Hot Off The Pan: Brief History of Pancakes

    Michael Stern

    While biting into Ahmad Lim‘s ever so famous black pancakes, we began to wonder where did this delicious breakfast staple come from. So, Fork decided to search the deep web for answers and what we found had rendered us speechless. Apparently pancakes or something that resembles it had been around since 30 000 years ago!

    What are pancakes?

    Pancakes are defined as is a flat cake, that is often thin and round. Pancakes are from a starch-based batter that may contain eggs, milk, and butter. Then, cooked with oil or butter on a hot surface such as a griddle or frying pan. People around the world called it as hotcake, modern crepe, or as Malaysian, we called it apam balik or lempeng.

    Pancakes are an ancient dish, as proven by historians. Starch grains from the stone age suggest that the people during that time used a grinding tool to make flour out of cattails and ferns. The flour is then used as an ingredient for a pancake. This dish is not similar to the modern crepe or hotcake but the idea is the same; a flat cake made from batter and fried.

    Another interesting fact is that the Romans empire in the 1st century AD, eats a dish called Alita Dolcia; made from basic pancake ingredients with some other spices. The Roman people also eat pancakes mixed with honey or fruits. Although this Roman sweet dish resembled the real deal, the pancake we know today actually originated from the Medieval Europe.

    In the 15th century, people in Europe traditionally eat pancakes in a large quantity, especially on Shrove Tuesday. This is because making pancake is a good way to use up stores of perishables like eggs, milk, and butter before the period of church-mandated fast.

    Later in the 18th century in Friesland, Germany, we found out that a traditional wedding breakfast is pannekoek with milk and honey. A simpler version of this ancient dish, similar to how the Romans’ consume it. Nothing fancy for German people. In fact, in the rural areas, they eat pannekoek for Christmas Eve’s and New Year celebration.

    Fast forward to today, there are about 48 versions of it all over the world. Some are more on the savory side and the others are sweeter. If you have the time and money to spare, go around the globe and taste the different types of pancakes available. A happy tummy always has a healthy mind!