This recipe is based on the travellers’ pancakes (as I called them) that I ate when travelling through Asia in the 1980s. Depending on which country or region I was in, and the prosperity of that region, they would sometimes contain egg, but often not. They might have coconut milk in them, or perhaps milk, and several times just water. The flour could be rice flour or wheat, and they’d be fried in ghee, butter or peanut oil. They’d usually have fruit scattered on top and then cooked into them — banana in Bali and Thailand, and apples in Nepal. In the more tropical areas they’d top them with grated dark brown palm sugar, fresh grated coconut and thick coconut cream. In Mustang, Nepal, where they grow apples and where the pancakes had no doubt been made popular by hippie travellers like myself, they were simply served drizzled with local honey.
Travellers’ pancakes were always around 5mm thick and as soon as the batter had been poured into the pan, thin slices of fruit were laid on top so they’d sink into the batter. Once it had firmed up, the pancake would be carefully flipped over and be cooked for another minute or so which would caramelise the fruit.
- Put eggs into a food processor with sugar. Blitz for 15 seconds.
- Sieve flour with baking powder and salt. Add this and pulse blitz, scraping down if needed.
- Add milk or coconut milk with the motor running, scraping down the sides as needed.
- Leave the mixture to rest for at least 30 minutes (or overnight in the fridge).
- The next day, give the batter a good whisk. If it has thickened, thin it out by whisking in some milk or water.
- Place your pan, ideally a non-stick one, over medium heat and add butter or oil and then pour the batter to the thickness you’d like and cook as per usual.
Try these variations
- Add a few drops pandan extract (green, and almost vanilla-flavoured) into the batter and scatter the pancake with sliced bananas and desiccated coconut — ideally long thread or chips.
- Replace ⅓ of the flour with buckwheat flour, serve with crisp bacon lardons and drizzle with maple syrup.
- Mix diced leftover roast kumara or potatoes, thinly sliced spring onions and some chopped green chilli into the mixture and serve topped with a rocket and tomato salad.
- Make the pancake mixture a little runnier by adding extra liquid, then cook rather like a crepe, and top with diced avocado and tomatoes, feta chunks and snipped chives. Roll up and drizzle with lime juice and olive oil.
- Make a lot of smaller ones, like pikelets, and stack with a dollop of mascarpone in between, then drizzle with a salted caramel sauce or berry compote.