In Search of Nice’s Socca, the World’s First Gluten-Free Pancake
Socca pancakes, made with chickpea flour, may have been the world’s first gluten-free pancakes. Although the recipe started out life in Genoa, Italy — and can still be found all along Italy’s Ligurian coast — the French city of Nice later pinched it, and is now famous for them… but finding the breakfast treat isn’t exactly an easy task.
The most obvious place to look is Nice’s famous Cours Saleya, also known as the Flower Market. There, in addition to a vast array of flowers of every conceivable color, there are stalls selling fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and souvenirs. Lining the market are open-air restaurants, cafes, and bars. You might imagine that Socca pancakes would be everywhere here — and not having them would be akin to being in Naples and not finding a pizza — but checking various restaurant menus for the pancake yielded not a one.
Oddly, Socca pancakes seem relegated to a single stand in the market, presided over by just one woman. Her method of making them is simple: Chickpea flour is stirred into a mixture of water and olive oil, forming a loose batter. The mixture is then placed on a tin-plated copper baking pan, and into an open oven it goes. After emerging, it is cut into irregularly shaped slices and put into a paper cone. You are asked if you would like the traditional pepper topping — which is a good idea, because in all honesty, the Socca could use some seasoning. If you want to buy some chickpea flour, that, too, is hard to come by at Cours Saleya. However, a source there offered some offbeat advice. Surprisingly, the flour can be found on Amazon.com, where there are no less than 15 varieties.
Here is a recipe for making Socca pancakes at home using the broiler in your home oven to create your own ode to gluten-free.