Like their sweet counterparts, savory pancakes offer an excellent vehicle for toppings, stuffings, and sauces. We’ve given this some thought, and decided that the six types of savory pancakes listed below represent New York’s best. By Jessica Allen.
A cachapa is a Venezuelan savory pancake, often loosely folded like a crepe, made from sweet corn, with the kernels to prove it. At Cachapas y Mas, a veritable institution with two locations in upper Manhattan, you can get your cachapa with such fillings as ham, shredded chicken, roast pork, sausage, or, our favorite, a thick slab of just-barely-melted Venezuelan cheese (aka “queso de mano”). As for the “mas” part of the name, you can’t go wrong with a green plantain sandwich known as a patacón.
Marked only by a small sign amidst a riot of competing ads, three floors above 32nd Street, Arirang serves only those people determined enough to seek it out. You should. This Korean restaurant specializes in handmade noodles, generally in broth, but we’re here today to focus on the kimchi pancake. Roughly the size of a dinner plate, it comes packed with greens and kimchi, the spiced fermented vegetables that add flavor and pizazz to so many Korean meals. It’s as bold as those who (1) find the restaurant and (2) order its eponymous pancake as a starter.
You can’t talk about savory pancakes without talking about okonomiyaki, a batter-based concoction stuffed with scallions, cabbage, seafood, and pork belly; cooked, and then usually slathered with mayo and bonito flakes. And you can’t talk about okonomiyaki in New York without talking about Otafuku. (Truth be told, the takoyaki, a fried ball made with octopus and topped with a special sauce is pretty good too.) At this tiny restaurant in the East Village, you can get your pancake with pork or shrimp.
Founder Carson Yiu created Outer Borough to bring Taiwanese street food to the hungry hordes that crowd into the Winter Flea and Smorgasburg (opening for the season on April 4). His version of the scallion pancake, a mainstay of Asian restaurants, is the best around, in our opinion. Super crispy, never greasy, with just the right amount of doughy chew and sharp scallions sprinkled into the mix. We like ours slathered in Sriracha, but you can nibble yours plain, with the accompanying soy sauce, or in some other fashion.
The sweet potato pancakes at Cafe China almost didn’t make the cut. Not because they’re not delicious, filled with orangey, just-barely-mashed goodness, surrounded by a light, yet crunchy shell. (They are, they most certainly are.) Not because an order of four somehow never seems to be enough. (It almost isn’t.) But because they walk a very, very fine line between savory and sweet. The sweet potato pancakes are but one type of dim sum served at this elegant Midtown Sichuan restaurant, designed to resemble 1930s-era Shanghai.
Kokum’s take on the uttapam is mild, oh-so-very-mild. That’s OK. Traditionally eaten in South India for breakfast, this vegetable pancake is meant to sooth and satiate, rather than stimulate. If it’s heat you want, ask for extra chutney, including the sometimes surprisingly fiery mint chutney or tomato chutney. Or try the onion chile uttapam, which uses green chiles and onions to complicate the simple rice batter. Order a dosa too, another breakfast staple, for the full experience.