Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
As a child at the tail end of the boomer generation, I probably grew up consuming the same mass-produced foods as most of my contemporaries. Ho Hos, Twinkies and Ding Dongs as desserts, Pop-Tarts for breakfast as well as biscuits and pancakes that originated from that box of Bisquick – though we often were treated to biscuits and croissants from Pillsbury – when that toilet paper tube pops open, it still gives me a mini heart attack. And of course, waffles courtesy of Eggo. Though my favorites were the biscuits and croissants from Pillsbury, as Mom usually would roll them around Vienna sausages before baking (homemade pigs-in-a-blanket), and the Bisquick pancakes as they were the only food Mom would let us cook on our own – likely because she considered them a low danger risk of burning down the house as no flames were involved. But no one ever shouted “Leggo my Eggo!”
If you’ve ever sampled frozen, boxed waffles, they don’t have much taste so I usually skipped waffles, even those produced at breakfast buffets. Until we had brunch at the Maunalani Bay and Bungalows well before the Auberge Resort group took over, renovated and rebranded it as simply Maunalani. But back in the day when Chef Alan Wong still manned the kitchen at Canoe House, the Maunalani still offered a brunch buffet as well as an evening seafood buffet on weekends. And it was at brunch that I sampled a true Brussels waffle (more commonly called a Belgian waffle) with yeasted dough that gave the waffle a crisp outer shell yet soft interior. Food epiphany, this is not an Eggo! Of course, since then I’ve also sampled the sister waffle, a Liege waffle with its chewier texture and delightful crunchy, sugar pearls within.
As I mentioned in last month’s column, I still enjoy the non-traditional waffle using dressing or stuffing instead of the usual waffle batter so much so that I actually purchased a Cuisinart Panini Press over eight years ago though I only have used the waffle plates since making that purchase. And to this day, I regret not sampling the red velvet waffles and fried chicken tenders at Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles in San Francisco before they shuttered in 2014.
Recently, an ad popped up in my social media feed, likely based on web searches I’ve conducted in the past for various kitchen implements called the Wonderffle. It’s a basic manual waffle maker consisting of two waffle plates plus a third ring mold that holds the uncooked waffle batter within the waffle plates and also allows your waffle to be stuffed with your choice of filling. So of course, I HAD to purchase it – it’s $49 at both the Wonderffle website and through Amazon, shipping included at both sites.
Once it arrived, I set out to create several versions of stuffed waffles first using the boxed Krusteaz Belgian waffle mix – you just need to add water, egg(s) and oil.
The basic waffle:
I stuffed the basic waffle batter with scrambled egg, grated cheese and ham cold cuts. It was almost like a contained Monte Cristo sandwich due to the sweetness of the boxed Belgian waffle mix with the salty qualities of the ham and cheese.
The dessert waffle:
Since the boxed mix was a little sweet, I added a tablespoon of Valrhona cocoa powder (in my honest opinion, the best cocoa powder), powdered peanut butter (most markets carry it) and mini peanut butter chips then filled the cavity with sliced bananas. I don’t have a sweet tooth but will NEVER turn down a dessert with my favorite trio of flavors, peanut butter, banana and chocolate. This concoction was DANGEROUS! Other than the bananas, I have everything on hand and can literally make this dessert Wonderffle in 20 minutes!
Several years ago before the pandemic, there was a food craze combining hamburgers and ramen using ramen as the “bun” for your typical hamburger. Though that craze has died down, it got me thinking about using noodles as the base of the waffle instead of waffle batter. However, since noodles on their own don’t have the capacity to form a uniform “shell” around the filling, I mixed the noodles with a beaten, raw egg to assist with creating a noodle “shell”…
Chow mein waffle:
Store purchased Sun Noodle chow mein was used as the base (with the beaten egg) then stuffed with chopped char siu mixed with hoisin and chopped green onions. While other variations of the Wonderffle were quartered along the grid lines, these noodle versions were simply halved as they likely would have fallen apart with another cut but the flavors were just between a cake noodle and a waffle.
I also boiled Sun Noodle’s version of local saimin then used the drained saimin noodles as the base of the waffle (again, mixed with a beaten egg) then filled it with store purchased kalua turkey. Between the two noodle applications, I gave the trophy to this application as the softer noodles gave the Wonderffle a slightly crispier outer texture compared to the pre-cooked chow mein noodles though both were good as anything with the texture of cake noodles is always a good thing (if in doubt, try Kin Wah’s Boneless Minute Chicken with Cake Noodle in Käne‘ohe).
Yes, I had to give in to creating not just a dressing waffle but a stuffed dressing waffle. I simply purchased boxed dressing mix and chopped chicken breast that I previously sous vide roasted earlier in the week. But my initial mistake was simply to use canned, whole berry cranberry sauce. Because even whole berry canned sauce simply liquifies with heat, the excess moisture didn’t allow the dressing to crisp. Therefore, I made our favorite pear and anise cranberry sauce from scratch and this sauce didn’t just liquify in the Wonderffle. Ms. S. keeps asking if I plan on making another batch just for this column…
I mean if waffles can be made from waffle batter, noodles and dressing, why can’t we use rice? The heat from the outer plates might also toast the rice like yaki onigiri and the sky’s the limit with stuffing. Chopped teriyaki chicken, chopped shoyu pork, stir fried firm tofu or one of my favorite onigiri stuffing, miso salmon (first sampled at Got’z Grindz in Käne‘ohe). Though it did taste like a stuffed yaki onigiri, it was difficult to cut and eat – it’s probably best consumed wrapped like a monster burrito peeling the wrapper as you eat.
Though we paid $49 for the Wonderffle, I think it was a very good purchase as the waffle and dressing versions were also very good the next day cold and though it was harder to consume the noodle and rice versions, I probably will just wrap those versions in aluminum foil before eating. Though the next version will likely be a red velvet waffle stuffed with roasted chicken since I missed out on Gussie’s Chicken and Waffles version years ago…
Ryan Tatsumoto is a retired clinical pharmacist. However, he and his wife still enjoy seeking out perfect marriages of food and wine. Ryan is a certified sommelier and a certified specialist of wine. The Windward O‘ahu resident also writes a column for San Francisco’s Nichi Bei Weekly called “The Gochiso Gourmet.”