In December 2000, I flew to Bangkok with a backpack and a few changes of clothes, a small stack of books, my first digital camera, a new state-of-the-art mini-disc player with Beatles and Red House Painters albums and some of my other favorite traveling music. I read most of my Lonely Planet – Thailand book on the plane and even slept a little with my head on the window. Soon we landed in Bangkok. It was my second trip to Asia, and I’d read so much and seen so many foreign films about the region and culture, but it still totally blew me away.
From my first day there, I started a tradition of eating pineapple pancakes for breakfast at the guesthouse in a little alley behind Khao San Road. During the day, I rode in auto-rickshaws with unscrupulous and amusing drivers, explored the temples and markets, my favorites being the giant reclining buddha at Wat Pho, and day trips to the incredible floating markets. I was also delighted to find great used bookstores on Khao San road. I actually read the first 70 pages of Alex Garland’s The Beach (which takes place in Thailand) while standing at the shelf in the bookstore before paying a few bucks for the tattered paperback and finding a café to finish the book.
I met many other fascinating backpackers from all over the world, had fun with my Thai phrasebook trying to talk to locals, took a million photos, and enjoyed the tropical weather and exotic cityscape. At night, I usually got Vegetable Pad Thai from street carts. I’d sit on the edge of the sidewalk near the fried bug carts to see if anyone actually ate the fried crickets, beetles, and other oddities. (Yes, they did, especially drunken backpackers stumbling out of bars in the midnight hours.)
I also enjoyed other dishes like Thai Eggplant Basil Curry, Red and Green curries with tofu and vegetables, and vegetable fried rice. Surprisingly, I preferred the vegetarian street food to the offerings of the many vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok. Fortunately, most all of my guesthouses also had decent restaurants, which worked well for breakfast and lunch. In the evening, I usually went exploring and tried more vegetarian street food from the carts.
Christmas was approaching, so I booked a bus ride to a small coastal town several hours away. From there, I took a ferry to Koh Chang (Elephant Island). Back then Koh Chang was still relatively undeveloped, unpaved, and unexplored in comparison to neighboring Koh Samui. Now both are touristy mega-resort destinations and the remaining less discovered islands remain somewhat guarded secrets among backpackers seeking quiet, peaceful retreats. In 2000-01, when I stayed there, Ko Chang was exactly that. I rented a thatched hut on the beach for about $7 a night. I woke up to the sound of the waves and went swimming at least twice a day. I ate my meals at the White Sands Beach resort, at small tables with an amazing view of the crystal clear, beautiful sea.
Almost very morning I ordered pineapple pancakes from the kitchen there. Ten minutes later I’d get a whopping plate of steaming pancakes cooked with crushed pineapple, and garnished with even more delicious fresh pineapple.
This vegan recipe is my best attempt to recreate those nostalgic pancakes with all the flavor and fun of the many breakfasts I had on my four week trip exploring Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia.
Paradise Pineapple Pancakes
makes 4-6 pancakes / time 30 min
- 1 cup / 150 g fresh pineapple chopped small
- 1 cup / 150 g flour
- 2 Tbs soy flour or corn starch
- 3 Tbs sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup / 240 ml soy milk
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml water (as needed)
- 1 tsp oil + oil for pan
- powdered sugar for garnish
- agave or maple syrup
- Mix flour, soy flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon in mixing bowl.
- Add soy milk, water, 1 tsp oil and mix until mostly smooth, some lumps are okay.
- Add chopped pineapple and stir a few times. Let batter sit for 10 min.
- Heat a frying pan on medium heat. Apply a few drops of oil to pan and rub around with a paper towel.
- Pour batter onto pan and spread pineapple flat with spatula.
- Cook until bubbles form over surface of pancake, 3-4 min.
- Turn pancake with a spatula and cook other side until golden brown, 2-3 min.
- Transfer finished pancake to another pan on low heat to keep warm. Repeat for other pancakes.
- Garnish with margarine, pineapple, powdered sugar, cinnamon. Serve with agave or maple syrup.