By:Â Justin Chan
As a child, I often followed my mother around Chinatown. Though we lived in Queens, she insisted on buying her grocery from Chinese supermarkets. After all, they were the only ones in the city that carried the ingredients she needed to cook up a sizzling Chinese dish.
Oftentimes, she would spend an hour or so scanning and choosing products that were stocked neatly on the shelves. She treated her errand as if her life depended on it, while I had little interest. In fact, I would complain until she bought me Chinese eggettes from the street vendors that lined up along Canal Street. The bite-sized edibles were a cheap drug to shut me up. My mother knew I was addicted to them, and since they only costed a dollar, she found a cheap way to keep me quiet while she shopped for groceries.
Chinese eggettes are nothing fancy of a dish. They’re simply egg puffs made of a special egg batter. Vendors pour the batter onto a griddle with small round wells and cover it with another griddle. The griddles are placed over a fire and are constantly turned so that the batter heats into spherical egg waffles. The process takes a couple minutes, but experienced vendors can churn out close to a hundred of these puffs in an hour. A couple dozen of the eggettes are placed in a wax-paper bag, where they are ready to eat. They are normally served plain, but each one has enough flavor to keep your mouth wanting more.
The history behind Chinese eggettes is unknown, although one can trace their roots back to the Cantonese regions in China. Some credit the tradition behind the egg puffs to the “enterprising postwar generation” that created the egg-shaped mold for the batter, while others claim that street hawkers bought damaged eggs and were responsible for turning them into the batter many Chinese adore today. Eggettes are particularly popular in the Cantonese-speaking regions of Hong Kong and Macau, where vendors compete intensely for bragging rights.
As Chinese specialties such as dim sumÂ become more and more popular in the city, stay on the lookout for eggette vendors that are hoping to draw in customers of all backgrounds. Some of these vendors can be found on Canal Street in Chinatown, where pedestrian traffic is particularly high. Unfortunately, few Chinese restaurants in the city sell egg puffs, but Quickly, a bubble tea chain, has added the street snack to its menu. For a list of its locations, check out below:
5924 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
8306 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY
4140 Kissena Blvd, Flushing, NY
237-B Grand Street, New York, NY
79 Division Street, New York, NY
11 Pell Street, New York, NY
136-49 Roosevelt Avenue, New York, NY
For more on street food, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)