That’s right Belgian waffles in Japan. Or specifically Liège waffles. These are the true Belgian waffles compared to the insulting mock Belgian waffles that dominate every diner, pancake house and truck stop from Washington state to Washington DC. Mind you I have never been to Belgium. Nor have I had a Belgian make me a waffle. So I can only have my local waffles to compare them to. What I can tell you is that once you have tried these little waffled bundles of joy you will see why the term mock is such an affront to the true article.
First and foremost is the sugar that separates the impostor from the divine. Instead of regular refined granulated sugar, authentic Liège waffles require Belgian pearl sugar made of beets. Like the name implies the sugar is the size of pearls so when added to the batter they do not dissolve easily. But when the sugar studded batter meets iron the sugar melts, carmalizing the waffle as it cooks and creates a mouth-watering aroma.
The other noticable difference between our mock Belgian waffles and both the Liège and Belgian waffle is the batter itself. Or rather the dough. Instead of a runny batter Liège and Belgian waffles are made from a yeast leavened dough. The yeast dough creates a dense, chewy dough that is perfect for the pearl sugar to carmalize in but not re-crystalize as it cools.
L.L and I’s first Liège waffle experience was back in 2006 at Kyoto Station. We had spotted a shop that sold, among other flavors, a matcha waffle. Infatuated with anything matcha flavored I had to get it. To be honest it was alright but nothing note worthy. It definitely tasted like matcha but the waffle was served cold so I didn’t understand the true nature of my treat.
It wasn’t till two years later when L.L and I lived in Jiyugaoka and often took the Tokyu Toyoko line into Shibuya Station that we discovered how amazing the Liège could be. We couldn’t find the source at first. Every time we descended the steps near the Kawaguchi Exit at Shibuya Station an intoxicating sweet caramel like smell would take hold of us. All we saw was a ranKing store and a milk stand called Green Farm. L.L and I scanned the second floor of Shibuya Station for months, including the menu of Green Farm to no avail.
Then one day when the sweet scent was particularly enticing, I noticed several people to the left of Green Farm stood around tables munching on small waffles. So I walked to the left side of the stand and there it was! The source of that deliciously haunting smell. A two-man team of Liège waffle makers. Why on earth we didn’t notice before is beyond me. Oh well. Once found we were hooked. For just 150 yen ($1.50 US) we had our choice of original, chocolate chip, almond, and cinnamon. Made fresh to order they were simply mind-blowing and a bit too hot, as the caramel burned our mouth. We didn’t care. I never dreamed a waffle could taste so good.
Alas to my knowledge there is nothing like the Liège waffles of Green Farm here in Seattle. So once again it was up to L.L. and I to make our own. With some effort I found a specialty shop that sold the proper sugar. It wasn’t cheap at $7.00 US for 8 oz. but well worth it. The imported Belgian sugar included a recipe on the back. So I was confident the recipe was authentic. The dough was easy to make and since it was a dough I could mold it into small balls and cook them four at a time on the waffle iron. These waffles are so thick and rich that serving a typical U.S. portion would cause serious tummy aches in the most hardiest of eaters. The result of our waffle efforts were more than successful when our apartment filled with the familiar caramel smells of Shibuya Station.
Since we used the whole box of sugar we ended up with 30 waffles. Far too many for a couple to eat so we froze them. To achieve that same heavenly taste and smell instead of microwaving or toasting them in the toaster oven we took the frozen pre-cooked waffles and reheated them on the grill. The outcome was perfect. As if the waffle dough had been made fresh that day. Now we can have fresh Liège waffles any time we want without going to Shibuya station and we save a bit of money too!
Please try the recipe below if you would like to try authentic Liège waffles:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 packet dry yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm milk
8 oz softened butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz Belgian pearl sugar
Dissolve yeast in lukewarm milk. Gradually add all ingredient to the flour except the pearl sugar. Let the dough rise until it double sin size. About 30 minutes. Add Belgian pearl sugar. Divide dough into small 3-4 oz patties . Cook in heated waffle iron until sugar is most has melted and the waffle is golden brown.
Be careful the sugar is hot and will burn you! Eat as soon as possible.
Enjoy with toasted almonds, black sesame seeds, cinnamon, seasonal fruit or whatever your heart desires!
Or if you are in Shibuya check out Green Farm!
東京都渋谷区渋谷2-24-1 東急東横店 南館 2F グリーンファーム内
Green Farm Milk Stand: Tate Minami 2-24-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo Toyoko 2F, near the Kawaguchi Exit
Open 7 days a week from noon till they run out of dough!
Or if you are in Seattle I did find Sweet Iron Waffles that I have not tried yet but has potential!
And if you are in Vancouver BC Michi is great! L.L. and I tried it back in March when we visited. Their matcha waffle surpassed the one from Kyoto. Served hot and fresh the matcha was well-balanced with the sugar.