Eating & Drinking

QUEST: A crepe by any other name

BY CINDY DEACHMAN

This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec 2014 print edition of Ottawa Magazine

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Masala Dosa from Coconut Lagoon. Photo: Giulia Doyle

When it comes to crepes, we might be forgiven for automatically thinking of Suzette. The theatrically flambéed dish gripped our collective unconscious years ago. But the pancake’s definition can be stretched, no? The Dutch pile their fine flensjes into a “cake,” filling the layers with grated Gouda, then serving wedges with molasses. We also have soft Norwegian lefse, flattened with a grooved rolling pin and filled with lingonberries; Vietnamese paper rolls, whose wrappers of rice batter are steamed, then dried; and Scottish wafer-like oatcakes, the homemade ones thinner than Walkers. And a documentary out there shows a Moroccan woman in a dark room crouching down to an overturned wok-like pot on a fire. She swirls batter on top and momentarily cooks it, producing her first filo-like werqa to make bisteeya, an extravagant chicken pie with saffron. Even back in France, pan-fried courgette fritters, thick as Canadian pancakes, are still considered crepes.

Socca Niçoise
In Nice, “on the street between the fish market and the meat market, [you can find] huge socca being made on a large iron,” says Raphaël Chauvin, co-owner of Marius. Socca is a pretty basic pancake made with chickpea flour, olive oil, and lots of black pepper. The texture is meaty but still surprisingly light; the flavour is nutty. Although you can eat socca plain, as they do in Nice, please try it with Marius’s rich, tasty ratatouille or their soupe au pistou. And just think, you’re continuing the tradition of ancient Romans in their taverns — they called it panelle. $4/two. Marius, 175c, prom. de Portage, Gatineau (Hull sector), 819-205-7123.

Crepes With Vanilla Custard and Raspberries
In the window of downtown bakery Bread & Sons is a sign saying “Brunch to Go.” It refers to the crepes they started making this past summer. The classic crepe is lifted onto a sheet of cardboard and slipped into a bag. Such a delicacy has been recreated from baker Yoav D’Vaja’s memories of creperies on the street corners of Paris. Rich devils, they are, made with butter, cream, and eggs. Although you can order them filled with chocolate, I prefer D’Vaja’s vanilla custard (flecks reveal the use of real vanilla pods). At the heart of it all? Raspberries. $6. Bread & Sons, 195 Bank St., 613-230-5302.

Masala Dosa
At about 60 centimetres across, this crispy Indian crepe is huge. Coconut Lagoon co-owner and executive chef Joe Thottungal is justifiably proud of his masala dosa, made with urad dahl (a split white lentil), fenugreek, and two kinds of rice. His labour-intensive process of stone-grinding and fermentation is difficult to replicate at home — families have even been known to come from Toronto for the dosa. It’s filled with curried potatoes, comes with coconut chutney, sambar (a lentil soup with vegetables), and chili chutney. And oh, those toasty, crackling crepe edges! $14. Coconut Lagoon, 853 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-742-4444.