The mystery of the mango pancake

Mango pancake at the Sea Treasure restaurant in Sydney

I was intrigued while in Sydney to find ‘mango pancakes’ an apparent staple of Chinese restaurants there. I’ve never come across this speciality anywhere in China, even in Hong Kong (which some chatters on the Web suggest is its place of origin). For those of you who haven’t come across them, mango pancakes consist of a normal sort of pancake stuffed with whipped cream and chopped fresh mango – delicious, but not typically Chinese at all.

Is the mango pancake the General Tso’s chicken or the fortune cookie of Sydney (or the whole of Australia), i.e. a Chinese diaspora creation that has become an indispensable part of a particular immigrant Chinese culinary culture?

I’d love to hear from any blog-readers out there who know more… Has anyone seen this kind of mango pancake anywhere else in the world? Hong Kong? Other Australian cities? Anyone have any idea when it started to appear in Sydney Chinese restaurants? Do all Cantonese restaurants in Sydney, or Australia, serve them, or just a few? Please let me know!

19 Responses to “The mystery of the mango pancake”

  1. Eileen

    I was born in Singapore, am of Chinese ethnic background, and moved to Sydney in 2007. I ate my first mango pancake a few weeks ago on a dim sum trolley at a local chinese restaurant in Sydney’s east.

    I had no idea what it was at first, but the skin of the pancake tastes like the egg-skin of the Straits Chinese (Peranakan) popiah (non-deep-fried spring roll), but a lot sweeter.

    I didn’t know it was an Australian-Chinese thing. I haven’t eaten it at other restaurants, but I wasn’t looking. I certainly have never seen it in Singapore, although there are variants in the Crystal Jade chain of dessert restaurants.

    I thought fortune cookies were American, I remember eating them in 1984 as a child and again in 1995 as a teenager.

  2. Charmaine

    I’m afraid I don’t know the origins, but mango pancakes are one of the signature dishes of Honeymoon Desserts in Hong Kong (another would be their infinitely more famous durian pancakes). It might not be in the same design as the one above, but it’s definitely a mango pancake – pillow soft crepe holding plenty of whipped cream and sweet, ripe mangoes:

  3. Fuchsia

    Thanks Eileen and Charmaine, v interesting. I’d be curious to know where Honeymoon Desserts got the idea – is there any chance it could actually be Sydney?!!

    While in Hunan I discovered that General Tso’s Chicken, which was invented by a Hunanese exile chef who had a restaurant in New York, was included in a recent publication about Hunanese food culture as a traditional dish – even though it isn’t. I’m guessing that the dish is just so famous abroad that the author felt he couldn’t leave it out.

    I wonder if fortune cookies will eventually be adopted as part of the restaurant experience in China itself…

  4. Duncan Mok

    As an expat Melbournian I can tell you I’ve never seen a mango pancake in a Melbourne restaurant, nor in Hong Kong, nor in any of the dim sum restaurants in San Francisco or New York. Anything with whipped cream in it immediately rings alarm bells for me!

  5. Jess

    It’s not just at Honeymoon Desserts, and it’s not just in Hong Kong — our local fruit-dessert shop (with a menu very similar to Honeymoon’s) in Changsha has them, too.

  6. Cheryl

    I am Malaysian-Chinese and I’ve never seen mango pancakes until my recent trip to Hong Kong. I was told the durian pancake (from Honeymoon Dessert) is all the rage right now. It must be a recent thing because I didn’t see this in Hong Kong or Australia 5-8 years ago. My initial reaction is that there is a strong Straits Chinese (Peranakan) influence in their desserts ie. coconut milk, sago, jelly, brown sugar, durian and as Eileen has mentioned, the sweet ‘popiah’ skin.

    If the pancakes originated from Sydney, it could have been invented by a Malaysian/ Singaporean chinese as there are so many of us there! Haha. Just my guess :o)

  7. drnaomi

    Ate my first one at China Grand in Haymarket about five weeks ago. My IAnglo Aussie) friends seemed familiar with this but I had never eaten one before.

    It was disappointing. Not a patch on the more traditional set mango pudding you get at Marigold or Silver Spoon/Zilver. This was nothing more elaborate than a French crepe batter, with a slightly custardy cream-filling and some chunks of mango.

    To me it seemed more French Vietnamese patisserie than anything Malaysian.

  8. Eileen

    I attended an engagement party yesterday of a couple who had origins in South Africa. A very interesting dish was served — a crepe similar to the skin of the mango pancake, filled with a custard that also tasted of a mild cheese, topped with fresh berries. I couldn’t get the name of it — banjoote or something like that.

  9. Isabella

    Agree with Charmaine that mango pancakes have been around for a while in HK in Honeymoon desserts. And yes, durian pancakes are also very (but probably less) popular. I don’t know how mango pancakes began, but I think people here are just crazy about mangoes – no need to mention the popularity of the Hui Lau Shan chain (not that good, in my opinion, but tourists seem to love it) and as ever, HK people find a million ways to incorporate that into their desserts. And then use other fruits to substitute and so forth. I love the ‘durian soup’ (cold) dessert at Fat Kee in Causeway Bay. Heaven for durian lovers.

  10. Fuchsia

    By the way, a foodie friend of mine in Singapore says that the mango pancake strikes him as being more Taiwanese/Hong Kong than Peranakan. He said the first place in Singapore to become known for the dish, six or seven years ago, specialises in Taiwan-style desserts. Any blog readers in Taiwan? Seen any mango pancakes over there?

  11. juliana

    Hi Fuchsia!

    I have eaten this mango pancakes in HK and Beijing, and I love the ones here in Beijing… the famous HK dessert store 满记甜品 arrived in the capital earlier this year, by way of HK… am not entirely sure if its origin though!

    They remind me a little of these fluffy squishy balls filled with cream and bits of fruit, I forget what they are called, but something like 鲜奶丸儿

  12. Always Hungry

    I had the pleasure of devouring mango pancakes in Hong Kong circa 1999 at Moon Cafe, located beside the train tracks in Happy Valley. Beyond mango there were banana versions and the usual roll call of sweet soups, dumplings, puddings and fruit juices. A banana pancake was offered, but who would choose banana over mango?!

    From my experience, when it comes to Western-style cakes, Hong Kong bakeries work in the “soft and squishy” idiom. From at least the 80s,the standard birthday or wedding cake is soft and white with bits of mango and fruit cocktail, and unfortunately frosted with faux whipped cream.

    I can only think that the HK love of mangoes + soft and squishy Western style cakes = mango pancakes. It makes sense given the hybrid nature of Hong Kong cuisine and its love of hybrid dishes, including the much-beloved mango pancake. Perhaps one day this will join mango pudding, “ma lai go” Malaysian cake and sesame dumplings in the Dessert Hall of Elegance.

  13. charmian

    anyone have a reliable link to a recipe that would recreate the mango pancakes exactly as shown in the photo – have been disappointed with links advertising ‘mango pancakes recipes’ but the outcome is very different.

  14. Muriel

    Mango Pancakes are to die for – my first taste was also in Sydney back in the early 80’s and I have loved them ever since. We can get them in a few Restaurants in Auckland. I was looking for the recipe for the pancake as they are just amazing and would love to know how to make them – completely different texture to a crepe suzette.

  15. Nate

    We have these mango crepe delectables with whip cream in Vancouver Canada. The restaurant (which is Hong Kong style) is called Sun Sui Wah. It has been something of a signature item for many years (at least ten or eleven).

  16. Liliana

    I love them and all my family and friends love them too. I would be grateful if anyone can tell me how to make them. The ones we love are exactly like these on the photo and can be found in almost all Sydney yum-cha restaurants and some Chinese bakeries.

  17. Missy_Belle

    I’m Australian and live in Sydney and all of the yum cha restaurants I’ve been to in the city and Eastern suburbs have mango pancake. Australians pretty much expect them as the dessert of yum cha. However, I believe it is a Sydney thing as I use to live in Melbourne and never ate a mango pancake until I moved to Sydney. Rarely see Asians eating them as they go for traditional chinese desserts unless they grew up in Australia.

    I just found mango pancake in a dessert shop in a food hall in Macau (market st on level 3 at the shoppes at Venetian). Delicious, exactly the same as Sydney. A yellow coloured crepe with whipped sweetened cream and mango.

  18. John Newton

    Fuschia – a little cakeshop in Chinatown called Furama has taken the pancake one step further. They do a durian pancake, without, I am pleased to say, the fake whipped cream.

    And there is a genuine item of Australian Chinese fusion there also. They’ve taken the cha siu pao and made a cha siu pie. Wonderful. The same pork filling encased in round pie shaped puff pastry.

  19. John Newton

    And i have just read Charmaine’s post mentioning the durian pancake from Hong Kong. but the cha siu pie remains an original

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