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Food

Newsletter: This Filipino bakery in Silver Lake isn’t going anywhere

sapin sapin.jpg
Sapin-sapin at United Bread & Pastry in Silver Lake. The rice cake is made from glutinous rice and coconut milk.
(Patricia Escárcega / Los Angeles Times
)

This week, I reviewed Spoon & Pork, where chefs Ray Yaptinchay and Jay Tugas are reinterpreting classic Filipino dishes like pork belly adobo and crispy pata. (Try the extraordinary patita.)

After I interviewed the two chefs, they encouraged me to visit United Bread & Pastry, a family-owned Filipino bakery and market located within easy walking distance of the restaurant in Silver Lake.

United Bread & Pastry is one of the last of the neighborhood’s old-line bakeries. I have gone back twice in one month for specialties such as chicken empanadas; the fluffy pork-stuffed buns called sioban; and turon, the syrupy egg roll-like dessert filled with sweet plantain and ripe jackfruit.

I’ve also become fond of the bakery’s pulboron shortbread cookies; sapin-sapin, creamy glutinous rice cakes made using rice flour and coconut milk; and candies in flavors like tamarind and chocolate, all of them hand-wrapped individually in cellophane.

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The heart of the enterprise is the long bakery case fortified with violet-colored ube-flavored pastries and cakes. There’s also a kitchen in the back, where catering orders of dishes including pancit and pork adobo are prepped in large aluminum trays.

For first-time visitors, United Bread & Pastry can be easy to miss. It’s set back from the street near the intersection of Griffith Park and Sunset boulevards.

Mark DeGuzman is a friendly face behind the counter at United Bread & Pastry.
Mark DeGuzman is the friendly face behind the counter at United Bread & Pastry in Silver Lake.
(Patricia Escárcega / Los Angeles Times)

The friendly young man behind the counter is Mark DeGuzman. His parents, Romeo and Andrea, have owned United Bread & Pastry since 1985.

Over the years, the family’s modest-size piece of real estate has ballooned in value. They are regularly courted by hungry real estate investors.

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Every time, the family has politely declined to sell, Mark said — his parents are too committed to the business and the neighborhood.

He understands that neighborhoods inevitably change, but he’s also witnessed firsthand the displacement and loss that accompany gentrification.

“There’s a difference when you’re adapting to change based on monetary reasons. It just loses the feel of the community,” he said. “It’s just different when a corporate company comes in.”

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Pulboron cookies at United Bread & Pastry, a bakery in Silver Lake.
(Patricia Escárcega / Los Angeles Times)

Mark came of age amid shelves stacked with such grab-and-go convenience items as fresh eggs, luncheon meats and instant noodles, and refrigerators stocked with halo halo and egg pies.

He remembers when Silver Lake was scrappier and more diverse.

Today, most of the regulars aren’t neighborhood locals but people who work nearby and drop in during the week for an adobo pork roll or empanada.

Mark would like to take over the family business someday, he says.

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He hopes the bakery maintains some of the “community feel” it’s cultivated over the last three decades.

“One of the things I like about a family business is that we get to share things with you,” he said. “Like if you have an event, like a baby, we know you’re going to come in and order with us.”

“When it’s smaller companies, you know, it has a different kind of vibe,” he said. “It’s more like a small town and we can talk to each other.”

The next time you’re in Silver Lake, drop in and say hi — and don’t forget the turons.

Ask the critics

How did you get into food writing? Any advice for a young writer?
— Meleesa T., email

I was freelancing and ghostwriting for many years before I got my break in food writing. I saw a notice in my local alternative weekly newspaper that said it was seeking freelance food contributors. I sat down and wrote a long, embarrassing email to Amy Silverman (hi, Amy!), who was the newspaper’s managing editor at the time. She wrote back. Within a few months, I was contributing weekly restaurant reviews to the paper.

I know this all sounds pat and easy, but it took years of writing before I had the confidence to send Amy that email. And it took a fortuitous twist of fate for a gatekeeper like her to take a chance on a new voice with a thin resume.

My advice: Don’t wait years, as I did, to send that email you’ve been writing in your head. You have something to say and the world needs to hear it. I have more thoughts on this that I hope to address in future newsletters. For now, feel free to reach out at patricia.escarcega@latimes.com if you have any questions or thoughts.

The Butcher’s Pride at Jeong Yuk Jeom: from left, rib-eye, boneless short rib, brisket, lightly seasoned and cut short ribs and marinated galbi.
The Butcher’s Pride: rib-eye, left; boneless short rib; brisket; lightly seasoned and cut short ribs and marinated galbi at Jeong Yuk Jeom in Koreatown.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)
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