A bowl of crepe noodles in broth.
Food & Drink

The Many Lives of Crêpe

“Do you have a gold coin?” my husband asks, beckoning at me while precariously holding a hot pan in his right hand. As it stands, the crêpe looks like it will burn any minute.

Chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil come to mind, not that I have any lying around in the flat, but he’s lucky we are in Singapore where the dollar coin is gold-colored and made of brass-plated steel.

The ceremony was over as soon as it began. A steady one-handed flip saw the crêpe land back squarely in the pan. Prosperity is ensured in the household for the rest of the year.

He asks if I would like to give it a go. I decline. I have no intention of throwing a perfectly good crêpe on the floor.

Like many in France, this is about the extent of our celebration of La Chandeleur, or Candlemas, a religious holiday observed annually on February 2 that has become an excuse to eat crêpes, drink cider and laugh at awkward crêpe-flipping attempts.

A steady one-handed flip saw the crêpe land back squarely in the pan. Prosperity is ensured in the household for the rest of the year.

Perhaps because my most memorable introduction to crêpes took place at home, with a husband who makes them a couple of times a year at most using random French-language recipes he finds off the Internet, I don’t like my crêpes too elaborate.

The Instagrammable ones sold in cute cafes across Asia, dressed with fresh berries, generous dollops of whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar are too much of a novelty for me.

I’ve never been tempted to try Japanese-style crêpes either, carefully rolled into a cone, filled with a decadent amount of ice cream, sliced fruit and wafer biscuits—to be scooped out and eaten with a spoon!

I rather keep things simple. These days in Singapore, a drizzle of maple syrup or a generous spread of kaya, a local velvety coconut egg jam, would suffice. Or crème de marrons when we are in France, a delicious chestnut spread that is great for stirring into yoghurt too.

Crêpes are a traditional specialty from Brittany, France’s northwesternmost region famed for its stunning rugged coastline and delicious seafood. There are two types – crêpes made with white flour that are usually eaten sweet while galettes, made with buckwheat flour, are eaten with savory accompaniments.

Brittany gave us crêpes, but more importantly the galette-saucisse, also known as the Breton hotdog. Galette-saucisse is a local street food comprising pork hotdog, also a regional specialty, wrapped in galette. The crêperie in my old neighborhood in Paris does a pretty good rendition even if they’ve marked up the price and serve it on a plate complete with cutlery.

I’m partial to galettes, washed down with a few bowls of decent demi-sec cider if we are feeling fancy. At home, since I don’t usually have buckwheat flour in my pantry, I would just prepare crêpes two ways. For a savory option, I’d say splurge on good ham like prosciutto di Parma that pairs delightfully with freshly-grated Gruyère.

In a bid to finish a stack of leftover crêpes, I recently improvised and discovered a third way.

I rolled the crêpes and sliced them thinly before placing them in a bowl and ladling some broth over. My crêpe noodles were delicious, especially with a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkling of roughly-chopped coriander. It didn’t even feel like I was eating crêpes.

An Austrian friend remarked that I might have accidentally made a variation of frittatensuppe, Austria’s well-loved comfort food of pancake strips in beef broth.

Just before we moved to Singapore, I made sure we had packed our crêpe pan and two wooden spreaders—in case my husband would get homesick.

I have to admit I’ve never made a crêpe before writing this story as I’ve always relied on him. The crêpes I made today were a little too thick, poorly-shaped and unevenly-cooked, probably salvageable for consumption only in noodle form.

My crêpe noodles were delicious, especially with a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkling of roughly-chopped coriander.

For those who can’t get enough of crêpes, there is still one more type of crêpe to end a day of unchecked gluttony, should anyone take up the wild challenge of a crêpe-eating marathon in all its different manifestations.

Surprisingly, the mille crêpe cake didn’t originate from Brittany but was invented by a Japanese patissier, Kazuko Emy Wada in the 1980s, with at least 20 layers of paper-thin crêpes delicately sandwiched with pastry cream.

I’ll stick to buying the cake for now if craving ever hits. In the meantime, I will work on making perfectly-round and evenly-browned crêpes. I might even practice a bit of flipping, hopefully in time for next year’s La Chandeleur.

Written By Wee Ling Soh Writer & Photographer Wee Ling Soh is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer with a soft spot for street food.
Wee Ling Soh is a Singapore-based freelance writer and photographer with a soft spot for street food.