When I decided to write a story about the origins of Hong Kong bubble waffles – also known as “egg waffles” – I thought it would be easy.
I was wrong.
A seemingly unexceptional cheap street food found throughout the city, these snacks are crispy on the outside, while each “bubble” is fluffy on the inside. Called “gai daan jai” in Cantonese, their texture can be described as a cookie and sponge cake hybrid.
I kicked off my quest with a visit to Shanghai Street in Kowloon. Filled with kitchenware shops, it’s a popular destination for those buying bubble waffle irons.
“We all import our waffle irons from China these days,” said one shopkeeper. “Choy Tung Shing may be your best chance.”
It was a reasonable suggestion. Choy Tung Shing is one the oldest remaining blacksmiths in Hong Kong – most famous for its handmade ovens used for Cantonese roasted pork and goose.
But there, too, the owner struggled with my request.
“I’ve looked everywhere but couldn’t find anything about Hong Kong bubble waffle irons in my father’s old sketches and notes,” says Leung Wing Cheung, the third-generation owner of the century-old kitchenware store/factory.
“Are you sure you want to write about bubble waffles? Why not char siu (barbecue roasted pork) or something more remarkable?”