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The International Pancake

May, 2012
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Internationalism speaks in so many ways– culture, language, arts, and best of all: food. From the exotic flavours of the Thai to the classic-but-delicious tastes of the Italian, food is always a highlight of a nation, something that classifies the nation and a nation. But there’s one food that represents our world as one: the pancake.

A pancake is a thin, flat cake of batter; usually fried, turned in a pan, and most importantly, taste delicious. The Ancient Greeks, dating back to before 5 BC, created it! Over the years pancakes have evolved and spread their branches of tastiness far and wide.

Back home, pancakes usually meant waking up to the comforting smell of baking batter and pouring way too much syrup all over the piping-hot cakes. But since moving to Shanghai, I’ve discovered the many, many variations the world has created of the pancake, each absolutely sensational to the taste buds.

One of the most well known variations of the pancake is the French crêpe. Savoury or sweet, crêpes are thin, lacy pancakes that have a network of bubbles inside to create that heavenly texture when you bite into it. Filled with chocolate syrup, assorted fruits, powdered sugar, meats or cheeses, crêpes are a treat whenever and wherever!

There are so many variations of the pancake: the potato-based German kartoffelpuffer; savoury Indian dosa, filled with chilli, onions or even pickles; yeast-less Russian blintzes, Austrian caramelised Kaiserschmarrn, which were served to the Austria-Hungary King Joseph I in pieces; Singaporean roti prata, served with curry; sweet cheese-stuffed Polish naleśniki; pannenkoek, a pancake that belongs to both Holland and South Africa (the South Africans like to put cinnamon sugar and lemon juice in the batter, while the Dutch prefer it savoury and as a big as a pizza) .

There’s even a Chinese variation of the pancake! Cōng yŏu bĭng (葱油饼) is a thin, savoury Chinese pancake with green onion embedded into the dough. It’s available everywhere in Shanghai; mainly from the little street carts on the side of the road. You can have cōng yŏu bĭng with toppings of sesame seeds, soy sauce, chives, and my personal favourite, hot chilli sauce.

Internationalism speaks in so many ways– culture, languages, arts– but the international pancake highlights nations’ independence and culture but still manages to always achieve deliciousness.


By Steffi Cao,

Year 9, Dulwich College Shanghai


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