CNET's sister site Chowhound kicked off a new mini season of Chow-To (all episodes were shot before the start of the coronavirus pandemic) with a visit to Tom Yang, co-founder of Insta-famous Japanese ice cream shop Taiyaki, in NYC's Chinatown. The goal: To learn how to make Japanese souffle pancakes, the fluffiest and dreamiest treat the internet ever made famous. (Dalgona coffee is currently gaining on them, though.)
The origins of these pancakes are a bit muddy, but they vaulted to minor internet fame back in 2016 when a couple of famous cafes in Osaka started serving them. Gram Cafe and Pancake has become an even bigger tourist destination as the fluffy pancakes have taken over social media in consecutive years.
In the beginning, unless you traveled to Japan, you were destined to be green (like the matcha sauce sometimes served on top) with envy, studying the thick stacks and video loops of jiggling pancakes on Instagram feeds.
The pancakes finally landed in NYC last year, courtesy of the guys at Taiyaki, and the craze got real. Two- to three-hour lines would form around the block outside their tiny counter space on weekend mornings, the only actual days they served the pancakes.
Now we've had to adapt to social distancing, our FOMO has also evolved. Instead of craving the experience of the wait and ensuing reward, documenting it and geotagging it so others know you were there bonding with a bunch of people in line, we're now faced with new challenges. Challenges such as making our own copycat fluffy souffle pancakes. The results will vary, but making your own fantasy brunch will feel like a puffy pancake-clouded heaven.
The key to making your own pancakes impossibly light and fluffy is to incorporate elements of souffle-making into the process. So if you've ever made pancakes, it just means adding a couple of elements and steps to the usual recipe. These steps include folding meringue into your batter, using ring molds (if you don't have these, it's easy to DIY with parchment paper like in the video) and adding some steam while the pancakes cook.
When doing these at home, if you don't own an electric griddle or plancha like the one at Taiyaki, use your regular non-stick skillet, add a bit of water (about half a tablespoon on each side of the ring mold) and finish cooking under cover.
While we're stuck at home, we need our food to be comforting and even special -- much more than before. I think the Japanese have always had it right with their fun and beautifully interactive foods and dishes. If you can't go meet your friends for brunch, get the Japanese souffle pancake recipe and make them at home -- and make them jealous of that "jelly" at your next virtual hang.
When they're done, snap a quick pic to post to Instagram, then enjoy!
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