Japan is known for some of the best food in the world. From sushi to Hokkaido milk ice cream, the Japanese know how to surprise the world with innovative dishes that break culture barriers.
Sushi is not only a favorite in the East but also in the West. Americans are obsessed with them. I’m sure if delivery services like Postmates and Seamless can broadcast their data, sushi is probably one of the most frequently delivered food items. Although sushi’s great (and probably the food that is always associated with the Japanese culture), Westerners embrace the Japanese cuisine as a whole. In doing so, chefs come up with a lot of fusions: Japanese-Italian, Japanese-Peruvian, Japanese-American, to name a few. It is evident that the Japanese is influential in the global food scene.
Yes, the Japanese have always been creative, independent, and extremely nationalistic. Yet, do they really close themselves off from other cultures? Japan, aside from China and the US, is a pioneer in advances that our society enjoys today. But with a world as vast as ours, almost every innovator is and will always be inspired by others–other cultures even! So, the pressing question is, were the Japanese seeking inspiration from the American cuisine when they decided to create fluffy and thick AF pancakes? Or are pancakes really an authentic part of their food scene? This is definitely a much bigger debate since the word authentic is thrown around a lot when it comes to food. Either way, let’s just celebrate how the world is embracing its diversity through food.
This celebration isn’t easy for people who have food allergies and sensitivities, though. Whenever there’s an indulgent–and most of the time HUGE–dish that suddenly goes viral on social media, people who are gluten intolerant like me have a slim chance of trying it. More often than not, they are gluten-filled foods. The Japanese Fluffy Soufflé Pancakes is a great example. They are so thick, so jiggly, and so sweet! Definitely fun to eat. But one of the explanations as to how it holds its shape and elasticity is none other than gluten.
It’s no question that cake flour or anything with wheat can better mold or form food creations like this one, though flour isn’t the only foundation. In this case, and for many other baked goods, the EGG is the essential ingredient. Thanks to eggs (and vegan eggs) for making it possible for us to consume our dream foods.
The secret to this recipe isn’t much of a secret because it is applied in many baked goods. Since these pancakes often have the word soufflé in its name, that means that eggs were beaten up to stiff peaks. During the beating process, air bubbles get trapped and once the meringue is subjected to heat, it rises. It’s simple science! [If you wanna read more on the science of soufflés, read this.
Sounds simple but it is also easy to fail in this process. Two things to keep in mind when working with soufflés: cleanliness and timing.
When separating the egg whites from the yolks, make sure that there are no traces of yolk and egg shells in your whites. A little bit of fat from the yolk can instantly set your soufflé up for failure. Also, make sure that the bowl where you intend to beat the egg whites is very clean. No greases or drops of water.
In terms of timing, it is best that you start with the mixer on low, allowing the whites to properly form air bubbles. Once it’s foamy, start adding in the sweetener which is said to help in forming the meringue. Be careful not to beat them for too long; otherwise, its base will instantly sink and form some liquid. It is always better to over-beat than under-beat, though. If your whites look dry, frothy, and clumpy, they are over-beaten. To resolve this, you can add another egg white and start beat again. Once you’ve reached stiff peaks–that is, the peaks are pointing straight up and don’t collapse when the whisk is upside down–quickly but gently fold them into the batter. Leaving the meringue out for too long will cause the base to collapse and liquefy. Vigorously mixing it will release the air bubbles that were formed during the beating process.
When I was experimenting, I experienced both over-beating and under-beating the egg whites. It was frustrating to see them collapse once I put the batter into the pan. But it was definitely rewarding when I nailed it! I saw them rise and turn fluffy. The mold rings helped me yield the best results! If you don’t have any, you can easily make some out of parchment paper. They should be about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, depending on how thick you want your pancakes to be.
I also tried the more traditional way of making Japanese Soufflé Pancakes: no ring, just stacking up the batter. They were fluffy for a few minutes then collapsed after. They seemed promising while being cooked in the pan but immediately shrunk right before putting them on a plate. Don’t get me wrong, they still came out much fluffier than regular buttermilk pancakes. They just come out much thicker and more jiggly when mold rings are being used.
Now that there’s a way for celiacs and people who are paleo to take their fluffy pancake game to the next level, I hope that it gives you a reason to still appreciate, if not celebrate, indulgent (or any kind of) foods that people from different cultures come up with. I can only hope that restaurants become more inclusive of not just culture but also dietary restrictions when it comes to innovating signature dishes.
More than anything else, I hope that you enjoy this recipe! Suggestions and feedback are highly appreciated.
Jul 25, 2019
I am an NYC based content creator, filmmaker, gluten-free foodie, and mental health advocate.