Friday, March 23, 2012
Mamma Jamma Pancakes
My sister M is the only one in my family that can make traditional Samoan pancakes like my mother. She's mastered the art of those simple, tasty treats, an art which involves measuring by eye, mixing to perfection and frying to a crisp crunchy finish. And it is an art, because not everyone can make them.
Unfortunately M has also inherited my mother's Samoan abilities at explaining a recipe, because when I asked her how to make them she said over the phone, "It's easy, it's just flour, sugar, water..."
"How about eggs?" I asked.
"If we have them, I put them in," she replied.
"Do you use milk?" I asked.
"Sometimes," she said.
"Anything else?" I pressed.
"No, that's it I think," she answered.
So I faithfully tried a dozen different batters of all different proportions of flour, sugar and water and none came out like my childhood pancake memories.
Tired and dejected, I fried the last of my unsuccessful batter into a pancake in the shape of M's head, and smooshed it with my spatula.
That's what happens when there's only one person in your family that can make something and you leave it to them to always make it.
It's not that I never tried to make them, because I have, but my efforts have always been hit and miss.
So this recipe has be filed under 'inspired'. It's my own take on traditional Samoan pancakes because I honestly could not get the flour/sugar/water thing to work. And because according to my sister M, the expert, there is no baking powder in traditional Samoan pancakes. In fact, when I told her about the baking powder, she wrote: 'Are you making pagi keke mafolafola (flat pancakes) or pagi keke mamma jamma?'.
Looks like it is the mamma jamma kind.
M, sorry about that pancake I made in the shape of your head. But you can't imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to make something that only requires three ingredients. If it's any consolation, the pancake had a nice shape, a golden brown complexion and was tough - kinda like you, Mamma Jamma.
Mamma Jamma Pancakes
2 cups (250 g) flour
4 teaspoons (15 g) baking powder
3 Tablespoons (40 g) sugar
1⅓ cup (160 ml) water
oil for frying
Measure everything into a bowl and stir quickly but lightly to combine all the ingredients. Do not overmix, or try to get the batter smooth. The batter will be slightly lumpy but you shouldn't see any big lumps of flour.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frypan. The oil should be generous enough to coat the bottom of the pan and then some. When you see the oil start to shimmer when you swirl it around the pan then it's hot enough for frying the pancakes. If the oil is smoking, it's too hot.
Scoop heaped tablespoonfuls of batter into the frypan. The batter should sizzle when it hits the oil. Fry each side until golden.
The first side will be done when bubbles poke through the batter. The second side will take less time than the first.
Add oil each time you start a new batch of pancakes.
Serve with butter and jam, or a classic Samoan mixture of the two. We used to make this when we had fa'alavelave, and had to cater for scores of people. The all-in-one spread made it easier to churn out plates of crackers, pancakes or thickly sliced white bread.