Now, Joy Yee Plus in Chicago's Chinatown has the special machines to make them and serve as the basis for some truly unique desserts.
The regulars come for the impressive hot pots, where they can choose and dip as they please, creating all sorts of savory combinations with customized sauces. But the desserts at Joy Yee Plus - not to be confused with Joy Yee Noodle just a few yards away in the Chinatown Square Mall - are even more noteworthy.
"And we've actually started something new which is the bubble waffles which are really popular in Hong Kong right now," said owner Peter Au.
Those "bubble" waffles - named due to the shape of the waffles once they emerge from the specialized irons - resemble plastic packing material. Their thin walls and bubble-shaped spheres allow for all kinds of interpretations and flavor enhancements.
"You can have them any way you want, our most popular one is kind of the plain bubble waffle, because a lot of people like to put the different types of ingredients and different flavored ice creams in there. But you have it with seaweed, you have it with sesame, we also have some with pork shredded," Au said.
So those seaweed or pork floss versions would be considered savory. If you want to go sweet, consider adding a scoop of the crazy-yet-delicious ice cream flavors like taro root, avocado or funky durian. Or go soft serve, with chocolate, vanilla or matcha - the ubiquitous Japanese green tea now seemingly everywhere all at once. Then top it any way you like, adding fruit, cereal, red beans, mochi...whatever floats your boat; maybe some fresh whipped cream as well.
"I think the limit is really what the cup can hold," he said.
So here's the deal, if you're a teenager or a little kid and you want to throw a bunch of flavors into your waffle, that's fine, no shame in that. But I kind of do what I did when I was in Hong Kong: just take a piece of the plain waffle - delicious on its own - and then if you want to have a little extra flavor, maybe a little matcha soft serve or a little vanilla soft serve, to heighten the experience.
EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky talks about some of the unique fruit teas available at the cafe
JOY YEE PLUS
2159 S. China Pl., Chicago