Boba, Mochi, and Waffles, Oh My: Asian Street Foods and Treats by Jennifer Yen

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[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to welcome author Jennifer Yen to the site today. She’s talking all things snacking. Take it away, Jennifer!]

When I was asked to write a post about my favorite sweets and snacks, I expected it to be easy. After all, I penned a whole novel filled to the brim with detailed descriptions of yummy pastries. When I sat down to make a list, however, I discovered something. 

I’m an equal opportunity snacker.

I like trying new things and going wherever my cravings take me. As a result, my tastes vary wildly depending on my mood. Something that’s my go-to food today might be a distant memory by next week. 

That’s why I’ve decided I would take you on a journey of my all-time favorite Asian treats. Now, I should preface this by saying some of them may not seem like a snack at first glance, but they are what I reach for at 2AM in the middle of a writing marathon, or when I’m in need of a pick-up after a tough day. Eating them brings back childhood memories—not to mention, a sugar high. 

Milk Tea with Boba in glass jars

First up is milk tea (with or without boba). Anyone who knows me will tell you this is the one thing I cannot live without. I was introduced to milk tea by a friend after we had spent hours studying one night. I still remember the moment I realized you could, in fact, eat a drink. When cooked properly, the boba—or tapioca or pearl, depending on where you live—is soft but chewy, with a hint of sweetness that adds a dimension of texture that can’t be beat. My favorite is a classic jasmine milk green tea, though sometimes I do skip the boba to save some calories.

Mochi

My love for chewy snacks doesn’t end there. I also love pretty much any type of mochi. Made with rice flour and often times filled, mochis come in all shapes and sizes. I have memories of walking into a bakery during blistering Taiwanese summer days with my mom and picking out a few pieces of mochi ice cream. There are so many different flavors to choose from, but nothing beats the aroma of peanut or black sesame mochi.

Lately, I’ve also been a big fan of egg waffles. Originally sold in food stalls, they’re made with a specially molded iron skillet that creates a waffle with multiple egg-shaped bubbles. The classic ones are served plain in a paper bag, but recently, shops have started pairing them with ice cream and a variety of toppings or fillings. Though I have tried boba-filled egg waffles—because I will try just about anything that includes boba—I usually prefer a plain one.

Wheel Cakes

Along those lines is another childhood favorite street food: wheel cakes. Back in Taiwan, there were vendors who would push carts carrying the heavy iron molds, batter, and fillings down the sidewalk. The ones I recall most were actually animal shaped and not filled with anything. To this day, I smile when I catch the scent of the batter. Nowadays, though, they’re round and stuffed with custard, red bean, or—you guessed it—boba.

Souflee Pancake

In case you haven’t noticed by now, I have a thing for cakes and cake-adjacent snacks, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the next one on my list is the Japanese souffle pancake. I first tried this while visiting New York City. My friend took me to a café known for this pastry. Since it’s made to order, it does take 15-20 minutes before they’re ready to eat. However, the wait is totally worth it. It’s light and airy, and has a touch of sweetness in the batter. I’ve tried it with a variety of toppings and sauces, but I always go back to strawberry whipped cream with fresh strawberry slices. 

Egg Rolls

By now, you probably think I have the biggest sweet tooth in the world, but some of my favorite Asian snacks are actually savory. In fact, I tend to crave something salty far more often than something sweet. One of the foods I can’t ever pass up is technically something you would see in the appetizer section of a menu: egg rolls and spring rolls. Yes, they are different! Egg rolls have an outer wrapper that is dipped in an egg mixture and usually deep fried. Spring rolls come with a thin, translucent rice wrapper and come both fried and not fried. What matters, though, is that both are delicious, and they’re great if you’re hungry but not wanting to eat a whole meal. 

Fried Squid

Another appetizer-turned-snack for me is fried squid. There’s a restaurant in Chinatown here that’s open until 2AM. While they have a big menu, I always stop by for the fried squid on their appetizer/snack menu. While related to calamari, the type of squid that is used for this snack is a different species. Lightly fried and usually accompanied by a sweet dipping sauce, it really hits the spot as a guilty pleasure.

I could go on and on about all the different and amazing Asian treats, but all this talk has made me hungry. Time for me to go on my next food adventure, so I hope I’ve tempted you enough you’ll give one of these foods a try. There’s a great wide world of yummy foods out there. Go forth and snack!

About the Author:

Jennifer Yen is a Taiwanese American author who lives in Texas with her adorable dog. She spends her days healing the hearts of others, and her nights writing about love, family, and the power of acceptance. Jennifer believes in the magic of one’s imagination, and hopes her stories will bring joy and inspiration to readers. If you find Jennifer wandering around aimlessly, please return her to the nearest milk tea shop. Follow her on Twitter @JenYenWrites.

A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen, out now!

For fans of Jenny Han, Jane Austen, and The Great British Baking ShowA Taste for Love, is a delicious rom com about first love, familial expectations, and making the perfect bao.

To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.

The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.

The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.

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