For 10 years, Aldous Lau traveled with his wife, Alice, and son, Aiden, from their home in Hong Kong to California’s San Francisco Bay area to visit Lau’s mother and siblings.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, the Laus decided in 2017 to make the move to the United States. But they did not follow the family to sunny California. They chose Cleveland.
“I’m now an Ohioan,” Lau says with pride. “The west coast is as hot as Hong Kong and we can not stand beach life anymore. We decided to move to a quieter place, where I can feel all four seasons.”
Additionally, Alice’s best friend, and Aiden’s godmother, live in Northeast Ohio and the Laus chose to live in Solon for its excellent schools.
Both Aldous and Alice were journalists in Hong Kong—with Aldous reporting on lifestyle trends. Once in Cleveland, Lao soon picked up on a popular hometown street food that was developing into an international trend—Hong Kong egg waffles, or "bubble waffles."
Made with an egg batter, the bubble waffle produces honeycomb-like spherical puffs with crispy edges and soft, chewy centers. The waffles are either eaten plain or with assorted toppings.
“Bubble waffles are an up-and-coming food in Korea, Japan, and London,” explains Lau. “It’s very traditional Hong Kong street food and we decided to bring it here.”
So the Laus decided to take that trend to AsiaTown and on Sunday, April 28, they held the soft opening of Ball Ball Waffle (located in suite 126 of Asia Plaza at 2999 Payne Ave).
“We are the most authentic bubble waffle shop in Cleveland,” says Lau.
Lau stresses the difference between a Belgian waffle and a bubble waffle by the fact that Belgian waffles are associated as solely a breakfast food. “You can eat a bubble waffle any time,” he says. “It’s an all-day waffle.”
The shop sells both sweet and savory bubble waffle concoctions—like crushed Oreo or a mozzarella and cheddar cheese variety—as well as crispy waffles. Another authentic treat is the Hong Kong milk tea, a strong caffeinated black tea mixed with condensed milk.
“Western people sometimes find it bitter, but after you taste it, it’s very good,” assures Lau. “You can taste the balance of the milk and the tea. It’s normally served hot, but we also serve it cold or iced.”
Once the new coffee maker arrives, Lau will also serve coffee drinks. And this summer, Lau says he will offer ice cream wrapped in a bubble waffle cone with toppings.
While Ball Ball Waffle got its start last year with a booth at the Cleveland Asian Festival, Lau soon met Asia Plaza manager Steve Hom through Cleveland Asian Festival co-founder Lisa Wong and discovered there was a vacancy. Lau jumped at the chance to open his shop. One year later, Ball Ball is open for business.
Lau got a lot of help and advice along the way, with everything from setting up an LLC to what type of coffee maker to buy, to simply advice on running a small business.
Lau’s advisors include Jeff Su of Vintage Tea & Coffee; Joyce Huang, director of planning and placemaking at Midtown Cleveland; John Suh of SnowBros Shavery; Katie Van Dyke of the Ohio Small Business Development Center at the Cleveland Heights Library; and Wong.
Ball Ball Waffle is open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.