New Asian American bakeries find bicultural sweet spot



Pastry chef Elaine Lau holds a Dim Sum Cookie at the Sunday Bakeshop in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. From ube cakes to mochi muffins, bakeries that sweetly encapsulate what it is to grow up Asian and American have been popping up more in recent years. Their confections are a delectable vehicle for young and intrepid Asian Americans to celebrate their dual identity. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


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Pastry chef Elaine Lau holds a Dim Sum Cookie at the Sunday Bakeshop in Oakland, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. From ube cakes to mochi muffins, bakeries that sweetly encapsulate what it is to grow up Asian and American have been popping up more in recent years. Their confections are a delectable vehicle for young and intrepid Asian Americans to celebrate their dual identity. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — For some Asian Americans, the dim sum cookie at Sunday Bakeshop here will taste like childhood.

It looks like a typical sugar cookie except with sesame seeds on top. But bite into the creamy, red bean center and it’s reminiscent of the fried, filled sesame balls served at a Chinese dim sum restaurant.

The concoction is pastry chef Elaine Lau’s nod to her grandmother, who would often make them. The baked goods that Lau’s

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In 1983, Tim Ma’s parents opened Bamboo Garden in Conway, Ark. It was a side hustle — his mother was in graduate school, and his father worked full-time as a medical technician. As owners of the only Chinese restaurant in their small town, the Mas made good money in their first year. But it wasn’t without setbacks. There was the brick hurled into their family’s home, the drunken driver who crashed into the restaurant’s dining room and the eventual arrival of competition, when their talented chef opened his own restaurant across the street.

The struggles the Mas endured informed their son’s future career in food, and his new restaurant, Lucky Danger. The Washington, D.C., takeout spot, which he opened with Andrew Chiou in November, is a reflection of the Asian American experience, he said.

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“Because of these attacks on the AAPI community, we are not losing Asian culture. We are losing American culture,” says chef Justin Lee, owner of Fat Choy, the Chinese vegan restaurant that opened to much fanfare in New York smack-dab in the middle of the pandemic. That exact outlook — one defined by the power of globalization and the interconnectedness of various cultures — is what inspires Lee’s menu, which is particularly unique given Chinese cuisine’s usual reliance on all things meat.

In this Voices in Food story, as told to Anna Rahmanan, the 35-year-old Virginia-born chef of Chinese descent opens up about his decision to manage a vegan restaurant, the difficulties that the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has had to face in recent months, how food can become the solution to at least part of the problem and what he wishes diners would do to

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