What is common between South India, Thailand, Madagascar and Denmark?? There may be countless human traits that we all share, but I figured, to much of my surprise, there is one more, this pancake griddle:
This is a pancake griddle that is used to make a special type of pancake popular in southern India. Typically the pan is made out of cast iron and has seven semi spherical indentations. Modern day pans however come with non-stick coating. The pancake from south India is made out of a mixture of fermented ground rice & lentil combination known by several different names such as “Paddu”, “Gundu Pongal” , “Appam” depending on the region. This traditional breakfast item is made by pouring the dough inside these indentations sprayed with oil, almost giving a lightly fried crispy texture with soft center. In cities like Bangalore, you will see many food stalls and local restaurants making them on mega size pancake griddle, earning them a street food status.
This was my knowledge of these cute little pancakes till a few years ago I visited the quaint little Danish town, Solvang, in Santa Barabara, California, where I saw a similar scene.
As we stood in long line outside of a window that opened on one wall of a sit-in restaurant, I watched with total amazement the dough being poured, slowly flipped part by part to turn it into a sphere. The boards read Danish Aebleskivers!!! After a little wait we had a plate with 6-7 warm dough spheres, sufficiently crispy outside and smooth and fluffy inside, sprayed with powdered sugar and raspberry jam. I was fascinated as we gulped Aebleskivers one after the other, to taste a dish that was so different in it’s taste but, very similar in it’s texture, looks and preparation to my home country breakfast favorite, Paddu!
Curiosity took us inside the restaurant, where we saw the cast iron pan, several books on Aebleskivers & the thin wooden skewers used to flip the dough. I flipped through a book that talked about several varieties of Aebleskivers. I couldn’t wait to do more search online and learn about this lost brother of Paddu to be found in a far away country so traditionally different from India! After I reached back home, I spent several hours on Internet searching for Aebleskivers & learning about this Danish tradition, I even left an excited message to my friend in Denmark that I ate Aeleskivers and how it is so similar in making to “a” breakfast dish in India but, so different in taste. I was simply fascinated by the fact that there are food traditions in far away countries that involves similar process but, bring out such diverse taste. I thought to myself, someday I will write about this!!
It has been little over 3 years that I visited Solvang, but, when I finally executed my plan of writing a food blog, the first thought was writing about Aebleskivers and Paddu making. Couple of weeks ago, when I was making a list of articles and recipes that I want to post, a thought crossed my mind – “there is Aebleskiver & Paddu, but, is that all?” I went back to the net and started searching all combinations, “Aebleskivers”, “Paddu“, “pancakes in a hole”, “spherical pancakes” etc etc etc..
What I found was even more fascinating, not just India, Denmark, there are very many parts of the world that use the same pan, almost similar process with different dough mixtures and many interesting pancakes, “Ramanonaka” from Madagascar, “Khanom Krok” from Thailand, several varieties of “Aebleskivers”. I decided to try them all, in my kitchen, well at least the few that I uncovered as I am now convinced there are many more hidden far away in some households dearly preserved and savored. The hard part, except for “Paddu” & Aebleskiver I had not tasted any others, so, I decided to research a few recipes before I finalize on one. After many many articles, youtube videos, I zeroed in on these four recipes, of which “Paddu” I have retained what I have seen my mother cook and we savored during my childhood.
Last weekend, I set my kitchen to execute all these varieties of pancakes. My Paddu pan was washed, oiled and set on the stove for her most important day, she was going to meet her brothers and sisters from around the world!!!
I prepared the dough for each of those, most of which required some amount of fermentation, once the dough was ready, I poured each of them batch by batch and saw them come alive. Pancakes started coming out of the hot pan delightfully warm, crispy, fluffy and delicious – Paddu, Ramanonaka, Khanom Krok, Aebleskiver, one after the other. Each one of them had quite different flavor profiles yet sharing some distant similarity. At the end of the day I was a happy camper, having successfully lived a long dream of mine. This project pancake is the epitome of what I want MangoPickle to be – An ambassador of traditional world cuisines.
Each of these recipes will be posted one by one in MangoPickle in the next few days with the hope that I will learn about more such recipes and get to post them on MangoPickle, watch out for this space, try a a few of them and enjoy!!