Lu rou fan style braised pork belly on a scallion pancake for a pop-up at Lottie's Lounge; hands holding cocktail glasses are also in frame, near a lit candle, for a romantic ambience

Seattle’s Thriving Asian American Pop-Up Scene Continues to Expand and Innovate | Part 2

More talented chefs breaking through industry barriers with pop-ups and a dedicated community following.

by Amanda Ong

The second installment of our coverage of Seattle-area Asian American pop-ups is just as mouthwatering as the first. These chefs are innovating, inspiring, and sharing their cultures through the game-changing pop-up scene. For the first installment, check out yesterday’s article.

Dough Dragons 

From looking at its creations alone, it might surprise you that Dough Dragons is run by college freshmen, Brandon Wong and Jazmine Sida, two childhood friends from Renton turned chefs. The two started Dough Dragons at the end of their senior year of high school in 2022. Wong always had a love for food, learning from his mother and his father’s family from Hong Kong. After discovering Sida’s baking skills along with her cultural influences as a Cambodian American, they decided to start a pop-up. The pair specializes in fluffy bao (buns), often filled with pork belly, and baked goods.

“Even if we are just a pop-up at the moment, it is still a responsibility to inspire and represent Asian Americans, along with the kids that are our age,” Wong said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “It’s definitely not easy focusing on business and school at the same time, but I believe if you have a strong passion you can achieve what you want regardless of the obstacles.” 

Find Dough Dragons for a special dessert pop-up on Feb. 11 at The Rose Gift House and Coffee at 225 Main Ave. S., Renton. For more information about Dough Dragon’s pop-ups and its full menu follow its Instagram

A plate of serunding macaroons on a plate next to chili peppers and a plant
Serunding (spiced coconut floss) macaroons embody what Kinako & Goma is about. An Italian pastry with Southeast Asian flavors, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and a bit of Thai chili come together and are served with a gula jawa (Indonesian palm sugar) caramel dip. (Photo: Mel Herrana)

Kinako & Goma

Kinako and Goma started out of an apartment kitchen as Mel Herana, who works at Saint Bread, was diving deeper into baking. As they shared their baked goods, friends encouraged them to start a food Instagram, and order requests started coming in. Safira Ezani of Masakan is a family friend of Herana’s, and helped them break into pop-ups from there. 

Born to a Filipino American father and a Singaporean mother, Herana’s desserts are inspired by the flavors of their heritage. “I often use ingredients that remind me of my childhood summers in Singapore, visiting my Ilocano family in the Bay Area, and living in Japan as an adolescent,” Herana said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “I hope that my food not only introduces new flavors and types of sweets to people, but also reminds people from similar backgrounds of things that they used to enjoy before coming to the U.S.” 

On Feb. 12, Kinako & Goma will make an appearance at Saint Bread on 1421 NE Boat St. with their co-worker, friend, and fellow pop-up yamcake4u. Follow Kinako & Goma’s Instagram for future pop-up information.


Having a beautiful cake to celebrate with can make all the difference in making a moment feel magical. And beautiful cakes are what Kristi Sue Yamamoto makes. A fifth-generation Japanese and Chinese American with parents from Hawai‘i, Yamamoto currently works at Saint Bread. They have been running yamcake4u for almost a year now, after they first started posting on their Instagram asking if anyone wanted to buy their Persian love cakes. They received an impressive response and started taking custom cake orders, and, as seen on their Instagram, they make gorgeous, magical cakes.

“[It’s] important for me to be able to express myself in my identity through my food,” Yamamoto said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “[My baking] definitely is informed a lot by my relationship with my mom and how she taught me how to cook and bake. And so then I guess that that extends to how I want to represent myself to the community, give back and show appreciation and love for these people. … There are a lot of Asian-run pop-ups in Seattle, and everyone’s been super supportive.” 

On Feb. 12, yamcake4u will make an appearance at Saint Bread on 1421 NE Boat St. with their co-worker, friend, and fellow pop-up Kinako & Goma. You can custom-order cakes by sending Yamamoto a message on their Instagram page, where you can also find future pop-up information.

Ba Ba Lio Taiwanese Pop Up

Tiffany Ran had the idea to create Ba Ba Lio years ago while working as a line cook at local Seattle restaurants, feeling homesick for food reminiscent of the dishes she had in Taiwan. It became her goal to spotlight lesser-known Taiwanese dishes, to tell the story of Taiwanese cuisine and broaden the scope of its representation in the U.S. 

“I realized after moving to Seattle how disconnected many Taiwanese Americans are from what actually is Taiwanese food. Many grew up adopting a very general attachment to the Cantonese or Chinese dishes they can more easily get nearby,” Ran said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “We’re finally at a time where our cuisines are getting noticed, and getting the respect it deserves, and this can only happen if we continue to showcase the labor, technique, and stories behind these cuisines.” 

True to her goal, Ran serves Taiwanese food you might not find elsewhere, and she says the joy and bemusement she sees from Taiwanese people when they see a dish they love makes it worth it. “You’re giving someone that slice of home,” Ran said. “This type of homesickness, the desire for familiarity, is what led so many chefs before us to pioneer Asian cuisines here in the States when authentic ingredients were scarce and improvisation was necessary.”

Ba Ba Lio Taiwanese Pop Up will next make an appearance on Feb. 27 at Capitol Hill’s Osteria La Spiga as part of the restaurant’s Future of Diversity guest chef program. Ticket sales will be announced via its Instagram page

Akio’s Bakery

A Filipino American South Seattle native, Jho Sadang always loved Costco’s frozen cream puffs as a child, but after visiting Japan in 2018, they fell in love with choux au craquelin, Costco cream puffs’ more sophisticated older sibling. Sadang couldn’t find them in the United States and started to bake them and post them on Instagram, and by 2019, to sell them. When COVID-19 hit, Sadang was working full-time in health care and put the business on pause for a time, but soon realized their business was something they didn’t want to give up. In 2022, their business was officially reborn as Akio, named after Sadang’s dog, who is also the pop-up’s mascot.

“Having a pop-up that focuses and highlights Asian American flavors … creates a community of people that are open, curious, and understanding of each other and our differences,” Sadang said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “It means that I, as an Asian American, can take up space in the food industry and allow other BIPOC to feel safe in the industry as well. If my work can inspire other Asian Americans to pursue their dreams, then I will continue to show up and showcase Asian American flavors in my work.”

Find Akio’s Bakery on Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ghost Note Coffee on 1623 Bellevue Ave.


JJANG! makes local, traditional, small-batch Korean jangs (the fermented sauces at the heart of Korean cooking), crafted and aged in Seattle. Founded by Mike Kim, JJANG! started with Kim’s wholehearted admiration for his mom. A Korean immigrant, Kim’s mother found the processed and stabilized jangs from the Korean supermarket couldn’t cut it, and in 2008, she started her jang-making journey after realizing the women of her mother’s generation all had made jang from scratch. She sent them to her son in Seattle from L.A., and eventually, he started learning how to make jang from her. She joked that they could sell them. Kim ended up taking the endeavor seriously, and was met with overwhelming interest.

“Against the ever-present backdrop of systemic, anti-Asian racism, Asian American food professionals have had few opportunities to showcase their food in a way that reflects their specific traditions, ambitions, or creativity,” Kim said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “For me, pop-ups are a way to not only highlight a specific tradition that is central to my identity, but also resist the idea that, in the U.S., my existence is foreign or can be erased. They’re a way to collaborate with other food professionals that feels financially accessible, and that extends my tradition into new areas of creativity. They’re a way to create joy and build community in spite of a longstanding tide of violence aimed at people who look like me.”

JJANG! has been on a short hiatus while Kim has been in Korea learning from Korea’s expert jang makers, and it will return in May. Follow its Instagram for upcoming tasting experiences, classes, batches of jang, collaborations, and pop-ups.

Momo Song Suzuki 

Formerly a chef at Kamonegi and currently at Hamdi, Momo Song Suzuki’s journey to pop-ups began last summer, when they were encouraged by co-workers to try out pop-ups as a way to make their own menu and take agency in the kitchen. Song Suzuki initially started out by hosting five-course meals for friends in their home, selling off seats via their Instagram page and focusing on local, seasonal foods. Song Suzuki says they can thank local farmers for their successes, particularly the community of Asian American farmers whose stories they try to pass on along with their food.

Song Suzuki is both Japanese and Taiwanese American, and their food is predominantly Japanese influenced. But they challenge our notions of where Asian American food comes from. “Asian American experience, it’s not even a spectrum. It’s like a color wheel. There are so many different forms of experience based on the power dynamics of imperialism, where you come from, who speaks the language,” Song Suzuki said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “And Seattle food encompasses the farmers and our ancient ancestors who have been here for a century, Indigenous practice, respect for locality and seasonality, and taking care of place. … Like, doing a Thanksgiving fundraiser for Real Rent Duwamish is my responsibility as an arriver and a citizen here. Food happens to be the tool.”

Momo Song Suzuki is currently working on rebranding their pop-up spaces, but will be posting future updates through their Instagram page

Three bowls of kimchi side by side on a table
Banchan, like the kimchi pictured here, was an integral emphasis when Upshaw founded OHSUN, and it continues to be. (Photo: Sara Upshaw)

OHSUN Banchan Deli & Cafe

Many pop-up owners choose not to pursue a brick-and-mortar location, but for those who do, the road to success can be long and difficult. OHSUN founder Sara Upshaw has created a pop-up success story. Upshaw started a food blog, Kimchi Halfie, about eight years ago to pursue her love of food and escape corporate life. During the pandemic, she realized she wanted to have a space to host community and share the food she loves most: Korean home cooking. While Upshaw understands why Korean barbcue and corn dogs are popular, OHSUN’s menu was food she would make at home, with emphasis on staples like rice, soup, and banchan (small dishes of food to eat with rice). In addition, OHSUN is gluten-free and at least half the menu is vegan, making its food more accessible to different communities. And though she started out with pop-ups, selling out at every event, Upshaw has made it to her original dream of a brick-and-mortar, though not without difficulty. 

“It’s unfortunate that this is the case, but in the BIPOC community, you have to prove yourself 500% more than others,” Upshaw said in an interview with the South Seattle Emerald. “That means real estate agents, financial institutions, and landlords want proof not only with popularity, but numbers to show that you’re already making money. This isn’t the case with others that can show funds that come from generational wealth where failure is an option. For the rest of us, that’s not a choice. [Pop-ups] get the community excited to support your journey, and that energy is the fuel to help on the rollercoaster of a journey that is pop-up to brick-and-mortar.”

Visit OHSUN Banchan Deli & Cafe at 221 1st Ave. S.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: Lu rou fan style braised pork belly on a scallion pancake for a pop-up at Lottie’s Lounge, April 2022. (Photo: Reva Keller)

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