by Briana Seftel
On a particularly sunny day at Smorgasburg , a crowd clustered around a plain blue stall, clamoring for Raindrop Cake . Like a gathering at the Louvre for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa, an equally feverish horde mobbed the stall to try the mineral water and agar dessert known as mizu shingen mochi . Like its equally-obsessed-over predecessor the ramen burger, the genesis of the raindrop cake can be traced back to Japan.
Food trends with global ties are nothing new to New Yorkers, but there’s a new class of buzzy foods in town worth putting on your radar.
Eggloo’s egg waffles in chocolate and original. Photo via Eggloo Facebook Page
Any egg waffle specialist worth their weight recalls the long line at Hester Street Market, where Eggloo (formerly Eggettes) brought the popular street snack to hungry New Yorkers last summer before opening their brick and mortar spot in February. Originated in Hong Kong during the 1950s, gai daan jai (literally translating to “little chicken egg”) was created as food supply became scarce due to a growing population and a civil war. In those days, the waffles were cooked on the street with charcoal stoves and sold for one cent each. You could consider them cousins to Danish ebelskivers or Dutch poffertjes; mini, spongy pancakes made with buckwheat flour, also sold on the street.
Purveyors like Eggloo and Wowfulls have transformed these simple treats into Instagram-worthy creations with the addition of ice cream and toppings, all wrapped up in egg-waffle cones. With their permanent location in Chinatown, Eggloo co-owner David Lin says the reception to egg waffles has been fast and furious.
One could argue, however, that the egg waffle trend has been going strong since 1982— that’s how long Liang’s Cart on the corner of Canal and Mott has been selling waffles. At $1.25, it can’t be beat.
Oda House serves a variety of khachapuri. Photo via Oda House Facebook Page
Similar devotion has been building for a hard-to-pronounce Georgian bread that would make any carb-enthusiast swoon. At Oda House in Alphabet City, customers line up for khachapuri, a cheese-filled bread that looks like a bialy on crack. Best described as an Eastern European equivalent to pizza, the yeasty flatbread is stuffed with suluguni, a cheese with the texture of fresh mozzarella and the tang of goat cheese. Hailed the ” best drunk food you’ve never heard of ” by Eater, the khachapuri can be a vessel for an oozy egg or pats of butter, depending on which variety you get (Oda House offers 12 different versions).
You can also find khachapuri at Russian-Georgian bakeries like Georgian Bread in Brighton Beach, Pirosmani in Sheepshead Bay and Marani in Rego Park, but lucky for those who find themselves on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, Oda House brings the buttery, cheesy goodness to Manhattan.
The ultimate summer treat: La Newyorkina’s paletas. Photo via La Newyorkina Facebook Page
Popsicles are a classic childhood treat, but one company is making ones to satisfy even the snobbiest of adults. La Newyorkina , the Mexican sweets company run by Chef Fany Gerson specializes in paletas in every color of the rainbow. After an eye-opening trip to her hometown of Mexico City while researching her first book ” My Sweet Mexico “, Gerson returned to New York with the mission to make paletas. With a rotating list of 30+ flavors like guava and chili mango, her paletas can be found year-round at The Big Gay Ice Cream shops, her equally beloved donut shop Dough , and seasonally at pop-ups at The High Line, Smorgasburg, and Rockaway Beach.
With plans to open a brick and mortar near Washington Square Park this summer, and temperatures rising fast, we think the paleta craze is just getting started.
You can order halva by the pound at Seed + Mill in Chelsea Market. Photo via Seed + Mill Facebook Page
At Seed + Mill in Chelsea Market, owners and friends Lisa Mendelson, Monica Molenaar and Rachel Simons field questions on the daily about halva, the Middle Eastern dessert staple that’s hit peak trendiness in part thanks to them. Walk past their stall in a rush, and you might guess the cylindrical mounds to be wheels of cheese. A closer look reveals their dense yet crumbly form, and the texture brings to mind a Butterfinger.
Sesame—long a key ingredient in Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisine—is treated like king at Seed + Mill, where both the variety of uses and health benefits are praised. Their halva, mixed with such flavors as pistachio and rose, is sold by the pound and is available in vegan and dairy versions. If halva isn’t what you’re after, pick up a jar of their homemade tahini or spice blends. They also serve goat milk ice cream with shards of halva sprinkled on top.
At Jianbing Company, the specialty is Shandong-style jianbing. Photo via Jianbing Company Facebook Page
The best-kept street food snack from China is unknown no longer. Enter jianbing, a popular breakfast originating in Beijing that is quickly winning the hearts of New Yorkers. A small handful of NY-based purveyors like Mr. Bring , The Flying Pig and Jianbing Company have brought the crepe-like snack stateside. Jianbing Company is the newest on the scene, started by Tadesh Inagaki and Reuben Shorser, two Americans who fell in love with jianbing while Shorser was working in Shanghai.
The theatrical cooking process involves a flat griddle, thick batter, and quick hands. The batter is swirled around the pan, then filled with egg, wonton cracker, 13 sauce [a sweet and savory sauce made with fermented soybeans], scallions, cilantro and homemade chili sauce.
Jianbing Company is doing things a little differently by offering Shandong-style jianbing, which is less greasy and easier to hold than the Beijing variety. In just a few short months, they’ve gone from virtually unknown to one of the most popular vendors at Smorgasburg.
“We’ve been blown away by the response,” says Inagaki. “Especially in the last few weeks, as word has spread around and our social media following has grown, we’ve been floored by number of friendly faces showing up at our stand. And it’s especially exciting to serve and receive positive feedback from so many Chinese patrons for whom jianbing has real and significant meaning.”
If you’re willing to bypass long lines and overeager photo takers, these five food trends are worth checking out. Like most good things in New York, patience is key.