How Green Pandan Waffles Became A Vietnamese Street Food Favorite

Waffles are a beloved sweet treat around the world, each with their own unique flare and flavor. A common breakfast food in the United States, waffles are more of a dessert across Europe. Chances are good most of us have come across a Belgian waffle on the menu at some point, at home or abroad, but would you expect to see waffles as a street food offering in Vietnam?

It might sound surprising at first, but pull out your globe for a brief history lesson and it will all make sense. Waffles originated back in Ancient Greece, per Mental Floss, and began to spread throughout the rest of Europe, along with various additions like butter, cream, and spices like nutmeg. Belgium, Germany, France, and a handful of other countries each had their own take on waffles, and as people from each region traveled and explored the world, including Vietnam, they brought recipes with them.

Waffles in Vietnam

History says that the French brought waffles to Vietnam during the Colonial period, per Atlas Obscura, and the recipe was quickly adapted to include a local ingredient: pandan. Pandan, also called screw pine, is a leafy green plant that grows across much of Asia, per Tasting Table. It is used for both medicinal and culinary purposes and has a unique flavor that is best described as vanilla-esque. It also has a lovely bright green color that shows up in the waffles even after cooking.

A slightly toasted green exterior meets a vibrant, nearly turquoise interior with this delicious treat. While it's a hit in Vietnam and across parts of Asia, it's not completely unheard of to find green pandan waffles in the United States, in Vietnamese bakeries or specialty shops, or you can make them yourself by sourcing pandan leaves from an Asian grocer, per Hungry Huy.

What to pair with pandan

Pandan makes its way into a lot of Asian dishes, including the ultra-popular pandan and coconut flan. While it's indigenous to parts of Asia, you can find it at Asian markets if you're in the mood to experiment. If you're going to make your own pandan waffles, there are a few other flavors you can pair to really take things up a notch. The waffles are unique and delicious on their own, but pandan pairs really nicely with other tropical fruits. Coconut and mango are probably the two most common pairings, but pandan is actually really versatile; it makes an appearance in many savory dishes in Asia as well. 

Think of it like the Asian version of vanilla, but a bit nuttier and grassier (in a good way!). The next time you're mixing up waffles for brunch or even dessert, spice things up a bit with some fresh pandan from a local grocer. You'll find the addition makes the waffles pretty special, both in color and flavor, and it just might be your new favorite brunch food.