Japanese Crepes: Sweet and Savory Snacks to Eat On the Go
While Japan can’t take credit for creating the crepe, they have become a popular street food that can be easily found throughout the country. A traditional pancake-like dessert, crepes originated in the Brittany region of France and have spread all around the world. No one knows exactly how the crepe arrived in Japan, but it first appeared as a street food in Tokyo’s Harajuku-Shibuya area in the late 1970s. Today, Takeshita Street in Harajuku is still known for its numerous crepe shops selling folded crepes filled with whipped cream, seasonal fruits, and sweet syrup, all wrapped up in an easy-to-carry paper cone. Keep reading to find out about all the sweet and savory fillings, styles, and popular Japanese crepes to try.
Sweet vs. Savory Japanese Crepes
Crepes are made with wheat flour batter spread paper thin on a hot pan or griddle and lightly cooked on both sides. They may be filled with sweet or savory ingredients, though the sweet variety is more popular in Japan. When sold as a street food, crepes are folded into a cone and served wrapped in paper, though they may be served on a plate at a French-style café. Non-dessert crepes made with buckwheat flour are referred to as galettes. They are not as common as dessert crepes but can be found at some French cafés and restaurants. Galettes contain savory fillings and are folded into a square and served on a plate with a fork and knife.
Japanese Crepe Fillings: Sweet Ingredients
Sweets in Japan tend to contain less sugar than Western desserts, which allows the natural flavors of the crepe fillings to come through. Even people without a big sweet tooth can enjoy Japanese crepes. Here are some of the most popular dessert fillings you should try.
Cream and Custard
Nama kurimu, or fresh whipped cream, is a light and delicately sweet cream that’s often used in Japanese desserts like crepes, parfaits, and pancakes. A generous spread of creamy custard, pudding, or all three adds flavor as well as volume to a Japanese sweet crepe.
In addition to bananas and strawberries, which are considered the go-to fruit for crepes in Japan, there are many other fruit fillings that vary by season like mangoes, kiwi, Hokkaido melons, mikan tangerines, grapes, and yellow peaches.
Generous scoops of strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, and matcha green tea ice cream are all popular fillings and can make an ordinary street food dessert extra refreshing in the summer, as well as fill in all the empty spaces in your crepe.
If you feel like splurging, you can order bite-sized slices of cheesecake, brownie, chocolate cake, or even mochi rice balls to be added to your Japanese crepe as an attractive and decadent topping.
Sliced almonds are a common nut topping available year-round, while chestnuts—known as kuri in Japan—are a popular seasonal ingredient in autumn. They’re the perfect topping for people who like a little crunch in their sweets.
Chocolate, strawberry, and caramel sauces or syrups are typically drizzled throughout the crepe’s inner folds and over the top. Kuromitsu syrup (a traditional Japanese syrup made with black sugar), fruit jam, and even nutella are also popular sauce options.
Japanese Crepe Fillings: Savory Ingredients
Savory crepes, sometimes referred to in Japan as “snack crepes,” are a bit different than galettes. They’re made with wheat flour, like dessert crepes, and served in a cone as street food. If you need a quick snack while shopping on Takeshita Street and aren’t in the mood for something sweet, then a delicious snack crepe may be just the thing.
Most snack crepes contain a base of spinach and some cheese—usually cream cheese—spread throughout the inside of the crepe. The main ingredient is typically some sort of protein, like tuna salad, ham, or boiled chicken. Shredded cheese, cucumber, a scoop of potato salad, or a hard boiled egg can be added as a second topping. The crepe is finished off with a savory sauce that can be anything from a simple drizzling of Japanese mayonnaise, Japanese curry sauce, pizza sauce, teriyaki sauce, or even salsa.
Because they’re rolled into a cone and wrapped in paper, savory Japanese crepes are mess-free and easy to eat for a quick snack on the go.
Popular Crepe Combination Flavors
Japanese crepe shops often have large menus with pre-set flavor combinations to make it easier for you to order. Here are a few of the most popular choices.
Choco banana, short for chocolate banana, is one of the more traditional crepe options you’ll find wherever you go in Japan. The most basic choco banana crepe include sliced bananas, chocolate sauce, and fresh whipped cream. Some menus may also include a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, sliced almonds, or sprinkles.
Strawberries are a native fruit to Japan, and the country is a huge producer and consumer of them. There are numerous local varieties along with those introduced from other countries, which are in season from mid-winter to spring. One of the best ways to enjoy fresh strawberries is with a strawberry cream crepe. Sliced strawberries are spread over a bed of fresh whipped cream and drizzled with strawberry syrup to maximize the strawberry flavor. It’s a must-try for any strawberry lover.
Strawberry Banana Ice
If you’re having trouble choosing between a strawberry crepe or a banana crepe, why not spring for both? Strawberry banana ice crepes contain fresh slices of strawberries and banana along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Other toppings may include whipped cream, nuts, and your choice of syrup. It’s like an ice cream sundae in a crepe!
Satisfy Your Craving for Japanese Crepes with Gurunavi
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then you absolutely must try a Japanese dessert crepe while visiting Japan. And even if you’re not a big fan of desserts, a savory crepe makes an excellent choice for a quick and affordable snack on a busy day out. Check out Gurunavi’s recommendations for Japanese crepe shops near you, wherever you are in Japan. Itadakimasu!
If all this talk about dessert is tickling your sweet tooth, read our guide to Japanese parfaits, too!