Thick, fluffy, stacked American pancakes are all very well and good, as are delicate, lacy, paper-thin French crepes, but sometimes you want something in between. I’m sure a Frenchman would be horrified at the thick, flat pancakes I’m showcasing here – there’s nothing remotely delicate or refined about them – but I love the texture of a thicker, squidgier crepe-style pancake, perfect for folding around a delicious filling. They’re more satisfying, and easier to make, than a true crepe, and stand up to an assertive application of syrup, honey, compote, or whatever you choose to throw at them. I first tried pancakes like these in south-east Asia, and this recipe is an homage to the many glorious breakfasts I ate in Bali, Vietnam and Thailand.
I’ve blogged about Bali-style banana pancakes before – thick crepes with slices of banana pressed into the batter, and drizzled with coconut syrup. Here I’ve taken that idea up a notch, by flavouring the crepe batter with pandan and stuffing it with a luscious, outrageously sweet filling of desiccated coconut, coconut sugar, more pandan and sliced ripe bananas. The filling is used in the Indonesian dish dadar gulung: bright green pandan pancakes stuffed with sweet coconut. Pandan is a beautifully aromatic leaf native to the tropics, with a fragrance somewhere between vanilla, coconut and cooked rice. I can’t get enough of it when I’m travelling in that region of the world – it’s incredible in desserts but also excellent used to flavour rice and tea. I tried to grow it myself, in my bathroom (which is small and has an inefficient extractor fan, so replicates the environment of a south-east Asian jungle rather well) and succeeded, but then I killed it by over-watering. I’m still not over it. Let’s move on.
These pancakes use a standard crepe batter, flavoured with pandan essence, but you just add a little more to the pan so they’re around 4-5mm thick. The filling is made by stirring desiccated coconut, coconut sugar (a treasure I brought back from Thailand – you can use palm or brown sugar if you can’t find it), a pinch of salt, pandan essence and a little water together over a medium heat until everything dries out and starts to caramelize. When each crepe is ready, fold it gently and lovingly into a triangle and stuff it with this coconut mixture and some slices of banana. Drizzle the lot with coconut syrup (I got mine from Bali – it’s a luscious treacle colour with a beautiful fragrance) or maple syrup, and enjoy.
These are ludicrously sweet and indulgent – be warned. You might feel a bit queasy afterwards. But that won’t stop you wolfing down every mouthful. The combination of fragrant coconut, sweet caramel-scented sugar and aromatic pandan is wonderful against the soft bananas. It’s like an Indonesian version of banoffee pie, but improved (in my eyes) by taking away the cream, replacing it with coconut, and putting the whole thing on the table for breakfast.
Indonesian-style banana pancakes with caramelised coconut (serves 2):
For the pancakes:
- 150g plain flour
- 1 egg
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp pandan essence
- 300ml milk
- Coconut oil or butter, to cook
- Coconut or maple syrup, to serve (optional)
For the filling:
- 40g coconut, palm or brown sugar
- 30ml water
- 60g desiccated coconut
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tsp pandan essence
- 2 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack in the egg, add the salt and the milk. Using an electric (or hand) whisk, gradually whisk the egg and milk into the flour, incorporating a little more flour at a time, until you have a smooth batter. Whisk in the pandan essence.
For the filling, put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer over a low heat for a few minutes until the mixture becomes syrupy and the sugar dissolves. Add the coconut, salt and pandan and cook over a low heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture dries up and caramelizes (you may want to turn the heat up a little to caramelize it more). Set aside.
Heat a little butter or coconut oil in a large non-stick crepe or frying pan. Add a quarter of the batter using a ladle, then swirl the pan to spread the mixture out evenly. Cook for a minute or so on each side, then set aside and repeat with the remaining mixture (keep the cooked pancakes warm on a plate in the oven on a low heat).
To serve, fold each pancake in half. Spread a quarter of the coconut filling on half of the folded pancake, then scatter over a quarter of the banana slices. Fold the pancake over again to make a triangle. Repeat with the remaining pancakes, then divide between two plates. Drizzle with coconut or maple syrup, if you like, and serve immediately.