Simple yet utterly delicious, pancakes are universally loved, with different countries and cultures all having their own riffs on these batter-based delights.
On Shrove Tuesday, aka Pancake Day, we look at a few popular options, considering how to eat them (stack, roll or slice?), what to enjoy them with and where best to do so in the UAE.
What they are: They might not be the flashiest offering on this list, but there’s a certain simple beauty that results from whisking eggs, flour and milk together to form a batter.
When and how to eat them: Traditionally enjoyed on Shrove Tuesday as a way of using up rich ingredients (eggs, milk, butter) before the beginning of Lent, classic English pancakes are best eaten straight from the pan, dusted with sugar and drenched with lemon juice, so that the sugar takes on a lovely citrus crunch.
Where to eat them: At home. The UAE’s restaurants tend to eschew the plain old English pancake in favour of more indulgent options, but fear not, it’s easy enough to whip up a batch yourself. Two things to note if you do so: resting the batter, even for 20 minutes or so, will make a difference to the result, and the first pancake of the lot always tends to go wrong — persevere and you’ll be well rewarded. Or, you can just pick up a Pancake Shaker Mix from Marks & Spencer Food.
What they are: Light and lacy-edged, the whisper-thin French crepe is a truly classy thing. While they might have similar origins to the English version, the French interpretation tends to be thinner, with a hint of decadence about them (salty melted Breton butter often adds the edge here).
When and how to eat them: Equally well-suited to sweet and savoury incarnations, a crepe or galette filled with melting cheese and ham might just be one of the finest lunches around. A hot-from-the-creperie Nutella number dripping with bubbling, oozy, hazelnut and chocolate spread, too, is a glorious thing.
Where to eat them in the UAE: As the name suggests, you’re not going to be short on crepe options when eating at either of Dubai’s two Creptastic locations, La Mer and The Dubai Mall. There are plenty of experimental and seriously indulgent choices on the menu, but we say keep it (relatively) classic with a Nutella-and-fresh-strawberry-topped number.
What they are: Hailing from South India, dosas are made from a fermented rice and urad dal (black gram) batter that results in a wonderfully tangy finish.
When and how to eat them: A truly brilliant breakfast food, a piping hot dosa is a tasty way to start the day. Tear off crisp, golden pancake shards and dunk them in the accompanying fresh chutneys and sambars, and you’ll see exactly what we mean.
Where to try them in the UAE: For some of the finest and most reasonably priced dosas in the UAE, head to Sangeetha Vegetarian restaurant in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and work your way through their dosa menu. Prices start at a thrifty Dh10.
For something more exotic, try Yummy Dosa in Dubai — which serves versions stuffed with vegetable Manchurian and cheesy Oman chips.
What they are: Does breakfast get more quintessentially American than a towering stack of pancakes dripping with butter or maple syrup? The addition of a rising agent (usually baking powder, sometimes bicarbonate of soda) to the batter means these saucer-sized beauties tend to be fluffier than their European cousins, which could explain why they never seem to be served in less than a trio.
When and how to eat them: They might be considered a breakfast food in the US, but depending on the toppings and added extras, American pancakes are more than indulgent enough to qualify as dessert, too.
Where to try them in the UAE: Order the pancakes at Brunch & Cake in either Abu Dhabi or Dubai and you’ll have zero regrets (and no need for lunch). Its signature New York cheesecake pancake comes with strawberries, a cheesecake filling, caramel sauce, pistachios and maple syrup.
A limited-time style is available at Eggspectation in Dubai, which is doing Oreo pancakes with cookie cream and chocolate sauce, while Vibe Cafe is serving versions with peanut butter, coconut, mango and a vegan option with wild berries.
Japanese souffle pancakes
What they are: A strong contender for the fluffiest and trendiest pancakes of them all, delicate Japanese pancakes get their light-as-air texture from a souffle-style preparation technique in which egg whites are whipped with sugar. This forms a meringue-like concoction, which is then gently folded through the rest of the batter.
When and how to eat them: Precisely because of their cloud-like texture and appearance, when you order these in a proper Japanese pancake restaurant, you will have to be prepared to wait for them to be cooked to order (just as you do when ordering a freshly baked souffle). The old cliche rings true through — patience is a virtue and you’ll likely be rewarded with a majestic-looking, fabulous-tasting treat.
Where to try them in the UAE: In the capital, head for Japanese bakery Keki at Al Bateen Park and order one of its signature pancakes (the custard, salted caramel sauce and pretzel-topped option gets our vote). For Dubai-dwellers, the quivering, icing-sugar-dusted classic pancakes at Otaku in D3 are an excellent choice.