Ployes may have a meaty history, but this traditional regional food is steadily gaining vegan street cred.
Made from buckwheat flour, wheat flour, salt and a leavening agent, ployes are a griddle cake associated with the French Acadian communities of eastern Canada and northern Maine. Though traditionally eaten with chicken stew, hot dogs and other meat-based meals, ployes have been embraced by Maines vegan community.
Theyre also a familiar part of Maines natural-food scene. Most health food stores stock the mix made by Bouchard Family Farms in Fort Kent. At Local Sprouts Cooperative Cafe in Portland, the Bouchard Family Farms ployes show up on the breakfast menu as a vegan pancake. (The addition of water turns the dry ingredients into a batter.)
€œTheyre a unique Maine product,€ said Leslie Hogan, who is a worker-owner at Local Sprouts. €œThe fact that they are vegan and cholesterol-free and sugar-free and contain no eggs or dairy is also appealing to a lot of our customers.€
Local Sprouts, which focuses on local foods, has served ployes since it opened six years ago, Hogan said, adding, €œI dont think we could take them away.€
Far beyond Portlands vegan-friendly cafes, Janice Bouchard in Fort Kent said, €œWe feel the vegan love.€
Bouchard, an owner of Bouchard Family Farms, said the company has brought its ployes to vegetarian festivals in Portland and Boston, where its €œamazing how many people were attracted to ployes and wanted to know more.€
Here in Maine, many people rely on a packaged mix to make ployes and, in fact, Bouchard Family Farms is often credited with keeping the tradition of ployes alive in the age of microwaves and drive-thrus. I myself grew up in Litchfield with two working parents, who adopted the mix when Bouchard Family Farms introduced it in the early 1980s. Ployes began showing up at our dinner table, stacked and topped with maple syrup, fruits and nuts as a €œbreakfast for dinner€ treat.
A new Maine-made ployes mix is scheduled to hit the market in late summer or early fall. Vassalboro-based Fiddlers Green Farm is launching a certified organic ployes mix made with Maine-grown tartary buckwheat flour.
€œIts a heritage flour more traditional for northern Maine than the Japanese buckwheat flour that has a larger presence in the market,€ said Robert Ericksen, miller and manager at Fiddlers Green. €œThe tartary buckwheats got a little bit more of a yellowish color, and its a lighter flavor.€
Fiddlers Green, which mills and packages organic porridges, baking mixes and other bulk foods, distributes locally through Crown OMaine Organic Cooperative and New Hampshire-based Associated Buyers. It also does a brisk trade online, much of it with out-of-staters. Because of its customer base, the company plans to market the product as a flatbread mix, a term Ericksen said is €œmore accessible to people who dont know what a ploye is.€
€œUp to this point, its been a cloistered regional food,€ he added.
The Fiddlers Green team hopes the wording will help broaden the geographic appeal of ployes.
€œI like a hearty breakfast, and not eating eggs can be a challenge,€ said Beth Gallie, a vegan who has eaten ployes for more than a decade. €œPloyes are great because they are tasty, nutritious, very easy to make and do not require eggs.€
Gallie is president of the Maine Animal Coalition, which hosts the annual Vegetarian Food Festival in Portland.
Karen Coker, a vegan and a founder of the Portland-based educational group Plant IQ, likes the pancakes nutritional qualities.
€œPloyes appeal to plant-based eaters because theyre free of eggs and dairy,€ Coker said, €œand they appeal to Plant IQs members because theyre also free of added oil, which we strive to avoid because its so calorie-dense and has little nutritional value.€
Plant IQ is a local group associated with the 2015 documentary €œPlant Pure Nation,€ which advocates for an oil-free, plant-based style of eating.
€œBuckwheat is high in essential nutrients and an important group of antioxidants called bound antioxidants,€ Coker continued. €œPloyes are a great alternative to white flour pancakes and flatbreads, especially when topped with fresh fruits or savory vegetables, instead of loaded with sugary syrups.€
Jennifer McCann of Washington state includes a recipe for ployes in her book €œVegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!€ as part of her Canadian menu, which also features maple syrup, vegan Canadian bacon, steamed fiddleheads and dried blueberries.
€œTheyre already vegan, so I didnt have to do any substituting or veganizing,€ McCann said, €œand theyre wonderful rolled up and packed with a container of maple syrup for dipping or some baked beans for an on-the-go breakfast or lunch.€
Traditionally, ployes are cooked without flipping them, which creates the distinctive air holes on top, similar to French crepes or Ethopian inerja bread. McCann lets the batter sit for 30 minutes before cooking, as many crepe recipes also suggest. The Bouchard mix sits for just five minutes before it is cooked.
At Local Sprouts, the ployes can look either more puffy and pancakelike or more thin and crepelike, depending on who is cooking and the culinary tricks they employ, Hogan said. But no matter who is behind the spatula, she assured me, Local Sprouts isnt €œmaking your grandmas ployes.€
Instead theyre making Acadian Ployes Pancakes, vegan.
Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:
This recipe comes from €œVegan Lunch Box Around the World: 125 Easy, International Lunches Kids and Grown-Ups Will Love!€ by Jennifer McCann.
Makes 8 ployes
1 cup buckwheat ï¬‚our
1 cup all-purpose ï¬‚our
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Sift the flours, baking powder and salt together into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add 1½ cups cold water and whisk until smooth. Add ½ cup boiling water and stir to combine.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the batter sit for 30 minutes. Toward the end of that time, begin heating a nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.
Pour …“ cup batter onto the hot, ungreased skillet. The batter should be the consistency of cake batter and should spread out on its own to form a thin, round ploye 6 to 7 inches across. If its too thick, add extra water to the mixing bowl and stir to combine.
Cook without turning until the bottom is crisp and the top is dry and dotted with large holes, about 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and serve. Repeat with the remaining batter.