Treats With a Twist

Not sure you want to try egg tarts, mooncakes or barbecue pork buns? You just haven't visited Koko Bakery yet.
Quick Picks
Here are some favorites we uncovered in Asia Town. Check the map for addresses by clicking here.

Asia Food Co.
Legend has it a distraught husband created this disc-shaped pasty made with winter melon, sesame paste, butter and coconut when his wife sold herself into slavery because of financial difficulty. The wife cake became so popular he was able to buy his loved one back. Today, edible love almost doesn't cost a thing. $1

Angkor Jewelry
Jade is a symbol of wisdom and is said to stimulate creativity. We found a jade bracelet made with 18K gold and cubic zirconia that'll have you looking smart. $400

Americana King Pang Marketing
"The lantern is important in Asian culture," says store clerk Bill Luk at Americana King Pang Marketing. "It's a symbol of luck and happiness." Buy your own for inside or outside your home. $6

Tink Holl Market
Contrary to popular belief, tea parties are for grown-ups, too. Sip in style with your very own porcelain set. $12.99-$19.99; pictured, $19

Disregard the colorful rows of fruit tarts and lavish cakes by Koko Bakery's register.

Sure, they'd hold up in fancy patisseries, but they're not what set the shop apart from other local bakeries. That'd be the comparatively humble Chinese pastries and snacks to the left.

Jessica Hom and her husband, Steve, decided to share these baked goods with Cleveland after being inspired by Chinese bakeries in New York, where her parents live. But to open their own, the couple, having zero baking experience, had to lean on family and friends for guidance.

"Here in Cleveland, it's a relatively small baking community," Steve says. But people were supportive.

Today, Steve says theirs is probably the only authentic Chinese bakery between New York and Chicago. Since opening in 2006, the Homs have reeled in a loyal following with items you won't find at the grocery store.

One item is the bo lo bun, a popular treat in Hong Kong. Although "bo lo" means pineapple, you won't find any inside; it's named for its delicately sweet top that resembles the outside of the fruit. Instead, bo lo buns are plain or filled with barbecue pork or red bean paste.

Koko Bakery offers other traditional snacks, such as egg tarts, mooncakes, steamed barbecue pork buns and coconut buns. But patrons also come for teriyaki rice bowls, coffee, tea, shaved ice and smoothies in common Asian flavors including lychee and kumquat.

Although some customers place orders and chat in Chinese, the Homs have created a space that isn't intimidating for those who didn't grow up sipping lychee smoothies. In fact, Jessica enjoys teaching people about Asian culture and seeing their surprise and delight when they try something new.

"Some people think a Chinese bakery is only fortune cookies," she says. "But you can show them it's more than that."

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