NOTE: This is a personal review of the product and not a paid, branded post. This means the author does not receive any money from the publication and clicks made on this article.
Sometime around June of this year, I started noticing the sushi bake craze making its rounds online. At first, I didn’t necessarily understand what the dish was–I wondered, does it taste just like a maki roll? What’s in it? And is it really worth the hype?
It wasn’t until October, when me and my siblings decided to try the dish out for ourselves. And upon the recommendation of my friend Mark D., we decided to order the Gyudon sushi bake tray from La Mesa Cravings.
Initially, my whole family and I didn’t know what to expect when it arrived. But after taking the first few bites, we knew that this was a dish we would happily order again from the shop.
Here are a few reasons why I said this:
They have good customer service and the dish is complete and securely packaged
When it comes to service-oriented businesses, good customer service is key in maintaining loyalty with your target market. And La Mesa Cravings accomplishes this by not only being very responsive to inquiries on their page, but also in keeping their customers up-to-date on their orders.
Because once you have ordered and paid for the dish, the team schedules delivery based on your preference. And before the item is even sent out, they send you photos to confirm your order. So, from the get-go, you are aware of its appearance and the items that come with the dish.
Moreover, the team places it in an aluminum foil tray and secures it with plastic cover to make sure it doesn’t move around while it’s in transit.
The sushi bake is full of flavor and very savory
The Gyudon sushi bake tray we ordered was packed with beef and sushi rice and topped off with layer of creamy cheddar cheese. The combination of these ingredients made the dish flavourful and absolutely filling. And when it’s eaten with seaweed–which comes with the order–the dish becomes almost heavenly!
Even Filipino actor Paolo Ballesteros can’t seem to get enough of their sushi bake trays, sharing a review of it on his personal social media accounts.
Now, I do admit their menu items can be a bit pricey ranging from 300 to 1,500 PHP (depending on the size and variant and excluding shipping fee), but it’s well worth the price for its savoury taste and overall delicious flavour.
There are more flavors to choose from, not just Gyudon
After devouring the Gyudon sushi bake tray, my family and I are definitely eager to try out the shop’s other flavors. This includes the following variants: Green, Yellow, Red, Pink, Dragon, and Spam.
And fortunately for us (and other sushi bake fans), shop owners Joezel and Ivy Malang-Cruz are now offering the La Colección gift box. This is a set order that allows you to choose four out of their seven sushi bake variants to try and feast on this holiday season.
If you’re interested in knowing more about this San Juan City-based shop, you can visit their Facebook pageor subscribe to their YouTube channelfor more details.
As many of us already know, Asia is home to many amazing baked creations. From Vietnam’s Bánh Chuối Nướng (baked banana bread) to Japan’s Daifuku (mochi) treats, we have seen and may have even tasted some of these delectable desserts during our trips there.
However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, traveling is highly discouraged as it could lead to the further spread of the virus.
Given this, a lot of people have taken to baking their own versions of these desserts at home. Some have even mastered its baking techniques, while others still have a long way to go before mastering their craft. And whether you’re the former or the latter, there’s one place online that you can connect with and converse with other bakers about your love for Asian-inspired treats–and that’s through Subtle Asian Baking.
Subtle Asian Baking is an online community on Facebook that allows bakers from all over the world to share, discuss, and even recommend their favorite Asian-inspired creations and recipes.
And in this article, I got the chance to talk to the founder Kat Lieu and the rest of the Subtle Asian Baking team on what makes the Facebook group special, the inspiration behind its creation, and what message can they share to aspiring bakers about their online community.
Here’s what I learned from the interview:
It’s a community of like-minded bakers who support and encourage each other
In the Subtle Asian Baking Facebook group, members are encouraged to share their latest Asian-inspired creations without fear or judgment.
“What makes the group special is when people can show off their amazing desserts and bakes, and feel appreciated. [And] when people ask a question, they receive a flood of helpful answers [from other members],” Subtle Asian Baking founder Kat Lieu explained.
It is an avenue where bakers can freely express themselves and even help inspire a sense of creativity in other members who see the posts.
Lieu herself admits to exploring other baking ideas after seeing other people’s creations in the group–“[In terms of] creativity, I find myself becoming more and more creative and innovative with my own baking.”
More than just a platform for sharing one’s creations, it is also a community that engages with its members through virtual bake-offs and online contests. In fact, just last month, they held a charity mukbang for the benefit of the Alzheimer Society of Canada. And as of December 2, 2020, they were able to raise 4,002.50 CAD (approximately 150,611.93 PHP) for the non-profit organization. They were also able to surprise members of the group and participants with a number of special guest appearances.
“Our mukbang fundraiser was very special. Three CEOs from the Alzheimer Society of Canada, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, and the Alzheimer Society of Ontario joined us in [the] eating [contest]. We [also] had a special guest eating with us, Fred Chang, a contestant from MasterChef US Season 10. A rising mukbang duo made a special appearance during the Zoom livestream [as well],” Lieu shared.
These online events were created to both give back to the community and entertain its members.
“We want to be different. We also want to give back to the community. [Since] many people are stuck at home now, the Internet has become our world. [There,] we can build a community with virtual bake-offs and we can give back through fun fundraising activities.”
At the moment, the team has prepared two bake-offs for December. The first of which is in partnership with Suncore Foods and is a competition for junior bakers between the ages of 4 to 15 years old. While the second one is a holiday bake-off that features guest judges Catherine Zhang, the Zumbo’s Just Desserts season 2 champion, and Fred Chang, season 10 finalist of the hit show MasterChef US.
Members can stay tuned for more announcements on this through their Facebook page and group, or through their Instagram account.
A recent trip to Japan inspired Kat Lieu to create the group
The group was created back in May of this year by Kat Lieu. She was inspired to form Subtle Asian Baking after reminiscing about the baked creations she got to try during her recent trip to Japan.
“COVID-19 was spreading fast and things were closing down. I was thinking about my trip to Japan back in February 2020, and I couldn’t find a group I liked dedicated to Asian sweets, particularly subtle Asian sweets. So, I created the group in [the] hopes [that] I can bring together a large baking community and curate recipes and beautiful pictures of Asian-inspired desserts,” Lieu expounded.
“Many of us can’t travel [now], but we can reflect fondly about desserts we love, desserts from our culture, and the baked goodies we had while traveling across Asia and so forth.”
To her surprise though, the group quickly grew since its creation, now amassing over 66,000 members from all over the world.
Today, the group is handled by Lieu and the Subtle Asian Baking team, which comprises the following: Owen Li, an IT professional and the team’s very own “air-frying ninja”; Will Leung, a bakery owner in New Zealand; George Lee, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained cook and rising star in the vegan culinary world; and Nichole Tan, a Singapore-based sweets expert.
A message to aspiring bakers: ‘Just start baking!’
Starting a new hobby can be hard but the Subtle Asian Baking team believes that practice makes perfect. And they continue to encourage aspiring bakers to express themselves and try new things, with a little help and inspiration from their Facebook group.
“Just start baking! It doesn’t matter if you use cake mix or bake from scratch, just make it and bake it! And please join our group! We are inclusive and [we] welcome all bakers, dessert makers, or dessert enthusiasts of all skill levels. We also welcome savory baking recipes and pictures!” the team said.
To join Subtle Asian Baking, click their Facebook group hereand request to be a member. Once approved, you can start posting your creations, joining their online contests, and start conversing with like-minded bakers.
You can also follow them on their Facebook page or on Instagram to stay up-to-date with their latest posts and announcements.
Back in May of this year, I got the opportunity to feature the pop culture-themed treats of Korean-American baker Judy Kim in a POP! article. Since that time, Kim has continued to hone her skill in baking, making more jaw-droppingly beautiful works of art in the form of cookies.
Just take a look at her recent baked goods featuring US President-elect Joe Biden and US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
She even made one in honor of the late Ruth Bader-Ginsburg.
Because of this, I caught up with Kim regarding her process for making the cookies, the inspiration behind some of her designs, and her advice for aspiring bakers worldwide. Here’s what she had to say about it.
Making custom-designed cookies can be tedious but it’s an activity she enjoys
Just by looking at the detail put into each cookie, you would know that Kim devotes a lot of time and effort into making each one look perfect. And working full-time in the medical field, it can definitely be very time-consuming and tiring–but it’s one activity she seems to enjoy.
“The hardest part about creating cookies is probably all the time-involved. Custom cookies are very labor-intensive! Personally, I am a full-time practicing physician, so I make cookies on the side, and I can definitely lose some sleep over them!” she explained.
She also shared how many of her hand-painted cookies can take two or more hours to make, depending on the level of detail. And among her most tedious creations would have to be her Mandalorian-inspired cookies.
“The Mandalorian was probably 4 hours or more in total: [this includes] baking, creating multiple layers, piping royal icing, and hand-painting.”
But through it all, she seems to find fulfillment in baking and continues to put out great designs, as evidenced by her Instagram posts.
She was very inspired when she made her Parasite-themed cookies
Kim admits that many of her pop culture-themed cookies were made upon the requests of family members and friends. But the Parasite cookies were something special for her as it was made to celebrate the film’s momentous win in the 2020 Academy Awards (also known as The Oscars).
Moreover, she was very happy to know that her friends also appreciated her movie-themed baked goods.
“I definitely found the Parasite cookies really resonated with my Korean friends, and it’s great to celebrate special moments like this!” she exclaimed.
Indeed, her Parasite-inspired cookies seem to be the perfect treat to celebrate the special occasion. And I’m pretty sure even Director Bong Joon Ho would be proud of this specially-designed creation.
Her advice to aspiring bakers: “Be as creative as possible!”
Kim surprised many of her loved ones when she started making these custom-designed cookies.
“I think many of them were surprised because I started making cookies only about a year ago as a hobby and most of them do not [even] know that I have an artistic background,” she recalled.
Despite their initial response to her baking, Kim continued to hone her skills and now, she has made a countless number of beautifully-designed cookies.
Through her experience in making these hand-painted baked goods, she shares this piece of advice for aspiring bakers worldwide:
“My advice for people who would like to make custom cookies is to start with the basics (such as finding a good sugar cookie and royal icing recipe) and feel free to be as creative as possible! The cookie-making community on social media is incredibly gracious and that is how I learned myself, by asking questions and practicing.”
You can see Judy Kim’s full set of creations on her Instagram.