Featured Bay Area Asian American Food Businesses
by Melanie Rose
If there’s one thing that rings true about Asian Americans, it’s that we’re passionate about food. Whether it’s finding the most authentic dumpling recipe, the amount of Instagram photos we take of our food, or organizing pop-up restaurant fundraisers, we’re there. We’ve even done an exhibition focused on Asian American food and foodways called Eating Cultures. So it’s no surprise that Asian Americans are behind some of the up-and-coming food businesses here in the Bay Area.
Here are a few that Asian American Women Artists Association will be featuring during its Jubilee Celebration next week:
With RG Enriquez at the front, Astig Vegan is the purveyor of both traditionally vegan and veganized Filipino food. Its mission is to prove that Filipino food can be vegan, healthy, and delicious without losing its soul.
For RG, “ ‘Astig’ is a Tagalog word for tough, unique, or gutsy. I look at vegan Filipino food as something “Astig”. Born and raised in Bacoor Cavite, Philippines, I grew up helping my mother cook traditional Filipino food for the family. I continued my passion for Filipino cooking when my family and I migrated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1998. A few years later, I decided to go vegan. Although I’ve stopped consuming animal products, I haven’t given up on the food I loved so much as a kid. Undeterred, I’ve resolved to go deeper in learning Filipino cuisine as well as sharing my discoveries along the way…”
Astig Vegan has been featured in Savor Filipino and on Adobo Nation, and you can even find Astig Vegan recipes on Youtube.
Run by Ron Pei and Danny Louie, Chino SF is a new restaurant based in the Mission District described as being “infused with Chinese flavor”. With roots in food businesses, both Pei and Louie are Bay Area locals. Ron has worked at notable restaurants such as Blue Hill Stone Barns in New York, Komi in DC, as well as Salt House and Laïola here in the city. For him, it’s all about “marrying the Chinese food of his heritage with the ingredient-driven cooking he’d come to love.” Danny, who has learned his craft at Dosa and Alembic, is the resident mixologist and bar director at Chino SF – crafting classy cocktails but also boba slushies.
Owned and run by Penny Baldonado, Cafe Gabriela’s name comes from Gabriela Silang, a famous Filipina heroine, Cafe Gabriela strives to keep her courageous and independent spirit alive by making a conscious effort to support and promote local businesses in the East Bay. Branding Cafe Gabriela as “locally engaged” this business really is community-supported, and you will find local artists’ work adorning their walls. It’s no surprise that Cafe Gabriela has a cult following, especially with Penny’s friendly service and those pulled pork adobo sammies!
“Soccola” is Vietnamese for chocolate. Sisters Wendy and Susan Lieu are behind the SoMa-based business. Their truffles feature high quality ingredients like Strauss Family Creamery products and E. Guittard chocolate but also offer unique flavor pairings such as sriracha, guava, Vietnamese coffee, and more. Wendy’s interest in chocolate making began as she often popped into See’s Candies as a teenager. Their parents were Vietnamese refugees who were also small business owners, so it’s no wonder the sisters have really taken off in the chocolate world.
Are your tastebuds watering yet? Well, you can sample some of these delicious offerings at the AAWAA Jubilee Celebration on Saturday, November 14 at the San Francisco Hilton Financial District. Tickets are now on sale. You can also get tickets and rewards by backing AAWAA’s Mural Muses project at the P(art)y People Level.