Saturday, August 13, 2011

Little Green Cyclo - Pandan Waffle

I am drawn to a board advertising a special dish like flies are drawn to honey. It is like there is a gravitational force that just sucks me in and forces me to order. When I was at at Off the Grid last Thursday in the queue for Little Green Cyclo, I saw their new sign board advertising a Pandan Waffle, or Banh Kep La Dua. I didn't even know what it was, but yet I knew I had to have it! And wow, there are no words to describe how happy I am that I ordered it.

I simply love coconut, so if there is any food flavored with or containing coconut on the menu, I will surely order it. Little Green Cyclo's board highlighting the specials didn't give any description of the dishes, so when I got to the window to order my dinner, I asked what the Pandan Waffle was. The nice guy at the window responded by handing out a bowl of samples for me to try, leftovers from their sampling a short while ago. He warned me that they were cold but that it would at least give me an idea of the flavor. As I popped it into my mouth, he explained that the waffle was made with coconut milk. Say no more; I was hooked! He didn't need to sell me with, "it's great when it's fresh and hot," because it was great when it was cold. "I'll take it!" I ordered excitedly and then stepped aside to eagerly await my food.

Pandan plants (Photo credit: Speedlights/flickr/cc2.0)
Banh Kep La Dua is a common street food item in Vietnam. Unlike American or Belgian Liege waffles, it is meant to eaten "naked," that is, with no syrups, sugar or other sweet toppings. So in that respect, it's a lot like a Hong Kong-style waffle, but more dense. The combination of coconut milk and pandan make it sweet and delectable enough.

Pandan is a tropical plant that is widely used in Southeast Asian cooking. The plants are bright green, have a sweet nutty taste and have a special flavor that pairs wonderfully with coconut. I loved that Little Green Cyclo's waffle took on the vibrant green color of the pandan, and my guess is that they used both pandan extract to impart the flavor and a generous amount of the actual plant itself.

When I received my fresh waffle, all hot and steaming in its brown paper bag, the smell put me right in the middle of a market in Vietnam. It was undeniably coconutty, sweet and inviting. The waffle was pretty large, the size of waffle made on a traditional iron, and served folded in half. It was slightly crispy on the outside and very chewy on the inside. The coconut milk kept it moist, and each bite had a creamy undertone. The waffle was sweet enough to be appetizing but not so sickly sweet that it was overpowering. Even as it cooled down the waffle was still extremely tasty. To put it bluntly, this waffle was freaking amazing! I shared with both my husband and son who also loved it, but that left me with only half.

Had the queue at Little Green Cyclo been shorter, I would have gladly ordered a second waffle. By that time the queue had grown to over 20 people, however, waiting in it again was just not feasible. I sincerely hope that Little Green Cyclo adds this to their permanent menu or at least makes this more of a frequent treat. And next time, I'll be sure to order two (or three)!

Rating: 4.5/5 (ratings guide)

Little Green Cyclo (@lilgreencyclo) $3.00 per waffle

Little Green Cyclo (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

Does reading this make you want to try this vendor? Tell them that you saw them at I Left My Cart in San Francisco and support San Francisco street cuisine!

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