When Lisa Nguyen tasted her first mochi doughnut in Japan, it reminded her of the desserts she ate as a kid — chewy treats made with glutinous rice flour or tapioca flour. Although she had never eaten a mochi doughnut before, it induced a sort of nostalgia for family trips to Vietnamese bakeries, where her family would pick up sesame balls and banh tieu, fluffy fried buns with hollow centers.
Ten years later, Nguyen started selling her own glutinous rice flour doughnuts topped with glazes, crumbles, and frostings incorporating the Southeast Asian ingredients she loves: coconut sweet corn, passionfruit, ube, pandan. Her pop-ups became enormously successful in a short period of time — not only has she landed in several Portland cafes and tea shops, but her ube doughnuts regularly appear in the Portland Ca Phe pastry case outside of her pop-ups, and Heyday recently collaborated with XLB and Hat Yai for a Feast event.
Soon, Portlanders will be able to eat Nguyen’s springy doughnuts at one of Portland’s hottest new food hubs. Heyday is taking over one of the interior stall spaces at Collective Oregon Eateries, the food cart pod and food hall on SE 82nd. There, Nguyen will branch out into a wider breadth of doughnuts, tackling things like crullers, Korean kkwabaegi, and glutinous rice flour waffles.
In the last few months, Nguyen has been experimenting with new recipes for doughnuts from other countries, as well as other Vietnamese recipes. For instance, Nguyen has been working on her banh tieu recipe, a nod to her family and Southern California Vietnamese bakeries. “For us, as a family, it was a no-brainer: If we went to a bakery, we’d always get it, no matter what else. Now when I see them as an adult, I have to buy one,” she says. “For me, growing up, I’d never in my mind thought it was a doughnut; I considered it a bread-y treat. But as an adult, I went, ‘Wait a minute, it’s dough that’s fried.’”
Outside of Vietnamese doughnuts, Nguyen has been tweaking a version of kkwabaegi, a Korean doughnut twist often sold in bakeries or on street stalls, tossed in cinnamon sugar. She’s also workshopping the shop’s potato doughnuts and crullers; she’d like to fry the latter to-order. Nguyen’s desire to branch out was partially related to customer requests, as well as the pod’s location. “For us, it’s really important for us to figure out other doughnuts we’ve eaten around the world that are not traditional American doughnuts,” Nguyen says. “Southeast off of 82nd is a hub for people of other cultures, and we want to be able to provide that experience: sharing something they ate in their childhood, as well. We’ve been working hard on honing into certain recipes that are true to our heart that reminds us of places we’ve been to and places we’ve lived. If people tell us ‘This is what I ate growing up,’ or ‘This is what I think of as a doughnut,’ that’s something we want to make for you.”
Heyday’s main location will also explore non-doughnut territory — namely, rice flour waffles, which will be made to order as well. “While we were living in Asia, waffles were a big thing — not as a breakfast item, but as a dessert item,” she says. “The sugars are more concentrated and caramelized; we tried them on the weekend and it seemed like a hit.”
While Heyday does plan to explore other parts of the doughnut world, Nguyen wants to stay true to the pop-up’s origins: The menu will always have its coconut sweet corn and pandan doughnuts, as well as other non-seasonal flavors that regularly appear at the pop-ups, like baked ube. The seasonal doughnuts will often involve local growers and producers; for instance, recent pop-up specials included a Marionberry with Oregon Growers Marionberry preserves and a roasted strawberry basil with strawberries from Pablo Munoz Farms.
Nguyen hopes to open her shop this winter within the CORE building at 3612 SE 82nd Avenue. Stay tuned for more updates.