Written by: Charmaine Anne Li
bubble waffles: fluffy slices of the hong kong streetlife
Bubble waffles are like waffles+. If you’ve never tasted a bubble waffle (God bless you), imagine the fluffiest pancake or waffle you’ve ever drowned in maple syrup, and imagine it sans syrup because it’s that good despite being only lightly sweet. Or think of the cake batter flavour at Menchie’s. That comes close too.
Born in Canada and raised by Hong Kongers, bubble waffles were a tasty way to keep in touch with my culture. To this day, “雞蛋仔” (read in Cantonese as “gai daan zai,” which literally means “little chicken eggs”) are one of the few food items I can actually read and write in Chinese!
crafting the perfect street food
The origins of the bubble waffle are somewhat blurry. CNN Travel suggests inventors of the post-war generation made an egg-shaped dessert to make up for an eggless batter as eggs were expensive items at the time (http://travel.cnn.com/hong-kong/eat/hong-kong-egg-waffles-885080). Another blogger (http://en.christinesrecipes.com/2010/09/hong-kong-style-egg-waffle-original.html) claims bubble waffles came about in the 1950s after a grocer didn’t want to waste their cracked eggs and made this golden batter instead.
Whatever the story, bubble waffles are a deeply ingrained part of Hong Kong street food and modern culture. I never visit Hong Kong without visiting a local bubble waffle hawker.
bubble waffle cafe at the ubc village
Bubble Waffle Cafe opened late last year, taking over the space previously held by Well Tea. There’s a cute Asian grocery store called Mini Super in the second floor of the establishment, and just a few places to sit downstairs. You order by walking up to the cashier.
The Cafe offers more than just waffles, of course. There’s teppanyaki, which is Japanese-style rice served on a sizzling platter with a variety of toppings. They also have Hong Kong-style noodle combos where you can choose the soup base, noodle type, and toppings for your personalized bowl. They serve other street foods, such as Korean potato twisters, chicken wings, and curry fish balls to name a few examples.
Being the self-professed bubble waffle connoisseur I am, I ordered one of each waffle flavour: Original, Strawberry, Green Tea, Chocolate, Sesame, and Cheesecake.
The pillars of a good bubble waffle is not so much taste as texture, however. Good bubble waffle “eggs” will have a crunchy outside and a gooey inside, which is why I’ll be using cross-section photos of “eggs”.
Bubble Waffle Cafe held this principle but not as well as Rainbow, the go-to bubble waffle place that’s been around forever in Richmond’s Parker Place Mall. Maybe it’s because the waffles were curled up and squished into a paper bag, but they looked sadly deflated by the time I came home.
ORIGINAL | The vanilla ice cream of bubble waffles. A timeless classic, and for good reason. Bubble Waffle Cafe had the classic cake-y taste locked down, but the crunch-to-goo ratio of the texture was a little too soft and wet.
STRAWBERRY | This flavour was okay. Tasted like strawberry Pocky, if you’re into strawberry Pocky. A little too sweet in my opinion; waffling is all about restraint.
GREEN TEA | I’m a matcha snob, so I expected this flavour to disappoint. It proved quite good, however. The green tea flavour is only barely there but its presence has depth. If you want a flavour that’s not Original, I recommend this one.
CHOCOLATE | Again, the chocolate flavouring was masked by the original bubble waffle taste, but this one hinted at Nutella. A pretty decent flavour.
SESAME | I like the appearance of this one. The sesame’s sharpness gives the sweet-tasting waffle a kick. I’m not a big fan of sesame, though, so I’ll let you opine on this one yourself.
CHEESECAKE | At first I couldn’t tell which one was Original and which one was Cheesecake. Upon further tasting, the cheesecake is a little tangy and more buttery, but the difference is negligible.
Bubble Waffle Cafe is an okay place, worth the three stars it gets on Urbanspoon. If you want an amazing waffle experience, though, do go to Rainbow in Richmond. If that trek sounds daunting, get the noodle soup combo that adds an original-flavoured bubble waffle to your noodle order for $1. The special flavours are too mild and aren’t that special save for the Green Tea. The $3.75 price tag is also disproportionately high for the quality you get.