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Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. Across the world we have many names for this moveable feast that marks the last day before the start of lent, but in all cultures the day shares a common practice of using up rich foods. In the UK we embrace the tradition by using up eggs, milk, and flour (and sugar and Jif Lemon) to make pancakes.
But pancakes are more than the crispy pan-fried treats we look forward to in the UK, the French crêpes with which we are so well acquainted, or the familiar fluffy griddlecakes of America. There are different varieties of pancake to be discovered the world over. And to celebrate Pancake Day, we’re going to take you around the world in 8 pancakes…by cruise ship, of course.
We begin our tour in Colombia, where the locals enjoy traditional Latin American pancakes called cachapas. The recipe for cachapas is typical of Latin American cuisine, made with a thick, corn-based batter and bursting with flavour. They are usually filled with queso de mano – a soft, white cheese similar to mozzarella. And, like mozzarella, when the queso de mano melts it becomes irresistibly gooey. Combine with the texture of the ground corn in the batter and a side of fried pork chicharrón and you have the perfect Colombian pancake dish.
Pay a visit to Colombia and try a cachapa on one of our South America cruises.
Travel all the way to the north of the Americas, and you’ll come to Alaska: The Last Frontier. The extreme landscape and climate are what earned Alaska this rugged nickname, and it is for the very same reason that the sourdough pancake is an Alaskan speciality.
Sourdough famously stays fresh for a long time, making it the perfect provision for the prospectors of the Alaskan Klondike Gold Rush to take with them on their travels in the 1890s. Sourdough was such a valuable commodity that the prospectors were labelled ‘Sourdoughs’! While the Alaskan Sourdoughs may have left The Last Frontier, their sourdough pancakes remain ever-popular as the perfect cold weather treat.
Said to be light, fluffy, and melt in the mouth, an Alaskan sourdough pancake is a must-try to warm you up from the chill of your Alaska cruise.
From the north of America to the north of Europe, in Finland you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to pancakes. There are two main varieties you need to try: lettu and pannukakku. Lettu is the more typical of the two – rather like a very small English pancake. Pannukakku, on the other hand, might be made from the same batter as lettu but the end result couldn’t be more different.
Unlike other pancakes, pannukakku are baked in the oven and the product is a soft, indulgent, custard-like centre. Pannukakku is delicious topped with a spoonful of jam and a dollop of cream or, much like an English pancake, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sugar.
It would be a crime to reserve this treat for Pancake Day, so make sure to try pannukakku on our Scandinavian cruises.
Travel south towards the warmth of the Mediterranean, and you’ll come to Croatia where the palacinka is the pancake of choice. Like the French crêpe, the palacinka is made using a runny batter to achieve a thin pancake, but the key difference between the recipes is the resting time. The French demonstrate their renowned restraint by allocating at least an hour to rest their batter, whereas the palacinka can be cooked immediately – they must be so delicious the Croats just can’t wait to dig in!
Regardless, the result is a thin pancake perfect for wrapping a variety of delicious fillings. Different types of jam – from strawberry to lingonberry – are popular preservatives to accompany palacinka, and chocolate and hazelnut spread are also local favourites.
Palacinka make the perfect lunch time pick-me-up so be sure to try one on your Croatia cruise.
Head further south still, to Greece, and somewhere in between a silky French crêpe and a fluffy American pancake you’ll find the Greek tiganite. The rich batter usually contains butter or olive oil making for a smooth and flavoursome pancake; and although they are not quite as thick as American pancakes, they are still too thick to roll so the Greeks opt for toppings rather than fillings.
The toppings remain typically Greek, the most popular being a local favourite: honey. Often combined with cinnamon, nuts, or fruit, they are the perfect breakfast treat with a Mediterranean twist.
Could a Greek tiganite be your new go-to breakfast? Find out when you try one on your Mediterranean cruise.
Travel further afield to Japan, and you’ll find the first solely savoury pancake on our list: okonomiyaki. Recipes for okonomiyaki are bound to vary widely as the name translates to ‘how you like’, but cabbage is one of the staple ingredients so sweet varieties are not on the menu. In addition to the cabbage, okonomiyaki batter usually contains flour, water, and eggs. Meat (usually pork) and seafood are also often added for flavour. Traditionalists might be thinking this doesn’t sound much like a pancake, and they’re not wrong. Okonomiyaki is prepared like a pancake, but it is also known as an omelette or even Japanese pizza!
If you’re looking to try some new cuisine on your Japan cruise, then okonomiyaki is a must.
Like okonomiyaki, the Korean pancake kimchijeon is another exclusively savoury dish. As the name would suggest, kimchijeon is made with kimchi – a traditional Korean dish primarily consisting of spicy pickled cabbage. When made properly, kimchijeon is almost entirely kimchi with some flour and egg for structure. That being said, sliced pork belly is often added with the fat from the pork producing a crispier and more flavoursome end-result. Kimchijeon is a flexible dish that could be served as a main course, a side dish, or an afternoon snack.
With so many opportunities to try this traditional Korean dish, you’ll have to order some kimchijeon on your South Korea cruise.
The last leg of our journey takes us across the North Pacific Ocean to Australia, where you won’t find pancakes but you will find the Australian equivalent: pikelets. The batter contains self-raising flour so they are closer in consistency to an American pancake than an English one, but they tend to be served with jam, whipped cream, or butter. We like to think of them as a cross between a pancake and a cream tea. In true Commonwealth tradition they are often served with afternoon tea, but that doesn’t stop the Aussies from having them at breakfast too!
Pikelets might be a special treat for Pancake Day, but they are popular all year round so be sure to try one on your Australia cruise.
In such a richly diverse country, where do you start? We’ve put together our top picks to help inspire your next Italian cruise.
Athens is packed full of world-class galleries as well as outdoor sculptures and art boutiques. Find out more here.
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