[From June Issue 2013]
The Harajuku area in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, is a spawning ground for new trends. Crepes have long been the confection of choice in Harajuku, but recently there’s been a pancake boom. Cafes are increasingly adding pancakes to their menus, and recipes and techniques for making great pancakes at home can be found on the Internet.
In the past few years, from JR Harajuku to Omotesando Avenue – including the Jingu-mae area – shops specializing in pancakes have been popping up one after another. “Eggs’n Things” is so popular that customers line up outside before the store opens. About 900 people of different sexes and ages visit the shop each day and the wait can be as much as two and a half hours.
Eggs’n Things is a popular breakfast restaurant in Hawaii. President OGINO Shinobu says, “Hoping to spread the Western custom of eating a hearty meal for breakfast, we opened our first store in Japan in March 2010.” Word quickly spread, and their fluffy, crispy Hawaiian style pancakes became a huge hit. It’s been said that the pancake boom originated from this shop.
The most popular item on the menu is pancakes with strawberry whipped cream and macadamia nuts. The plentiful whipped cream has a light texture, so the dish appeals not only to women, but also to men. The pancakes themselves aren’t sweet, so they go very well with stir-fried potatoes and ham. The store offers a number of Hawaiian dishes such as “Spam & Eggs” and “Loco Moco,” and after 5 p.m. you can enjoy alcoholic drinks, such wine and beer, while eating pancakes.
“Pancakes used to considered to be a sweet confection, but since they began to be enjoyed as a savory meal, their appeal has broadened across the generations,” says Ogino. “I don’t think pancakes would have become this popular if they had remained a mere confection.”
Pancakes are called “hottoke-ki” (hot cakes) in Japan. Their dough tastes slightly sweet, so they are usually eaten with butter and jam. Hot cakes first appeared on the menu of a department store restaurant in Tokyo in 1923. In those days they were considered to be a luxury Western dish; something people aspired to eat.
Before long, pancake mix became available in stores and people could easily prepare and eat them at home. SUZUKI Hideko, a homemaker in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, says: “It’s great that you can make something delicious with only eggs and milk. To reproduce the taste of shop bought pancakes, I add ricotta cheese and yogurt to the dough. The charm of pancakes is that you never get tired of their simple taste, and you can also devise different variations, depending on the ingredients you use.”
Civitas is a coffee shop in Ota Ward, Tokyo, which has been around since 1968. Since the shop opened, their pancakes have been popular. They are thick, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. People come from miles away, taking a number of different trains, just to get a taste. This pancake boom has once again put the spotlight on Japanese-style “hot cakes.”
Text: MUKAI Natsuko