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Six of the best Asian bakeries in Portland

Oregon’s largest city has a wealth of Asian-owned bakeries turning out Filipino pandesal, Vietnamese banh mi and much more.

By Samantha Bakall
Photographs By Celeste Noche
Published 27 Aug 2021, 06:27 BST, Updated 31 Aug 2021, 17:10 BST
In the suburb of Beaverton, Oyatsupan was Portland’s first dedicated Japanese bakery when it opened in ...

In the suburb of Beaverton, Oyatsupan was Portland’s first dedicated Japanese bakery when it opened in 2016.

Photograph by Celeste Noche

Many of the best bakeries in Portland, Oregon, are Asian-owned, including some that have been in business for decades, serving as community hubs where people come to eat, drink and socialise. Others, meanwhile, are more recent success stories, drawing crowds with their Japanese milk bread, Filipino pandesal or eye-catching pastries. Here are six of the best Asian-owned bakeries in the city.

1. Oyatsupan

In the suburb of Beaverton, Oyatsupan was Portland’s first dedicated Japanese bakery when it opened in 2016. Named for the portmanteau of ‘snack’ and ‘bread’, Oyatsupan was founded by Hiro Horie, who spent 25 years working for Japanese baking giant Pasco Shikishima Corporation. His place is largely devoted to shokupan — Japanese milk bread. These sweet, perfectly square loaves have a golden crust and feathery, milk-white interior, but don’t actually contain milk. Hiroyuki has spent years perfecting the recipe, which takes more than 24 hours to make. Among the other popular items are kare doughnuts (panko-studded doughnuts filled with rich Japanese beef curry), melon pan (tender, sweet rolls with a sable biscuit top for the perfect crunch-to-softness ratio) and an pan (golden, airy buns filled with sweet red beans). 
What to order: Matcha pan, a green-tea-infused version of the melon pan. The bright green rolls contain matcha sourced from Kyoto, while the addition of actual green tea imparts an earthy flavour. 

Set on the highlighter-orange ground floor of a converted Victorian house, the pint-sized St Barbra Pinoy Bakery offers a short menu of Filipino goods.

Photograph by Celeste Noche

2. St Barbra Pinoy Bakery

When Bob Osilla first arrived from the Philippines in the 1980s, he would drive 250 miles to Seattle for pandesal, a soft, fluffy bread roll that’s a Filipino breakfast staple. In 2016, he co-founded St Barbra Pinoy Bakery with his culinary-school friend Dennis Adams, and now he and the team bake pandesal themselves. Set on the highlighter-orange ground floor of a converted Victorian house, this pint-sized establishment offers a short menu of Filipino goods, including flaky empanadas filled with chicken, beef or pork; buttery, sweet-salty ensaymadas topped with cheese or ube (purple yam) and brazo de mercedes, a meringue roll with a vibrant yellow custard filling. Also on the menu are American items such as cookies and cheesecakes, with a Filipino twist.
What to order: Ube cheesecake. Amethyst-hued ube brings sweetness, depth and a hint of coconut flavour (plus plenty of colour) to St Barbra’s creamy cheesecakes, sold whole or by the slice. And in summer, try halo-halo, the classic Filipino sundae of shaved ice, condensed milk, sweetened beans, coconut, flan and ube ice cream. 

King's Bakery brims with baked Chinese goods.

Photograph by Celeste Noche

3. King’s Bakery 

Pre-pandemic, the vinyl booths in the back room of pink-and-purple-painted King’s Bakery would often house a group of older Chinese men, sipping coffee and playing the board game Go. But even when it’s not possible to eat in, the bakery brims with Chinese baked goods ready to take home. The glimmering display cases lure in the hungry, steamy glass shielding crinkle-topped bolo bao, also known as ‘pineapple’ buns (named for their cracked crust — they don’t typically contain fruit of any kind), as well as canary yellow egg tarts and hybrid creations such as hot dog-crossed buns.
What to order: The hot dog-crossed bun, a sesame seed-adorned bun topped with a hot dog sausage split lengthwise, green onion and a smattering of cheese. The fluffy, slightly sweet bread is the perfect balance for the salty-smoky hot dog and the cheese. 

Opened in 2019, Soro Soro is a Korean cafe owned by husband-and-wife duo Tae Kim and Bobae Choi, who moved here after previously running cafes in California.

Photograph by Celese Noche

4. Soro Soro Coffee & Dessert

Opened in 2019, Soro Soro is a Korean cafe owned by husband-and-wife duo Tae Kim and Bobae Choi, who moved here after previously running cafes in California. Decked out in cat artwork, figurines and stickers, it serves cutesy desserts and drinks, and when indoor dining is possible, there are rarely free tables. Tourists, families and students settle into the cosy, mismatched chairs and tables for towering candyfloss-topped affogato, rainbow sponges and bright green matcha lattes with teddy bear faces artistically depicted in foam. It’s all very Instagram-friendly — and when dining in isn’t an option, a steady stream of visitors queues for the chance to admire, photograph and eventually eat desserts such as matcha tiramisu, strawberry shortcakes and animal-faced chocolate cake rolls. 
What to order: The cat-faced cheesecake, a creamy, tangy cheesecake decorated with the face of a feline, complete with chocolate ears, eyes and nose. You’ll struggle not to take a picture. 

5. An Xuyen

For many in Portland, An Xuyen is synonymous with Vietnamese banh mi, crisp baguettes often stuffed with savoury sandwich fillings. The bakery’s breads and pastries are sold all over town at some of the biggest local restaurants and numerous grocery stores. An Xuyen first opened in 1995 as the Portland offshoot of Don Ng and Sharon Nguyen’s bakery business, Copper Sail, in Salem, Oregon. Eventually, the demand in Portland outpaced Salem and the couple moved in 1995. The bakery settled into a neighbourhood then known as Little Saigon and was renamed An Xuyen to attract more Vietnamese customers who’d emigrated here after the war. Eventually, the bakery outgrew its premises and moved to its current home in 2000. An Xuyen’s banh mi are still a classic, decades on, with 17 different fillings to choose from. The menu also features an impossible number of bubble teas, breakfast sandwiches and other creations, and stacked on the shelves and countertops, with barely enough space for the till, is a separate bakery’s worth of muffins, croissants, scones, breads and cakes.
What to order: Meatball banh mi. The springy, peppery meatballs are ground and steamed in-house before being layered into a crunchy baguette. It’s complemented by tangy lemon mayo, crunchy carrots and daikon and a little heat from sliced jalapenos.

JinJu Patisserie has been drawing crowds since it opened in 2019.

Photograph by Celeste Noche

6. JinJu Patisserie 

JinJu Patisserie has been drawing crowds since it opened in 2019. Owned by Korean-born Jin Caldwell and Kyurim Lee, it started out as a wholesale chocolate business in Las Vegas (Jin is a master chocolatier), where the duo worked as pastry chefs in some of the city’s biggest kitchens before moving to Portland.That experience is visible in JinJu’s display cases, which overflow with buttery, flaky croissants, as well as buns, tarts, intricate desserts worthy of a museum display and handmade chocolates so luxurious that giving even three would be a kingly gift. The baked goods are so good they even attract customers willing to drive hours to get here. Jin says a family once drove from out of town, spent the night and arrived as the patisserie was opening to buy $250-worth of croissants, chocolates and desserts.
What to order: The ham, bacon and cheese croissant. This crisp, sesame seed-topped pastry is packed with oozing melted cheese, smoky bacon and salty ham, and is one of the first items to sell out each morning.

Published in Issue 12 (summer 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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