It’s time for you to indulge in a childhood treat on International Waffle Day, writes Sulyn Chong
“THERE’S nothing more comforting than a plate of warm waffles with a good slab of salted butter and generous drizzle of sticky maple syrup!” declares Alex Lim Chee Choong with a grin. “What’s even better is if you could dunk a piece into a hot cup of kopi-o (black coffee)” he adds.
The affable patisserie chef, well known for his French baking techniques, is the co-founder of Foret Blanc. Together with Kenny Peck Wei Kit, Lim runs this quaint cafe in the quiet industrial neighbourhood of Petaling Utama, PJ.
They aren’t simply self-proclaimed waffle aficionados. They’re also the creative duo behind the iconic Banana Leaf Waffle that’s been flooding social media recently.
The weather may be dank and dreary outside, but I’m all warmed up within this bright and cheerful cafe to celebrate International Waffle Day, which falls on March 24, with this unusual creation courtesy of Lim and Peck.
Waffles. The simple baked dough that’s usually crispy on the outside and delightfully fluffy on the inside. A childhood snack turned indulgent treat as we grow older. This humble slab of dough can take a life of its own, depending on what it’s paired with. Sweet or savoury, the chewy delicious waffle requires only three simple base ingredients: flour, salt and water. Combine them to form a smooth batter and then bake in a waffle iron which gives it its signature crisscross pattern.
It’s the simplest dish to whip up for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner or even supper. Yet, for most Malaysians, it isn’t a common dish served in our homes.
For the rest of the world, especially in many European nations and America, waffles are as commonplace as our apam balik (turnover pancake). This doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate it. On the contrary, I believe many of us will willingly indulge in a classic waffle paired with butter and syrup at any given time or day.
ARRIVAL FOR SPRING
The very first Waffle Day or Vaffeldagen is a time-honoured tradition celebrated in Sweden. The name originated from Varfrudagen (Our Lady’s Day) which, in vernacular Swedish, sounds almost like Vaffeldagen (waffle day).
To many Christians, Our Lady’s Day is a holy day known as the Day of Annunciation. It is the day that marked the announcement of Virgin Mary’s pregnancy with baby Jesus. Both celebrations, however, are not affiliated to one another. Historically, Vaffeldagen is associated with the beginning of spring and it’s celebrated by the eating of many dough-based gridded cakes or as we now call it. waffles!
But if you are unfortunate to have missed this date to tuck into some waffles, fret not — there’s always Aug 24! This second date was named unofficially by the Americans as Waffle Day to honour the invention of its first waffle iron by Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.
Honestly though, do we really need an excuse to eat waffles?
LOCALISING THE HUMBLE WAFFLE
As versatile as white rice, the uncomplicated dessert is always good to be eaten on its own or with various toppings.
“It goes well with anything!” enthuses Lim. However, Peck is quick to disagree, revealing that kimchi, the Korean side dish comprising salted and fermented vegetables, is the one ingredient he believes does not pair well with waffles.
“It essentially boils down to individual taste,” chips in Lim, adding with a chuckle: “It usually isn’t the case of a bad mismatch. Instead, it’s the unfamiliar combination that will surprise people in a not quite pleasant manner.”
Then, what do you think is truly the appeal of waffles? I ask curiously.
“It’s probably the irresistible appeal of something warm partnered with something cold— such as waffles with ice cream — that gets people excited,” reveals Peck after a pause.
Waffles, as both owners share, is easily known to be the best comfort food for many people from all walks of life.
“It’s really very hard to hate waffles!” says Peck earnestly as he rushes back behind the counter to prepare a drink order for a diner. And to prove his point, Lim serves up the much-Instagrammed Banana Leaf Waffle which features a vade or vadai waffle (vadai is a traditional Indian snack) made from Indian spices, topped with a scoop of pandan-infused coconut ice cream, balsamic rice crackers, yogurt ta-yir sauce (or thayiru — the classic yogurt/curd that goes together with every banana leaf meal), mango curry Chantilly with chopped chillies, homemade mint chutney as well as tomato chutney. It’s a veritable South Indian feast on a plate, albeit with a waffly twist!
“I really love eating banana leaf rice and it was my inspiration when I began building such a dessert,” confides Lim, continuing: “It took a lot of trial and error before this creation came about.”
As a person whose job centres on creating flavours, it’s no wonder the amalgamation of spices combined with the heady combination of savoury and sweet served up authentically on a banana leaf is Lim’s most daring and — judging from all the social media buzz Foret Blanc has received — successful creation.
“I’ve even got the nod of approval from several Indians customers and that’s an achievement I’m very proud of,” says Lim with a broad smile.
For those who fancy waffles veering on a sweeter note, there’s always the new Peanutapple Waffle. This French-inspired dessert is made from a simple signature waffle topped with salted caramel ice cream, slices of fresh granny apples, peanut butter sauce and crunchy cinnamon toast.
It’s an ode of sorts to a refreshing peanut butter French toast. I’ve never realised how well peanut butter can pair with apples until I take my very first bite of this quirky yet comforting combination.
Soon, the rain slows to just a trickle and wanting to make good use of this opportunity to dash to my car, I thank the boys in haste. But before I bid goodbye, I couldn’t help but wonder aloud, what kind of waffles would these two waffle connoisseurs create for themselves?
With eyes sparkling, Peck replies: “I like my waffles classic, like the ones that A&W used to do. However, I’d pair this really basic waffle with the most premium of products, such as the best butter and maple syrup. It’ll be a classic gem!”
Lim’s culinary background surfaces as he concludes with a grin: “Waffles with foie gras and truffle ice cream paired with a side of soft, creamy and fluffy scrambled eggs. Now that’s what I’d call the perfect breakfast!” [email protected]
Foret Blanc Dessert Café
Petaling Utama Avenue
49-G, Jalan PJS1/50,
Taman Petaling Utama,
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
GET YOUR WAFFLE FIX HERE TOO!
Jalan Jalil Perkasa 13,
Arked Esplanad Bukit Jalil, KL
This cafe on the first floor pays homage to Studio Ghibli’s whimsical fat monster Totoro. The waffles served here are crispier than usual and will probably appeal to those who fancy their waffles with a little more crunch.
Topped with a generous scoop of quality ice cream and fresh fruits, or lavish servings of honey and butter, these delightful morsels are Instagrammable so get ready to whip out your phone cameras before you indulge yourself.
To make it all that more attractive (and delicious), the waffle desserts are also presented with a side of Totoro shadow cocoa dustings.
107, Lebuh Victoria (under Reunion Heritage House),
George Town, Penang
If you’re looking for something waffle-y but not made from the usual waffle batter, check out this cafe.
Aptly named the croffle, the Merry Me owners ingeniously use buttery croissant pastries flattened in a waffle iron in place of the classic waffles. The croissants make for a crunchier and flakier waffle.
When complemented with their ice-cold homemade ice-creams, it’s a match made in heaven. Just be sure to choose your ice cream pairings wisely. If you fear making a heinous mistake, you can’t go wrong by picking from the extensive menu list.
53, Jalan Mutiara Emas 2A,
Taman Mount Austin, Johor Bahru
Waku Waku is inspired and influenced by Japanese waffles that are typically more cake-like and dense rather than light and airy.
It is recommended that you build your own waffle dessert here mainly because of its reasonable pricing.
Firstly, choose your waffle flavour (green tea, classic or chocolate). Then choose from an array of toppings, ice creams and sauces.
If you’re the uncreative type, then look out for their exquisite themed waffles that feature specially-made toppings finished off with a petite character macaron in-line with the theme on top.
Fluffed Cafe & Dessert Bar
55, Japan 20/7, Taman Paramount,
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
This cosy cafe has been around for quite a while now and it’s usually very busy on weekends.
Each waffle creation here playfully reflects the characteristics of the cartoon character it’s named after.
For example, the Pooh Bear’s Favourite is a classic plain waffle topped with handcrafted Hokey Pokey ice cream, crushed honeycomb coupled with almond praline, salted caramel and fresh fruits.
The Snoopy & Peanut waffle features a charcoal waffle paired with peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter drizzle, toasted peanuts, cookie crumble and fresh bananas. It’s literally like having a plate of your childhood served up for you to indulge!