"In Japan they were credited as the start of the trend for the cloud-like soufflé pancakes described as fluffy or fuwa-fuwa - surely the world's best onomatopoeia? Our Japanese kitchen teams have turned them into an art form and now we get letters from people wanting to train as dedicated 'hotcake chefs'" Bill Granger
Before I start on this somewhat fascinating tale of evolution I would like to share yet another small coincidence.
Yesterday I was fasting, and so whilst David was eating his dinner I sat down to watch a bit of foodie television on SBS - and there was Bill Granger himself making his avocado toast - or a version of it anyway. I could not believe it really. I have never seen Bill Granger on television - indeed I don't think he does much television, but there he was, speaking in a strangely unexpected way. I mean I have no idea what I thought his speaking voice would be like but it certainly wasn't quite what it was. Sort of the opposite of actually seeing somebody that you have previously only heard on the radio. So one last word on the avocado toast thing - the first recipe in his book - it's nothing. Make some toast, slice some avocado and decorate with coriander. It might have been slightly more complicated as I came in at the end, but hardly a recipe really. And yet it has taken over the 'health' brunch food world. But then look at bruschetta. The original is nothing more than toast plus garlic and olive oil, the slightly more elaborate adds some tomatoes. And yet it is a 'classic'.
So back to his second recipe in the book and another classic -
"the original fluffy ricotta hotcake, on the menu at the first bills, on the first day." Bill Granger
And apparently on the cover of the very first delicious magazine. Yes it's a pancake - more like the American kind than the French crêpe kind which is what I grew up with. But I gather what made this particular pancake which for some reason is called a hotcake, famous and a hot item, is the ricotta in the mix and the honeycomb butter drizzled over it. But surely others thought of using ricotta? I'll give him the honeycomb butter though. I guess it's just one of those things - tapping fortuitously into what was the feeling at the time. The zeitgeist. Filling a hole. Just like Elizabeth David did back in the 50s and 60s. Yotam Ottolenghi too - tapping into vegetarianism and the Middle-East at the right time - a double whammy. The recipe for Bill's hotcakes is easily found on the net, both in a Bill Granger form and in slightly modified versions. It seems just about everyone from chefs to ordinary bloggers like me have had a go and some have just tasted them in his restaurants. They must be good because some of them queued for over an hour to get in. It would have to be good after that long a wait wouldn't it?. Some of the bloggers and cooks have stayed pure, some have fiddled slightly, and there is even a gluten free version. Here is a gallery of other people's efforts - the gluten free one is the last one and I notice that it's from a New Zealand sugar company.
The two at either end of the top row are purportedly real Bill Granger - the one on the right is from his London restaurant Granger and Co. It looks like they have morphed into a rather more casual and thicker shape there. More like the fuwa-fuwa.
I don't think I have ever seen so many 'copycat' versions of a single recipe, which surely must mean that it tastes good. Not healthy though - a couple of bloggers said that they were very filling. Fluffiness and lightness seems to be what makes them so good, although some people's efforts don't look that light or fluffy. The Japanese though have gone to a whole new level with those fuwa-fuwa pancakes that Bill Granger spoke about.
Fuwa-fuwa is now a franchise restaurant chain in Canada - and probably Japan too. Below is a sample of their offerings - completely over the top it seems to me and a long way away from Bill Granger's relatively simple offerings.
I tried to find out the history of the fuwa-fuwa craze, because apparently that's what it is. But I could not find much, other than that they are related to fairly ancient soufflé kind of pancakes in Japan. I saw no mention of a Bill Granger influence, and to his credit he doesn't take credit for them, simply stating that he has been credited with the start of the trend. They are not very similar though - no ricotta, no honeycomb butter and a somewhat different method. I suppose though, that it's not beyond the bounds of possibility, that, inspired by the success of bill's Japan somebody looked to the past and came up with this. Or maybe bill's own Japanese chefs did. Intriguing anyway. One craze leads to another I suppose.
Our breakfasts are very, very simple - toast and jam basically, so I don't think I see an occasion for trying these anytime soon. We don't do brunch in cafés either. What a dull life we do lead. My children and grandchildren might be interested though. What about you - have you indulged in a bill's ricotta hotcake?