The Sweet Ingredient Combinations Added To Hong Kong-Style Waffles

It would be nearly impossible to talk about Hong Kong without mentioning its street food scene. Iconic fare like spicy fishballs, salt-baked quail eggs, siu mai, stinky tofu, soy-braised cuttlefish, and cheung fun have earned the city a concrete place in the global street food hall of fame. But all these dishes satisfy a savory appetite — what's a sweet-toothed foodie to do? Answer: Look no further than a Hong Kong-style waffle and it's array of sugary toppings from fruit to candy to cookies and more. One of the most common sweet toppings for Hong Kong-style waffles is a classic peanut butter and jam combo — as much a favorite flavor for adult foodies as for younger fans.

Perhaps the most immediately recognizable aspect of Hong Kong-style waffles (aka "grid cakes" or "gai daan jai" in Cantonese) is their texture. The waffles are imprinted with a spherical bubble wrap-like texture that resembles miniature eggs. They're made in special waffle irons traditionally cooked over a charcoal stove, but many modern vendors use electric iron appliances.

The secret to the waffles' crave-able eggy bite is the batter, a combination of yeast, baking soda, custard powder, and tapioca starch. The result is a simultaneously fluffy and crispy texture, like a cookie and sponge-cake hybrid. These yolky waffles are killer on their own, but the true stars of the show with Hong Kong-style waffles are those sweet toppings.

Load it up and hit the road

Aside from peanut butter and jam, other popular toppings include a slug of condensed milk, margarine, golden syrup, strawberries, sprinkles, cream, Oreo cookies, and more. The waffles can act as a vehicle for a cold custard treat like banana ice cream or Italian gelato for a cultural culinary fusion. Sometimes the waffle batter itself is infused with flavors like chocolate chip, green tea, sweet potato, or sesame.

In classic street food style, Hong Kong waffles are served in a paper bag or cone for handheld on-the-go enjoyment. They're also served as a fork and knife dish in some cha chaan teng tea cafes. And if there's one accessible dish that can please old and new fans across different cultures and palates, it seems fitting that the humble waffle would be the top contender. Today, Hong Kong-style waffles enjoy a fanbase in London and Ukraine, yet few street foods are as emblematic of old Hong Kong, having originally taken root in the city's hawker scene.