Many years ago, I wrote about the Hong Kong Street food – the egg waffle (called gai daan jai in Cantonese). However, I had never really even tried one! The wait is over though – when I visited San Francisco – I was lucky enough to visit a cafe that had an egg waffle machine. The sight of the egg waffle maker in the window stopped me in my tracks, and drew me into the Sweetheart Cafe (909 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108). The waffle maker looked like the kind they often have at American hotels – heavy cast iron, with a handle that closes and flips over the waffle while cooking. There were circular depressions in the egg waffle maker, which eventually made a large sheet of waffle-like dough with spherical bubbles. After a few short minutes, the cook picked off the waffle with chopsticks, rolled it into a tube, and placed in a paper bag. One egg waffle was $4, and you could also get yours topped with chocolate or coconut (I went for the original). The egg waffle was good, and tasted like a light, sweet, airy…. waffle. So ok, it was pretty much what you would expect. It was definitely a fun snack, and easy to rip off an “egg” or two at at time while wandering around Chinatown. Where’s your favorite place to get egg waffles?
Tag Archives: Waffle
If you do not know where to look, there is absolutely no way that you would find Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter by chance (100 E Walton St.). It is located half of a story up on the ground floor of a large concrete condo high-rise and is mostly hidden from view. The store itself is tiny (though it appears they have a pretty big kitchen) and consists mostly of a small counter and a few tables. However, despite its small size, this place is a serious bakery helmed by Belgian breadmaker Reynaud Hendrickx. Another hint of its authenticity, each time we visited, we were served by a delightful Francophone woman and the place was chock full of Francophone customers.
The breads – Belgian country, brioche and challah to name a few – are certainly the main draw, but we were also seeking something a bit sweeter – a purportedly authentic Liège Waffle made with Belgian pearl sugar. We absolutely had to try it! Unfortunately, our trip to Hendrickx came at a somewhat inopportune time – 7 PM. We realized this was certainly not the best time for a bakery at all, and there was only one waffle left! Our lone survivor waffle was very tasty, and we appreciated the signature bursts of caramel-like sweetness from the pearl sugar, though we were a little disappointed that it had not been made fresh. We definitely would have waited a few minutes for a waffle hot off the iron…maybe next time? The croissants are also excellent and come in both plain and more unique flavors like apple turnover and cherry/chocolate ($2.85 for plain, extra for fillings).
We were also delighted to find a hearty menu of soups, salads and sandwiches in addition to bread. The particularly generous sandwiches are served on thick slices of the signature homemade Belgian country bread, which makes a HUGE difference, and include such varieties as goat cheese/honey and curried chicken salad (Each $7.25). The “Belgian” salad ($9.25) was similarly fresh, and consisted of a composed plate with arugula, tuna, bread and capers. Our friends also had the soup of the day – split pea – that they greatly enjoyed. Over the course of a few visits we sampled some of their savory offerings, and each time we were impressed by the fresh and simple ingredients. No filler here, and there will surely be leftovers due to the generous portion size. We also like that they wrap up the leftovers in wax paper for you.
The first time we visited it was pleasant enough to sit outside, however there was also a little fishbowl-like sitting area, which, curiously, you have to go through the kitchen to access. Overall we highly recommend Hendrickx, and are glad to have found an independent option in the area. Hendrickx is a perfect place to stop for a little lunch before/after a day of shopping in the Gold Coast/Michigan Avenue or after an afternoon at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Though there may be some lingering animosity towards Belgian waffles after the fateful US/Belgium World Cup game (and with the Waffle House restaurant chain declaring war on Belgian Waffles), waffles seem like an everyday part of life in the US. However, it turns out that Belgian waffles were first introduced into the US in 1962! That seems awfully recent, don’t you think? They first turned up at the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair at a stand run by the Belgian Vermersch family, where the waffles were marketed to Americans as “Bel-Gem.” The main difference between Belgian waffles and “regular” waffles is that Belgian waffles have a yeast batter, while the other has a pancake batter. The Bel-Gem waffles, a hit in Seattle, were sold again at the much larger 1964 World’s Fair in Queens. Many people believe that they were first introduced at the NYC World’s Fair, but that credit actually goes to Seattle. However, it was at the 1964 Fair that the waffles really caught on…and the rest is history. Good Food Story has even unearthed an original Bel-Gem recipe.
Bel-Gem Waffle Stand at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens
What is sold in vending machines can tell you a lot about the culture of a country. Here in Portugal they sell waffles. When we first saw the “Wafysugar” in a subway vending machine, we did a double-take. It was the first time we had seen waffles in a vending machine, and waffles aren’t a popular breakfast food here, though they are pretty common in gelato shops. We love waffles and usually have them every weekend, thanks to a well-loved registry gift (sadly, our waffle iron is back across the Atlantic). Out of curiosity, and waffle withdrawal, we felt we had to try a Wafysugar after seeing them everyday in the subway. For one Euro, we figured it was worth a shot. The Wafysugar, billed as a “Gofre de Liege,” was about the size of a quarter of a Belgian waffle. Surprisingly, the ingredient list for the Wafysugar was not terribly long, containing mostly decipherable ingredients. It was a tad chewy, very sweet and though it did indeed taste like it came out of a vending machine, it was not entirely bad. Despite the relative palatability of the Wafysugar, we’ll leave the vending machine purchases to water and soda from now on.