Pancake Day Around The World

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Any day that celebrates food is fine by us. Truffle Wednesday? Sure. Quiche Friday? Why not! Haggis Sunday? OK, let’s not get carried away. But we the ever-curious, ever-peckish team at Japan Centre felt like investigating further into this phenomenon. So pop on your frilly apron, whisk up some batter and get ready to flip, as we go on a journey of pancake day discovery around the world.


So what got us all flipping in the first place? Like many great things – Christmas trees, druids, megaliths, Asterix & Obelix – the origins of pancake day can be traced to pagan times. The European folk of yore believed that the transition between Spring and Winter represented an annual battle between the sexy Gods of fertility and vegetation and the dreary, evil spirits of darkness. To celebrate the inevitable success of the Gods of Spring, people used to rustle up great big yellow pancakes, which were seen as apt and delicious representations of the sun.

When Christianity came along these traditions mixed with Shrove Tuesday. This is the day that precedes the altogether less indulgent Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the gruelling 40 day period of Lent. This was the time to use up all the leftover ingredients knocking around and celebrate with great feasts and festivities, evolving into events such as Pancake Day, Mardi Gras and Carnival.


Whilst there may not be any enormous street festivals with scantily clad revellers (well, except for the naked man festival) or specific days honouring the pancake, Japan is a surprise delight for pancake lovers the world over. Firstly there’s dorayaki – spongy, tasty, delightful pancake sandwiches with unique fillings like chestnut and adzuki. Legend has it that the first one was cooked up by a hungry samurai using a gong as a pan, which is known as ‘dora’ in Japanese. More recently the wondrous okonomiyaki, grilled savoury pancakes with fillings as varied as a Harujuku girls wardrobe, burst onto the scene in Kansai and now is adored as the finest accompaniment to beer since the humble peanut. As we evidently adore the pancake in all its multifaceted guises, we’ve collected a few various pancake recipes over the years which you can check out you below – great for a less traditional pancake day.

Dorayaki Pancakes Okonomiyaki Savoury Pancake
Let’s Cook- Dorayaki Pancakes Let’s Cook – Okonomiyaki
Kabocha Pumpkin Pancakes Matcha Green Tea Pancakes
Let’s cook – Kabocha Pumpkin Pancakes Let’s Cook – Matcha Pancakes
Tofu Pancakes Chijimi Spicy Pancakes
Let’s Cook – Tofu Pancakes Let’s Cook – Chijimi Pancakes


Here we dine on thin and crispy pancakes with classic fillings such as lemon and sugar. The zaniest of us also partake in pancake races, donning traditional garb from ‘the old days’ and legging it down the high street flipping pancakes. Legend has it this delightfully eccentric tradition began when a housewife in Olney was casually rustling up pancakes, lost track of time (probably having fun doing the ‘how-high-can-you-flip-it game), heard the church bells calling service and hurried down the high street, still flipping her precious pancakes to avoid the potential tragedy of burning them. Whoever this woman was, we love her and her legacy very much.


Brazil’s equivalent of pancake day is the epic Carnival, which makes Blighty’s pancake races look rather tame really.

Carnaval by flickr Rio Carnival 2012 by Phossil flickr

New Orleans

Colourful parades take place in the city of New Orleans to mark Shrove Tuesday.

Derek Bridges flickr Fat Tuesday dklaughman at flickr mardi gras


In some Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, celebrations are somewhat more sedate (they’re a sensible lot aren’t they). Folk tend to tuck into a sweet treat known as ‘semla,’ which look so delicious it’s almost upsetting. Anyone want to send us some?


Our vodka-swilling chums in Russia celebrate with Maslenitsa. This festival marks the end of the ludicrously cold and snowy Winters. Folk here eat bliny – a kind of pancake or crepe (does anyone actually know the difference?) and any other food slathered (or should we say, SLAVered) in butter. They also erect a lovely gal called Lady Maslenitsa dressed in lots of finery. Unlucky for her though she represents Winter – which is feminine in Russian – and so is unceremoniously burnt to bits and her ashes are buried in the snow.


Pancake Day Celebrations at Japan Centre

okonomiyaki event


The pancake flipping kids at Japan Centre are putting on a special event for you all. We’ll be selling delicious, hot, freshly made okonomiyaki outside the Japan Centre Piccadilly store. Come down and get your hands on the street food of champions!

Japan Centre – Japanese Food Hall And Pancake Lovers Since 1976