The month of May is Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. During this national celebration in the U.S., the cultures, traditions and contributions of folks of Asian and Pacific Islander descent (this includes the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia) are recognized and celebrated.
To honor the month, we’re highlighting some local Asian-owned businesses that are alumni of Hatch Detroit by TechTown, following this year’s Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest that wrapped up last month. We encourage you to patronize these businesses not only during May, but all year long!
27th Letter Books
2019 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest winner
At 27th Letter Books, an independent bookstore in Southwest Detroit, folks can find a selection of books that highlight underrepresented voices. The bookstore’s mission reflects curiosity, community, accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability and equity.
“As an Asian business owner, I feel a lot of pride in using this platform as a way of elevating the Filipinx community, but also a lot of responsibility for situating our business morally and ethically,” says Drew Pineda, one 27th Letter Books’ four owners. “Our nation is founded upon a relationship of extraction, exclusion and erasure with regards to land and community. What this means is that it’s important to me to steward what we offer — books, stories and ideas — in a way that honors our past and our ancestors while creating space to imagine a more liberated America.”
27th Letter Books hosts open mics, author events and gallery shows. Its book club, the Ampersand Book Club, meets every second Saturday of the month. 27th Letter Books also runs an ongoing book drive to benefit Alternatives for Girls; any books purchased from their curated selection go to the nonprofit, which works to help girls and young women facing housing insecurity.
Events and happenings: Pineada says 27th Letter Books is working on more events for the month to recognize AAPI Heritage Month (they participated in Frame’s Asian American Market & Brunch with nonprofit Rising Voices earlier this month) and to keep up with the bookstore’s social media pages for updates.
2015 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest finalist and TechTown Retail Boot Camp alum
Located in Grosse Pointe Park, Alma Kitchen is a New American eatery specializing in innovative foods that celebrate the rich culinary diversity of metro Detroit.
At owner Gary Mui’s restaurant, diners can expect a range of flavorful menu items made with locally sourced ingredients, from churro waffles and tres leches pancakes for breakfast to pepper beef lomo saltado (a Peruvian stir fry dish) and curry coconut chicken for dinner. The all-day brunch menu features savory dishes like bibimbap (a Korean rice bowl dish) and seafood crepes. End your meal with a slice of carrot cake or upside-down apple pie.
“The name ‘Alma’ comes from the Spanish word ‘soul.’ Our cooking is a direct reflection of who we are and how we were molded through our experiences growing up in metro Detroit,” Mui says. “Our menu consists of authentic multicultural dishes as well as dishes that are an ode to classic flavors and preparations. This is what I like to [call] ‘borderless cooking.’’
Events and happenings: On May 11, Chinese food pop-up Chi Fan Le is hosting a dumpling-making class at Alma Kitchen in honor of AAPI Heritage Month. On May 19, Alma Kitchen will provide food at the Michigan Pan Asian American Conference.
Chi Fan Le
2023 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest semifinalist
Growing up in New York, Angela Chi recalls the diverse Chinese cuisine she grew up eating and enjoying with her mother and extended family. She took those cherished moments and created a culinary experience that all can partake in: Chi Fan Le (meaning “time to eat” in Mandarin), a food pop-up serving authentic Chinese food.
Dumplings, wontons, tomato egg stir fry, cha shao pork and veggie baozi (a steamed bread roll filled with meat or vegetables) are just some of the tasty homestyle dishes that Chi Fan Le serves at various local eateries and organizations. The pop-up eatery also hosts dumpling-making classes.
“To be a Chinese American business owner in not only Detroit, but also America, means I have an opportunity to share my story and culture, and that there has been a whole village supporting me all along the way,” Chi says. “Both my parents immigrated from China and pursued any and every job opportunity they thought would give me and my sister a better life. Although they wish I pursued a different path, the very fact that I am able to design my own career is a blessing.”
Events and happenings: Chi Fan Le will host a dumpling-making class at Alma Kitchen on May 11, and Chi says she hopes to plan another event for the end of May.
2022 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest finalist
Gajiza Dumplins, a resident pop-up inside Lost River tiki bar in Detroit, is the place to go for unique dumpling creations that leave diners wanting more. Like many chefs, owner Jasmine Haskins created the concept to provide shareable foods that spark memories and inspire conversation.
“‘Gajiza’ is a word I created for my little loved ones, a word of endearment,” Haskins says. “Gajiza is all about bringing friends and families together to share stories and laughter around a meal; those are fond memories of mine that I noticed we sometimes don’t have the opportunity to do, either [because of] distance or our daily schedules.”
The rotating menu features mainly southeastern Asian cuisine, along with Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese dishes. Haskins also likes to incorporate Western ingredients in her offerings. From shrimp and chive dumplings and lemongrass chicken shumai dumplings to sweet and savory longganisa (Filipino sausage) and spicy miso butter noodles, locals can expect creative dishes packed with plenty of flavor.
Events and happenings: Haskins has paused operations for the month as she gears up to open Gajiza Dumplins in its own location over the next year. This new location will offer dine-in space with bar service, a retail shop, and production space for the eatery’s frozen dumplings that will be distributed to stores and restaurants.
JP Makes and Bakes
2023 Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest semifinalist
Jonathan Peregrino’s dream of sharing his love for sweets and his Filipino heritage was more than 25 years in the making. He spent 15 years in corporate sales and marketing before pursuing his longtime affinity for baking by attending pastry school in the Philippines. No matter how non-linear the path, Peregrino is now making his dream a reality through JP Makes and Bakes.
JP Makes and Bakes has been a local success around metro Detroit over the past few years, engaging the community at pop-ups, including The Congregation’s farmer markets in Detroit and food pop-ups lined along Ann Arbor’s Old West Side neighborhood. And you might have seen Peregrino compete in the seventh season of Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” in 2020.
“I have a unique offering that is not currently being met in the area,” Peregrino says. “I offer a variety of treats from Filipino breads (pan de sal) to filled versions; cookies and brownies, including my ube cookies and brownies; and chocolates and cakes.” These sweets come in various flavors, too – take, for example, an Oreo cake with Oreo Swiss buttercream and chocolate ganache. Or the triple chocolate oatmeal cranraisin cookies.
Events and happenings: In recognition of AAPI Heritage Month, JP Makes and Bakes will host A Taste of Home – a Filipino Dinner Party on May 23-24 at Folk in Detroit. While the dinners are sold out, Peregrino says there are still options for takeout available. Peregrino is also finalizing a date for a collab with Huddle Soft Serve in Detroit.