Delicious pancakes are like urban myths. They’re elusive. Every person has a different opinion about their favourites.
Until fluffy soufflé pancakes arrived.
Pancakes sit on top of each other, plump and squishy like the downiest of pillows. Creamy whipped butter seeps slowly into the sponginess. Sometimes, there's a drizzle of Manuka honey, or, a feathery dusting of snow-like sugar.
It is impossible to resist pushing a fork into the dessert. Buttery goodness, billowed out like a balloon, like mouthfuls of cloud that melt at the tip of the tongue.
These are the soufflé pancakes, and if you’re a visitor in Japan, they are not to be missed.
What started as an Instagram food trend is now a cultural phenomenon
This is not another one of those food fads that comes and goes as quick as consumers who cram onto bandwagons, whose change of heart can be as quick as a blink of an eye. No one may reasonably dismiss something that doubles as food in the mouth and food for the soul, deliciously so.
But how so?
To say that a lot of technique and toil goes into making fluffy pancakes reality is to put it across carelessly. The sheer amount of detail that goes into the preparation work behind the scenes has no room for compromise.
Fresh egg white is separated from the yolk, beaten thoroughly and whisked precisely until the finest air bubbles, commonly known as “stiff peaks,” rise. The result shall be the meringue, the basis for every good soufflé pancake to serve. Then, it is to be gently, meticulously folded into the rest of the batter to ensure the fluffiness of the soufflé pancake.
Stiff peaks are caused by air bubbles are so fine and dense, they cause the egg white to stand stiff when pulled upwards
Sure, anyone can learn to make these pancakes. But soufflés are in themselves notoriously difficult to make, much less in pancake form. It takes a steady hand to whisk in the perfect density of bubbles, the perfect proportion of meringue and batter, and of course precise heat control. Not to mention the dedicated time and effort spent researching, then perfecting the right mix of vanilla, cream and other trade-secret flavours that go in.
Careful folding techniques and timing are required to get the perfect fluff and airiness
In other words, it takes chefs of a certain calibre and skill to pull off this incredibly tedious task: to grow consistent practice into masterful technique over the years; then coax out and weave together the best of flavors. That is a true testament to Japanese creativity and tenacity.
Soufflé pancakes are now found in franchised chains or Japan-inspired cafes all over the world, with the latest branches popping up as far as the East Coast of the United States. Such popularity worldwide is cementing the Japanese pancake's reputation as another deliciously Japanese take on Western cuisine (known in Japan as “yōshoku”).
But more than being a yōshoku, with the intricacy and attention to detail involved, not to mention the discipline it takes to perfect this dish, soufflé pancakes capture the spirit of modern Japanese cuisine.