If you’ve ever admired the Salamat (the informal way to say thank you in Tagalog) T-shirts and tote bags from Hood Famous, you’ve got Janelle Quibuyen to thank.

Quibuyen is Hood Famous’ creative director, but she’s been involved since her brother, co-founder Geo Quibuyen, and his wife and partner, Chera Amlag, first started hosting pop-up dinners under the name Food and Sh*t in 2013.

She worked as a server at pop-ups from 2013-2016 and in the Hood Famous Bakeshop that opened in Ballard in 2016, all while working at an agency as a graphic designer. As the company grew, so did her job. Now she manages social media and email marketing, website design, graphic design and merchandise full-time for Hood Famous Cafe + Bar, which opened in the Chinatown International District last March.

Puffy mochi waffles topped with calamansi-spiked cream cheese and smoked salmon are one of Janelle Quiyuben’s go-to orders at Hood Famous Cafe + Bar in the Chinatown International District. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Puffy mochi waffles topped with calamansi-spiked cream cheese and smoked salmon are one of Janelle Quiyuben’s go-to orders at Hood Famous Cafe + Bar in the Chinatown International District. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

On a recent Friday, we sat down with Quibuyen to enjoy puffy mochi waffles topped with a dollop of citrusy calamansi chive cream cheese and slices of smoked salmon (sourced from Seattle Fish Guys), and talk about where she likes to go when she’s not grabbing these mochi waffles ($12) while working at the Cafe + Bar.

As a bonus, Quibuyen also shared her recipe for biko, a comforting Filipino dessert you can make at home.

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Quibuyen was born in Hawaii, but her family moved to Bremerton when she was 2 (her dad was in the Navy). She grew up in Bremerton but moved to Seattle for college, and lived in the Hillman City neighborhood for more than a decade before she moved back to Bremerton three years ago.

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She says many of her favorite spots are small, family-owned spaces whose food tastes like it’s made with care.

“What draws me to those places is the human connection that I can feel there,” Quibuyen says. “Growing up, it was a lot of home cooking by my parents. We rarely went out to eat unless it was an occasion or Sunday after church, and I think my heart yearns for that. It just feeds my soul.”

So, what are her favorite restaurants in the Greater Seattle area?

When she finds herself missing her old neighborhood:

Since moving back to Bremerton, Quibuyen says she misses being able to just walk down the street to her favorite Ethiopian restaurants. “I miss Ethiopian food in Bremerton a lot. I have a yearning for it,” she says. Sunset Cafe on Rainier was one of her go-to spots.

She also loves Thanh Thao in South Seattle, “this little Vietnamese restaurant with, like, 100-something items on their menu. I don’t know how they do it,” she says. Her go-to order there is the chicken pho.

When she’s working in the Chinatown ID and looking for lunch:

Mike’s Noodle House. It’s a cash-only spot where you get to choose your noodles, the toppings, the vegetables. It gets super busy during lunch, but tables are turned fast and it’s loud, and it’s really good.”

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That’s Quibuyen’s spot when she wants to sit down and enjoy a bowl of soup. However, when she’s looking for something faster, it’s got to be Manu’s Bodega. “What’s really good is the yucca empanadas. They’re made by hand and the fillings rotate with the season; they have a meat and a veggie option,” she says.

If she’s grabbing something to eat for dinner on the ferry ride home:

Fuji Sushi in Japantown. If I can snag their happy hour and bring it to go with me, I’ll do that. Everything on their happy-hour menu is really good.”

When she’s in Bremerton:

“I don’t live too far from Saboteur, that is my go-to bakery over there. I fell in love with his croissants.”

When she doesn’t feel like going out:

Quibuyen also likes to cook and bake at home. Right now she’s trying to perfect her pandesal — a pillowy-soft white bread roll that she eats hot and fresh with coffee every morning when she’s visiting family in the Philippines. But when she’s looking for comfort she’ll make a pan of biko, a Filipino dessert with just four ingredients: glutinous rice, coconut milk, brown sugar and a dash of salt.

“It’s so easy to make and best made in giant batches to share. It’s comforting to eat and reminds me of family parties,” she says.

The rice is cooked and then a mixture of brown sugar and coconut milk is poured over the top like a caramel. It bakes until set and is best served warm just from the pan.

Try it. I did. It’s delicious. And hey, we could all use a little comfort in our lives right now, don’t you think?

Biko, a traditional Filipino rice dessert, is one of Janelle Quiyuben’s favorites because she says it reminds her of family parties. With just four ingredients, it’s incredibly easy to make. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)
Biko, a traditional Filipino rice dessert, is one of Janelle Quiyuben’s favorites because she says it reminds her of family parties. With just four ingredients, it’s incredibly easy to make. (Jackie Varriano / The Seattle Times)

Biko

Makes: 9 x 13 inch pan

Total time: 15-20 minutes

Ingredients:

4 cups glutinous rice

3 cans coconut milk

2 ½ cups brown sugar

1 ½ cups water

Dash salt

Butter for pan

Steps:

1. Soak rice overnight in cool water. Drain and rinse.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and generously butter pan

3. Set aside one cup coconut milk and one cup brown sugar.

4. Place rice in a pot and pour in remaining coconut milk and water. Stir continuously over medium heat until rice has soaked up nearly all the liquid. Reduce heat and add remaining brown sugar and a pinch of salt, and keep stirring until rice is cooked through.

5. Pour cooked rice mixture into the buttered pan and set aside.

6. In a small pot, pour the reserved coconut milk and brown sugar, and stir over medium heat until it comes to a boil and caramelizes slightly.

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7. Pour caramel mixture over rice, bake for one hour or until the top is thick and bubbly.

8. Cool, slice into bars and eat.

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Hood Famous Cafe + Bar: 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-midnight Friday, 10 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday; 504 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 107A, Seattle; 206-485-7049, hoodfamousbakeshop.com

Sunset Cafe: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily; 8115 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; 206-722-0342

Thanh Thao: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; 6012 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S., Seattle; 206-725-5278

Mike’s Noodle House: 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday- Saturday; 418 Maynard Ave. S., Seattle; 206-389-7099

Manu’s Bodega: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday; 100 Prefontaine Place S., Seattle; 206-682-2175, manusbodega.com

Fuji Sushi: 4-9:30 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturday; 520 S. Main St., Seattle; 206-624-1201, fujisushiseattle.com

Saboteur Bakery: 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Sunday; 2110 E. 11th St., Bremerton; 360-627-7869, saboteurbakery.com