselves to a variety of applications.
While they can be eaten with any filling, they are traditionally served with a handmade cheese.
Nokkosletut (stinging nettle pancake)
A popular dish throughout the Nordic countries – as well as the name of a song by Finnish children's rap group, Ella ja Aleksi — these stinging nettle pancakes are traditionally served with toppings that range from lingonberries and grated parmesan cheese to asparagus.
Made with chickpea flour, this unleavened, gluten-free flatbread is best eaten hot and simply seasoned. Also known as farinata in the Italian region of Genoa.
Khanom buang (Thai crisp prawn pancake)
One of the best known items from the vast Thai canon of snacks known collectively as khanom, these crisp dainty wafers can be found in high-end markets throughout Thailand where they're stuffed with both sweet and savoury fillings.
Raggmunk (Swedish potato pancakes)
Think of them as Sweden's answer to potato latkes: these grated potato fritters are a picture of Swedish comfort. Fry them in pork fat for extra flavour.
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