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In general, there are few differences between a Japanese crepe and the traditional French variety. Both begin with a warm, flexible, very thin circle of fried dough. The French usually dress these fine pancakes with gourmet ingredients, while the Japanese have taken them to the level of versatile and generally tasty street food. Japanese crepes may be filled with sweet or savory ingredients, many of which are raw. They are almost invariably folded into a cone-shape and served fresh in parchment paper.
Green tea-flavored ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream, apples, chocolate sauce, and cheesecake are all traditional Japanese crepe fillings. These kinds of crepes are made from a batter that is generally sweeter and more decadent than French pancakes, yet served in simpler ways. While the French usually carefully prepare their crepe fillings with complicated cooking techniques, serving them in aesthetically-pleasing presentations, a Japanese crepe is less fancy. Typically about 12 inches (about 24 cm) in diameter, many Japanese crepe fillings are either pre-packaged — like store-bought chocolate sauce — or simply chopped or sliced for easy handling.
Japanese crepe stands often offer more than five dozen filling combinations, most of them sweet. Some savory options include fried duck, cheese, cooked pork, and spicy chicken. Rice and sauces, like soy or duck sauce, may also be available. Customers may also sometimes order custom-made crepes with any combination of fillings they like. Japanese crepes are usually so large that they can typically hold up to six different ingredients without tearing.
Those interested in making Japanese crepes at home should note that a large, flat-bottomed wok or non-stick pan usually works best. This ensures the crepes will be the proper size and thickness. Traditional Japanese recipes also use little to no butter and the fillings are often unseasoned. Some cooks may want to buck this tradition slightly in favor of spicing some sautéed apples and pears with cinnamon, or cooking savory rice in chicken broth instead of water.
Many Japanese crepe recipes start with about 2 parts flour, a spoonful of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a single egg. A large crepe pan is thoroughly coated with vegetable oil and heated until the oil sizzles. A ladle-full of crepe batter is poured into the hot pan. The cook typically rotates the pan gently, evenly distributing the batter over the bottom of the pan. Once coated, the cook flips the crepe with tongs to cook the other side briefly, then flips the crepe out of the pan and onto a work surface.
A fresh, hot Japanese crepe is layered with filling ingredients that typically forms a wedge shape that takes up about one-eighth of the entire circular crepe. The cook then folds the crepe in half, with one edge of the wedge of ingredients laying against the inside of the fold. Next, the cook rolls the crepe into a cone from right to left. The end result should look like a large, old-fashioned ice cream cone.
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