Photograph by Jessica Boone
The specialties of American pancake gastronomy—including those of Flapjack Joe and Aunt Jemima—tend to be smothered in butter and syrup, sometimes topped with fruit. But savory pancakes boast a broad diversity of flavors and ingredients. Just think of fried potato latkes, earthy buckwheat crepes, or pastrylike Chinese leek cakes. From the chili-studded south Indian uthappam at Annapurna in Culver City to the Russian potato blini topped with smoked salmon and caviar at Romanov in Studio City, our kitchens take pancakes from morning to night.
My Ngoc | San Gabriel
You might mistake Vietnam’s banh xeo, a flat rice pancake, for an omelet. Golden yellow with turmeric, it’s slightly crisp on one side and folded over a mixture of sautéed shrimp, squid, pork, and bean sprouts. At My Ngoc, a platter is heaped with fresh herbs and lettuces, and the sweet-tart dipping sauce nuoc cham comes alongside. Tear off a chunk of the filled pancake, wrap it in lettuce with a few pungent herbs, and dip into the nuoc cham before popping the bundle into your mouth. » 608 E. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel, 626-569-9988.
Old Gyumri | Glendale
The juicy ground beef filling of Old Gyumri’s blinchik melds with cool dollops of sour cream. No wonder customers take them home by the dozen. Rolled the width of a cigar, the eggy stuffed cakes are reminiscent of French crepes. Like other Russian-inspired Armenian dishes, they made their way into the cuisine during the Soviet era, when Armenian cooks adapted the new foods they encountered. » 4441 San Fernando Rd., Glendale, 818-550-0448.
Curry Bowl | Tarzana
Floppy, yeasty, and tissue thin, egg hoppers are strong enough to support the egg cooked into their centers. This pie-size Sri Lankan specialty is a technical marvel and delicious with a little curry or spicy sambal. Called appa in Sinhalese, hoppers are also made without the egg. Outside of a Sri Lankan home kitchen, the only place we know of where both are available is at Curry Bowl’s all-you-can-eat buffet on Friday and Saturday nights. Choose your curries and garnishes, and create a hopper to suit your taste. » 19662 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, 818-609-7683.
Suhrabal | Koreatown
Koreans have dozens of varieties of savory pancakes, and two of the most well-known are served at Suhrabal. Nokdu jeon is a dainty, crisp-edged version made from ground sprouted mung beans and has a texture resembling that of corn cakes. Its much larger cousin, hae mul pa jeon, made from rice flour, has a crackly veneer and a creamy interior embedded with tiny shrimp, baby clams, and scallions. This pancake, which is larger than legalsize paper, comes to the table hanging over the edges of a platter. Servers use scissors to snip off manageable pieces, which are then dipped into chile-laced soy sauce. » 100 S. Western Ave., Koreatown, 213-388-1975.
Photograph by Jessica Boone