Pancakes are the sort of breakfast you have when you want to take things easy and you aren’t exactly in any hurry. For most Filipinos, it is a taste of luxury – and an accessible luxury at that. For this reason, Pancake House remains one of the country’s favorite restaurants – and continues to be so despite the entry of foreign franchises such as IHOP and Slappy Cakes. And for those who can’t be bothered to leave home to satisfy a pancake fix, instant pancake mixes are a dime a dozen and are all dead-easy to use..
However, even the fluffiest, most golden pancakes tend to lose their appeal if that’s all people get for the most part. Variety being the spice of life, there are as many variations on pancakes as there are ways to tell a joke. These days, aside from the usual buttermilk and chocolate variants, you can get matcha-infused flapjacks, pancakes studded with chocolate chips, banana-walnut cakes, and even pancakes made with cake mixes to yield flavors like red velvet or even birthday cake with sprinkles.
Today’s recipe, however, is different. Rather than appropriating the flavors of the West, I decided to play up tastes taken from our neighbors in the Southeast Asian region. In this case, I decided to make pancakes from scratch inspired by an Indonesian snack: murtabak.
A popular halal street snack in many Muslim countries, a murtabak is a cross between a crepe and a turnover in that it consists of flour-based pancakes folded over a sweet or savory filling. For the most part, these are usually savory things and are usually filled with beef or lamb mince before being doused with curry, gravy, or a soy-vinegar dip.
My recipe was inspired a specific variety of the dish commonly eaten in Indonesia called murtabak manis. For this dish, the pancake batter is sweetened and flavored with either vanilla or almond extract. The resulting griddle cakes are then filled with a mixture of chocolate, cheese, and crushed roasted peanuts before being folded over and handed to eager customers.
This recipe gets its basic form from Nigella Lawson‘s recipe for American breakfast pancakes. However, once you’ve added the grated chocolate and cheese, you get something totally different from a standard-issue Yankee johnny-cake. Not too sweet and intriguingly savory at the same time, these come into their own sandwiched with lashings of peanut butter and finished off with a drizzle of honey (not syrup).
Murtabak is normally eaten as a snack in the afternoons, but I can’t see any reason why you shouldn’t have these for breakfast. 😉
Murtabak Breakfast Pancakes
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar (preferably muscovado sugar)
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 30mL corn or canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 300mL milk
- 225 grams all-purpose flour
- 25 grams grated dark chocolate
- 15 – 20 grams grated Parmesan or Edam cheese
- butter for greasing the pan
- peanut butter and honey, to serve
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients save for the chocolate and cheese. Whisk together the oil, milk, vanilla, and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Beat very well until a smooth, creamy appearance is achieved. Add the chocolate and cheese and mix until well combined.
Heat a griddle or a large frying pan over medium heat. Add just enough butter to grease the surface. Add batter by 1/4 cup-increments and cook for about a minute on each side; immediately transfer to a serving dish.
To serve, allow four pancakes per person (they won’t be very big, really). Spread one cake with peanut butter and top with another; continue spreading until you have a stack four cakes high. Drizzle over with honey.