When I was growing up, there was something special about Saturday mornings. No, it was rushing downstairs to flip on the television to watch the latest adventures of Batman and Superman on the Superfriends, it was the fact that within an hour of getting up, my mother would start cooking. Our fun weekend breakfast would always begin with eggs, some fruit, and my favorite: waffles. A delicacy that dates back to the middle ages and shows up in Korea in several forms.
The American Waffle is what many in North America are accustomed to. The waffle is made by mixing batter and then pouring it on a hot iron to be baked. They can be made in a variety of shapes, but are usually about 30cm in diameter and then topped with butter and syrup. When I ate mine in the US, I would smother the waffle with enough butter to fill each crevice and then drown the waffle with Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup to make the tasty cake swim on my plate.
While waking the streets of Korea or navigating its subway stations, its easy to find these wonderful treats (a tradition that dates back to the waffle’s origin). However, they’re presented a little different. First, they are considered a snack, rather than a breakfast item. At 1,000원, the price is just right to entice passers-by to pick one up as well. The waffles are cooked in the same manner as they are in America, but the presentation is slightly different. Most often they’re served up with a special cream filling and honey. Common creams available are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The waffles are then folded in half and slipped into a piece of wax paper. Once handed to the customer, the treat is easily enjoyed on the go.
“The waffles here are awesome,” says Chris Ross. “I usually pick one up on the way to work. I’m lucky, since I can get mine with ice cream inside. It’s awesome.” Ross’s statements are echoed by many expats around Korea, looking for that special taste from home. In fact, Walter Foreman calls them “Visceral comfort food.” When I travel on the nation’s railway, I often will drop by a cart and secure a waffle for myself, too. Biting into the hot, golden batter floods my mind with memories of home and childhood. The mixture of honey and cream complements the crunchiness of the waffle, creating the perfect symphony for my taste buds.
Also making their way onto the Korean waffle scene are miniature stroopwafers. These hail from The Netherlands, where they were quite large, filled with cinnamon, and then smothered with syrup. In Korea, they’re most often seen in the supermarkets as snacks. The tiny wafters come wrapped in foil and are easily slipped into a back to be carried on the go. Then, when relaxing at one’s desk or on a park bench, can be opened and enjoyed.
Probably the hottest trend in the Korean Waffle Industry is the Liège Waffle. The treat originated in the Belgium city for which it is named. They were invented by a chef during the 18th century as an adaptation of brioche bread dough. It is now the most common type of waffle sold in Belgium and can be found in cafés around Korea, including Lotteria.
“It’s the perfect couple treat,” says Hyunji Park sampling her chocolate waffle with her husband. “We usually come to the café for coffee and have this sweet.” She’s right, too. These waffles are proudly on display at many coffee shops boasting a variety of toppings. In many cases, they’re served as a pair and then covered with fresh whipping cream and fruit. These waffles are slightly more expensive than their street food cousins, but are designed to be enjoyed while sitting in the company of friends and family. Nothing is better than sitting comfortably enjoying this treat with your favorite afternoon coffee or tea.