Sweet Memories is a new blog series on Good Food where Chloe Chappe talks to local chefs and bakers about the flavors and memories that inspired their food.
This week Chloe interviewed Mayly Tao of DK Donuts, home of the first ever ube donut, based in Santa Monica.
Mayly’s mother opened DK’s donuts in the 1980’s and Mayly has been working in the bakery since she was about 10 years old. The O-nut (inspired by Dominque Ansel’s cronut) and the wownut (inspired by Alex Hernandez’s wonut) were her brainchildren, and she continues to come up with new ways for people to enjoy her family’s treats.
Chloe Chappe: Is there any dish from your childhood or past that you make in your bakery today?
Mayly Tao: Yes there is. When I was younger my mother would always pack me oreos in my lunchbox, and I grew a slight obsession with eating them. Now that I think of it, when we started to create the doubled decker O-nut (croissant/donut hybrid with cream in the middle), all I could think of was infusing our house cream with oreos! It was only when you asked me this question that I had to dig deep within my childhood to see why I used oreos…why did I use oreos? Well oreos are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and have a very distinct chocolate flavor. There is a combination of the textures of the O-nut, which has lots of layers, and the oreo, that is all together just like a great delight in your mouth.
CC: Are there any specific smells or ingredients from your past that have influenced your current creations?
MT: Growing up, my mother always loved a certain flavor and that flavor was taro. Taro is actually a purple root that can be made into basically anything. I remember eating taro chips, and she would make me this great taro smoothie – she would take a whole purple potato, blend it with a little bit of milk and it was just my absolute favorite delight. And so now we carry that in the store; we have the taro O-nut. But also, it stems to the root cousin of taro, the ube, also a purple yam. With the ube we’ve also made that into a flavor cream for the O-nut. Its very light, not too sweet. We’ve also partnered with Buttermilk Inc. and they have provided us with the ability to create ube donuts. We are the first ones to ever create ube donuts! They are characterized by being very crunchy on the outside and by being very moist on the inside and when you take a bite of it, it’s actually a very bright purple on the inside.
CC: If you could eat one meal from your past over again, what would that meal be? Why?
MT: So around my birthday or around any family members’ birthday, my grandma would always make these tapioca dessert balls. These were only supposed to be eaten around your birthday and there were smaller sized ones and bigger ones and when you take a bite of one they’re like gooey and chewy and they’re slightly sweet but yet also a little slimy and each ball is surrounded by a light milky coconut base. When you eat those, you can eat as many of the smaller ones as you want, but the larger one symbolizes you gaining a year in your life. So one year I got a little hungry, and I ate three or four of the big ones and my grandma goes “you’re four years older!” And as a young kid I was like “I can’t eat the big ones anymore, I’m getting too old!”