This article by Adeline Panamaroff appears in the November/December issue of Info Edmonton magazine.
Living in south Edmonton, I have made it my mission to seek out the local restaurants and cafés serving sweet delights—and I’m even more delighted to share my findings. Even if sweet’s not really your thing, these local Asian spots can serve savoury wonders just as well! I’ve had the chance to sample Japanese pancakes, Taiwanese bubble teas, Vietnamese subs, and other incredible dishes, all of which I recommend.
Fuwa Fuwa Japanese Pancakes | Two locations, including Old Strathcona: 8103-104 St., 780-916-3892, fuwafuwapancakes.com
Fuwa Fuwa Japanese Pancakes is a sleek and modern-looking café, with light wood panelling on the walls and tabletops. The minimalist aesthetic and second-floor seating remind me of my visits to small cafés in Tokyo. I found the staff friendly and helpful—and they get extra points from me because they, for the most part, remained masked throughout my stay there, whether they were serving or taking orders.
The highly anticipated chain opened its first location in Edmonton in June 2022 to offer the city its first-ever Japanese fluffy pancakes, with a larger second location opening shortly after in Windermere (1217 Windermere Way SW) as Western Canada’s flagship store.
The local franchises are tied to various Edmonton entrepreneurs, including local photographer Daniel Poon as a manager and co-owner of the Old Strathcona location. When he moved to Edmonton with his brother, Joe, they had the mindset of starting their own business. Joe had previously lived in Japan for three years, where he had experienced the popular soufflé pancakes for the first time. They differ from regular pancakes with the use of soufflé techniques, whipping egg whites with sugar to make a meringue before mixing with the rest of the batter.
Fuwa Fuwa even translates to “fluffy fluffy,” which is the best description for these light delights. I don’t understand how anything so airy can be so filling, but it’s a must-try. I ordered the Signature Pancake—a truly fluffy delight!—for around $14. It comes with a healthy side of whipped cream, full-moon slices of banana, strawberry wedges, and whole blueberries. In true Japanese style, even the take-out packaging is cute and functional, complete with an instructional panel on the inside of the lid to illustrate how to eat the pancakes. Just two pancakes with cream and fruit filled me up, so I am planning more returns to try other options!
Dream Tea House | Multiple locations, including 2160-109 St., 587-520-1188, dreamtea.ca
On entering Dream Tea House in Heritage Square, I was immediately transported to a sandy beach vacation (especially perfect on those snowy days!). The nautical décor, with soft teals, greys, and browns, includes a fine fishnet draped on one wall, oil lamp shades overhead, and chunky wood tables and bench seating. I could almost feel the ocean breeze and hear the sound of seagulls, making a refreshing beverage a must.
Specializing in dessert drinks like bubble teas, fruit smoothies, and milkshakes, the menu has dozens of single and multiple flavour options, including taro, lychee, matcha, strawberry, chocolate, and Oreo blends. Their food menu features smaller snack items like green onion cakes, fries, and spring rolls.
While bubble tea is a tea-based drink originating from Taiwan in the 1980s and often comes in fruit-flavoured tea or milky tea varieties, Dream Tea created its blends without any tea ingredients and uses milk or soy milk as its base. They recently celebrated their 19th anniversary, expanding over those years to now six locations around the city where you can find a wide variety of fresh fruit dessert drinks, specialty coffee (hot or cold), and shaved ice treats.
Going with some classics, I ordered the honeydew bubble tea, yam fries with garlic aioli, and takoyaki, creating a midday meal that filled me up till supper. The takoyaki (baked wheat cake with octopus) was soft and airy, full of savoury fish and saucy flavours, and the garlic aioli complemented the yam fries’ nice, sweet edge. The honeydew bubble tea, which comes with tapioca balls and had a refreshing combination of fruit and cream, was a good palate cleanser. Other bubble teas on the menu come with different flavours of jelly balls instead or a mixture of both tapioca and jelly.
All in all, I got a very satisfying meal for under $20 and a culinary visit to the seaside through the charming décor and the takoyaki.
Nhon Hoa Sandwich Bar | 10154-82 Ave., 780-757-9988, nhonhoasandwichbar.ca
Nhon Hoa Sandwich Bar on Whyte Avenue is a small retail space made airy and bright with its use of a large south-facing window. The seating area is serviceable and clean, accommodating about four groups of four, with two street-side tables. The order counter is colourfully decorated with figures of deities of good fortune, including a frog, cat, and Buddha.
The owner of Nhon Hoa Sandwich Bar, who wishes to be known only as Dong, is from Vietnam and thus has a direct cultural connection to the sub sandwiches he makes. Vietnamese subs (or banh mi) originated in Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City) and blend Vietnamese and French ingredients, like cilantro and pickled carrots with baguettes and pâté. The family-owned and -operated space has all hands on deck, with everyone pitching in during various tasks and able to help out either in the kitchen or at the order counter in a pinch. Having been in the sandwich business for many years, Dong says he always knows to ask specifically how spicy customers would like their sandwich to be, just in case!
There is no shortage of choices on the menu. Combo variations number in the dozens because Nhon Hoa allows you to mix-and-match from different categories. I went with a “Combo 2” (any sub with any bubble drink) and chose grilled meatballs on a generous bed of cucumber and shredded carrot, dusted with crushed peanuts, and the Dragonberry Bubble Tea. To round it off, I added a Deluxe Steamed Bun, making my total order around $19.
The crusty bun of the sub sandwich was a nice contrast to the soft meatballs, and the vegetable proportions balanced the serving of meat. The steamed bun, so round and fluffy, was the king of the plate, and it could honestly be a whole meal on its own, with half a boiled egg, pork meatball, glass noodles, and a slice of spicy sausage. As always, the bubble tea was a delight, with the dragonberry fruit mixture—blueberries, green apples, and strawberries—mingling well with the milk and boba pearls.
Other dishes on the menu include vegetarian subs, vermicelli and rice bowls, and soups, as well as several bubble tea flavours like Double Lychee Explosion, Strawberry Banana Swirl, and the Funky Chunky (with maple, banana, and chocolate), and I can’t wait to try them all!