By Angeli Rafer
To be announced; currently based at the Hester Street Fair
Hester and Essex Street
New York, NY
There is nothing quite as powerful as the fond memories built around childhood foods. Maybe one day we’ll be able to rev up a time machine and zip on back to those exact moments when food memories were made–but until then, we just need to trust in the strange and nebulous wonder that is our brain as it catalogs our culinary memories, with a helpful tinge of nostalgia to make these food memories seem all the sweeter. Today, we’ll be talking about one food memory that has sparked a movement and a sort-of brand new street food to hit the NYC foodie scene: Eggettes NY!
These adorable, egg-shaped waffles that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, actually go by many names. Gai daan jai (tsai) means “little chicken eggs” in reference to their unique shape, though I have also encountered this pastry underneath other aliases: puffe, bubble waffle, egg puffs and now, eggettes. They come from humble origins, deeply ingrained in the hearts and memories of Hong Kong residents young and old as a widely available street snack, eventually migrating to America. Now, you can find them on street carts around China Town, or hiding out on the menus for bubble tea stores, but here at Eggettes NY, this unique street food isn’t just a quick bite, but the star of the show.
With a variety of flavors for the eggette base, toppings and fillings and the option to even add a decadent ice cream scoop–Eggettes NY aims to strike a chord with those who have strong memories of childhood and eggettes, while also building new ones with the community at large.
Recently, we got in touch with co-founder Mike Tan to chat over email about Eggettes NY and about the steps necessary to make this small business dream a reality.
Silver Spork News: So to get started I want to ask: What’s your origin story? I’ve had Gai Daan Jai before in bubble tea shops… But what inspired you to pursue the food business? Are there any challenges you face with your growing business, and how are you planning on overcoming them?
Mike: My first experience with Gai Daan Jai, or “Eggettes” as we are calling them, was when I was 7 years old living on Mott Street. There was a really famous stand on Mosco Street, which is the slope leading down from Mott Street to Columbus Park. The stand was well known around Chinatown as the best spot to get eggettes; the owner, Cecilia was always really nice to the kids in line. We referred to her as “aunty”.
To be quite honest, there really isn’t an interesting story about how the idea came to be.
About 3 years ago, I was walking down Canal Street with a couple of friends when one of them stopped to buy some eggettes from a street stand. It just sort of hit me: what if they had other flavors? My friends thought it was a good idea so I just kept it in mind. I told David, one of my partners from another business, about it and one day, he texted me:let’s start selling eggettes. So that’s what we decided to do.
With any new business, there are tons of challenges that make you feel like banging your head against a wall. I think one of the main challenges that we have is marketing because it can either make or break a new business. We have to keep coming up with new marketing ideas to keep Eggettes NY relevant. So far, we have been primarily marketing through social media and it has been very successful.
Silver Spork News: I also think it’s cool that you’re participating in the Hester Street fair this weekend–can we expect to see you at the Hester Street Fair and the Grub Street Food Festival regularly? Or is there a proper storefront in the works?
Mike: It is an amazing opportunity to participate in the Grub Street Food Festival and Hester Street Fair. We see it as a great way to promote our Eggettes prior to our store opening. We will definitely be participating in more street fairs thanks to the tremendous support and feedback we’ve received from our customers (customers have already waited more than an hour to try our Eggettes).
We definitely want everyone to get the chance to try them before our grand opening. We will be announcing the location in the upcoming weeks.
Silver Spork News: I know you can find eggettes at street corners in Chinatown and in some bubble tea shops, but are you worried about the competition? Or, do you see this as an opportunity to expand the culinary landscape of NYC?
Mike: With any business, there is going to be competition. I try not to bother with it too much because at the end of the day, it’s about how much you believe in your product and how your customers respond to it. Eggettes NY’s mission is to bring a modern twist to a traditional dessert and we’re definitely expanding the culinary landscape of NYC by providing customization for your traditional eggettes. You definitely can’t find this anywhere else in the city or in the US!
Silver Spork News: Also: Any special culinary skills necessary to make the perfect waffle batter, or to operate any special machinery? Or is it all just passion and drive?
Mike: The keys are practice and patience.
One of the major challenges that we faced was the lack of culinary experience. Baking is a science; you have to be very precise with every ingredient and how you mix it into the batter or you’ll end up with different textures. We solved this by bringing on a partner with a culinary background, Jessica.
Jessica has been a big help with improving our recipe and has made our team that much stronger.
Silver Spork News: I actually found out about Eggettes because a mutual friend of ours linked me to your Facebook page, and from there I found your Instagram and your Twitter feeds, all of which provide great pictures and great news bites. For a small business starting out in the Internet era, what has been your best source for spreading the buzz? And is it important to create Internet-specific content to keep the hype up?
Mike: Internet-specific content is important for any business to thrive today. We put an emphasis on social media to generate buzz for our business. It has been our most successful resource and will play a big part in our future marketing efforts. Having a community that supports your product and wants to see it be successful is important and it plays a big part in any business.
Silver Spork News: Speaking of hype: I adore the combinations of flavors and toppings you’ve got posted so far! Is there a “must try” combo that Eggettes visitors should sample? Or is there a “classic” Eggettes combo that first timers must definitely try?
Mike: It’s funny you should mention that because we are planning to have a featured combination selection once the store opens.
A must try is any of our Eggettes with a scoop of ice cream and your choice of toppings! Don’t get me wrong, Eggettes by itself are delicious but adding a scoop of ice cream to it makes it unbelievable.
My personal favorite would have to be the original Eggettes with fruity pebble fillings, a scoop of green tea ice cream, and strawberries on top.
Silver Spork News: Last but not least: any advice, words of wisdom, or encouragement for fellow millennials hungry to try their hand at the food business?
Mike: It’s important to have an amazing support system not just in the food industry but with everything that you do. Having the support of our friends and family has made a huge impact on us and Eggettes NY. Doors have opened because of them and we can’t thank them enough for everything that they do for us.
Even better than an email interview, I also got the chance to try them at the Grub Street Food Fest last weekend–and Mike’s fresh take on a street food classic was absolutely stunning. On a cold October morning, the Eggettes NY stand stood out with its promise of treats made to order and the irresistible aroma of fresh baked goods. Straight from the pan, my first Eggette was comfortingly warm–but the best part, of course, was that it tasted brilliant.
It was not too cloyingly sweet, and the cake itself was simultaneously wonderfully crisp with a fluffy interior, finished off with a strong, buttery taste. Also for my first Eggettes experience, I decided to go with my gut and add on a couple of extra toppings: sweetened condensed milk and fresh strawberries, which just added a little extra sweetness to an otherwise perfect, handheld dessert.
(Sorry Mike! No green tea ice cream or fruity pebbles–this time around)
Until the Eggettes NY team official open their storefront, make the trek down to the Hester Street Fair, and enjoy an eggette fresh from the pan for a warm and delicious new memory to add to your own nostalgic culinary catalog.
Posts and photos by Angeli Rafer. Special thanks to Michael Tan and the Eggettes NY team!