Asian desserts featuring ingredients like matcha, ube, pandan, and black sesame have been widely available at Asian bakeries and cafes in the Seattle area for years. But the owners of a new Seattle pop-up bakery, Milk and Mochi, have been drawing lines at their pop-ups for combining these bold Asian flavors with popular Western-style desserts like cakes and the business’ now social-media famous creampuffs.
Sisters Nancy and Hannah Phan were born in Saigon, Vietnam and grew up in the Los Angeles area before moving to Seattle in the last decade. The duo credits their upbringing in a food-focused family in the cultural melting pot of Southern California as being the inspiration behind Milk and Mochi. “We enjoyed these flavors throughout our childhood and loved how different cultures shared and adopted ingredients and ideas, ” Nancy says. “Milk and Mochi is our attempt to celebrate flavors that are nostalgic to many Asians and Asian-Americans in familiar desserts.”
With no formal culinary training or experience in the food industry, Hannah dove into baking during the pandemic, and the duo tweaked and perfected their recipes by testing them with family and friends, “who were guinea pigs for many failed attempts,” she says.
The business launched its first pop-up at Ono Poke in Edmonds early summer 2022, and the overwhelmingly positive community response motivated the sisters to keep going. Since then, they’ve had pop-ups at businesses across Seattle and the Eastside, including Coffeeholic in Columbia City, Aroom Coffee in Fremont, and Bellevue’s Cafe Aloe.
Milk and Mochi’s fall menu of choux au craquelin (cream puffs with a crunchy top) includes elaborate concoctions of Asian ingredients. One cream puff is filled with red-bean paste and kinako (toasted soybean powder) diplomat cream and is topped with a chunk of fresh mochi covered in kinako. Other cream puff flavors include hojicha (Japanese roasted green tea) with maple cream, and, in an Asian-American nod to the PSL memes, a kabocha pumpkin spiced cream filling topped with a crunchy oat crisp. In addition to cream puffs, Milk and Mochi is also introducing a dark chocolate cake drizzled with a house-made miso caramel, sold by the slice.
These kinds of bold flavors are at the forefront of Milk and Mochi’s ethos. “If a dessert specifies an ingredient, we don’t want customers to hunt for it, the taste should be very evident,” says Nancy Phan. “We love when customers fall in love with a flavor they didn’t think they’d like, or pay us the ultimate compliment for Asian desserts: ‘Not too sweet.’”
Beyond bold flavors, the Phan sisters have been getting attention for the aesthetics and contrasting textures in their desserts. Customers routinely post cross-sections of Milk and Mochi’s cream puffs on social media, which has led to a lot of publicity — online pre-orders for the cream puffs now sell out within minutes of being announced, though the business always saves some goodies for walk-up customers.
Looking toward the future, Milk and Mochi is scouting locations to open a permanent sit-down cafe, seeking to create a casual vibe that features a variety of rotating baked goods and desserts with assertive Asian flavors. “Our dream is to never have any permanent flavor combinations, but a selection of seasonal specialties, new experiments, and rotating favorites,” Hannah says.
Milk and Mochi’s next pop-up is on October 22 at DIY Tea in Newcastle. The sisters are also planning to create a box of customer-selected favorites, in time for the holidays.
For new flavors, pre-ordering, and upcoming pop-up schedules and locations follow, Milk and Mochi on Instagram.