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© Ivani Chang/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr
© Ivani Chang/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr
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A Brief History Of The Hong Kong Egg Waffle

Picture of Sally Gao
Updated: 22 September 2016
Hong Kong’s egg waffles – also called ‘eggettes’ or gai daan zai in Cantonese – are an indelible part of each Hongkonger’s childhood. These chewy, golden-yellow pancakes resembling a lattice of small ovals have been around since the mid-twentieth century. Read more to learn about the origins of this iconic Hong Kong street snack.

According to popular hearsay, the egg waffle was born in the 1950s when a grocery store received a poorly packaged shipment of eggs. By the time the shipment arrived, all the eggs were broken and unsellable. However, instead of throwing them away, the store owner hit upon the idea of making a snack out of them instead.

He mixed the eggs with sugar, milk, butter, and flour, and poured the mixture into two iron-cast molds shaped like honeycombs. Then, holding the two skillets against each other, he held them over a charcoal-fired stove until the batter was completely baked – and thus the egg waffle was born. The resulting pancake-like creation resembled a sheet of little round balls, and thus it was dubbed gai daan zai, which can be translated as ‘eggies’ or ‘eggettes.’

(Left) Blenpeams/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons | (Top Right) peter cheng/CC BY 2.0/Flickr | (Bottom Right) Philip Lai/CC BY-ND 2.0/Flickr

(Left) © Blenpeams/Wikimedia Commons | (Top Right) © peter cheng/Flickr | (Bottom Right) © Philip Lai/Flickr

Traditionally baked egg waffles are golden-yellow in colour, with a firm outer shell and a soft, full interior. The insides of the balls shouldn’t be completely filled with dough – instead, only one half of the ball is doughy and chewy, with the other half containing a pocket of air. The trick to creating this pocket of air is to flip the skillet over within the first few moments of baking, so the batter collects on the bottom half.

An egg waffle is best consumed minutes after coming out of the skillet, which is why it’s remained successful as a street food – it can be made on the spot within minutes and delivered into customers’ hands while piping hot.

Although the popularity of the egg waffle has persisted for decades, that’s not to say that nothing has changed. Nowadays, egg waffles are found in a variety of non-traditional flavours such as chocolate, coconut, green tea, and more. And traditional charcoal stoves are rare; instead, vendors find it more convenient to use gas stoves or electric waffle makers. But no matter how many new-fangled variations crop up, the traditional egg waffle is definitely here to stay.