Bubble waffles have been popping up all over social media, with drool-worthy videos taking over Instagram and Facebook feeds. But now you can stop ogling this popular Asian dessert from afar, and get your hands on one in D.C.
Sugar Lab owner Cathy Do has been making homemade bubble waffle and ice cream combinations in Georgetown for almost two years. Do says the waffle originates from Hong Kong and the shape of the waffle (a bubble) is what makes it stand out from others.
At Sugar Lab, the waffles are baked to order, a process which takes about three minutes. The waffle itself is chewy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. When you add a gelato flavor of your choice, the hot and cold combination makes for a wonderful treat.
First, you choose from three waffle flavors: vanilla, chocolate or vegan. Then, choose from 18 flavors of ice cream, vegan gelato or sorbet.
"The best flavors that I always go to is the vegan Nutella, mango peach, and cookies and cream,” Do said. “Cookies and cream is so classic, so anytime someone asks me which flavor to choose I always go for the cookies and cream or nutella."
Lastly, choose from 20 different toppings like fruity pebbles, chocolate pocky sticks, peanuts, sprinkles and more.
Journey to the perfect waffle
Do said she first learned of the bubble waffle in New York and was amazed by its unique shape and taste. Using her mother’s recipe, through a series of trial and error, she finally found the perfect batter recipe.
"When I first opened, the waffle was whole wheat, but I finally came up with a gluten-free waffle recipe," Do said "This makes the waffle very light so you don't feel bloated. I like finding different ways to help the customers eat dessert and not feel guilty about it."
Do said she loves to brainstorm new flavors and try out new recipes. In fact, the name Sugar Lab came from Do’s willingness to experiment with new ideas.
Although the waffles only take three minutes to make, the full process takes an entire day. She gets to the store at 8 a.m. every morning and makes the batter herself, mostly to guard her mother’s secret recipe. It usually takes Do about 45 minutes to make a batch and two hours to make each of the ice cream flavors; everything is made fresh daily.
"I picked Georgetown because it’s a tourist area," Do said. "I feel like it’s very historic. A lot of stores sell traditional food and desserts. I wanted to bring something fresh and innovative to the area to introduce it to locals as well as tourists," Do shared.
Aside from bubble waffles and ice cream, Sugar Lab also offers freshly brewed bubble tea, with the bubbles cooked every five hours. The tea is popular in Asian culture due to the delicious and chewy little tapioca bubbles at the bottom of each cup. Do affectionately refers to them as "the Asian version of gummy bears."
Sugar Lab also offers a special tea flavor called rose milk. It is brewed with rose petals, and after you drink the tea, you can actually smell the rose scent in your mouth. It literally tastes like you're eating flowers, which was more pleasing than we expected.
"I started this business just because I love dessert," Do said. "I feel the need to share my mom’s recipe with the world."
Do plans to introduce an all new savory food menu made from her mom’s specialty dishes and family recipes.
Do said her favorite part of owning Sugar Lab is continuing to learn.
What we ordered
The first one we tried was the regular bubble waffle with Snickers ice cream, pocky sticks and gummy bear toppings. The second was the blueberry lemonade and mango sorbet with fruity pebbles. Both were so delicious we finished them before the end of the interview.
If you want to try the bubble waffles and bubble tea flavors yourself, swing on down to the Sugar Lab on 3279 M St NW, Washington DC 20007.