Kat Lieu started the Subtle Asian Baking Facebook group with a few of her close friends while stuck indoors in Seattle at the start of the pandemic. At the time, she was working as a physical therapist and, like many other Americans, used baking as a way to unwind during a stressful time. she wanted to connect with other like-minded home bakers safely, online.
The Facebook group, where bakers shared Asian baking recipes, grew rapidly, reaching more than 60,000 members by the end of 2020. Exhausted from working in healthcare, Lieu quit her job and moved on. is devoted to Subtle Asian Baking and launched a popular Instagram page. and TikTok account.
But when rates of anti-Asian hate crimes began to rise in 2020 and 2021, particularly after the March 2021 shootings of Asian women at Atlanta spas, Liu was afraid to move alone to Seattle, fearing to be the next victim. anti-Asian racism. Her Asian friends in New York were also afraid to go out, especially in Chinatown, where many hate crimes occurred. So she decided to use her now powerful platform to bring about a change.
Lieu rallied its online community to do bake sales around the world, raising $10,000 for the New York City Chinatown Welcome to Chinatown organization, which used the money to provide 1,000 hot meals to people in dire straits. food insecurity in the region, and $5,000 for Double Crispy Bakery, a struggling Asian business in New York. This year, she’s donating to the Very Asian Foundation and Heart of Dinner (an organization that feeds food-insecure Asian seniors in New York City) with another online fundraiser running until the end of May, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. . She says the community now has 300,000 subscribers and members across all platforms; she hopes to raise at least $10,000 with this year’s fundraiser.
“Since I started Subtle Asian Baking, I work from the time I wake up until the time I fall asleep,” says Lieu. “We are doing everything we can.” Lieu says she decided to do another fundraiser this year when she received dozens of racist comments on TikTok videos and Instagram reels and Asian women, like Michele Go and Christina Yuna Lee, continued to be murdered.
Place was also inspired by former King 5 presenter Michelle Li, who received national media coverage and a spot on The Ellen DeGeneres Show when a caller left a voicemail saying she was “very Asian” and “kept her Korean to herself”, after Li talked about eating dumplings in a TV segment on a St. Louis, Missouri, on Traditional New Year’s Foods. After posting a video about the experience on social media, Li and #veryasian became a phenomenon. When DeGeneres gave Li $15,000 on the show, Li used the money to start the Very Asian Foundation.
The foundation currently supports Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities by donating funds to existing organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate and the Asian American Journalists Association, though it hopes to create its own grants and scholarships soon. It also sells “very Asian” branded products, which have become extremely popular. Li says she hopes to soon use the foundation to help AAPI businesses and organizations in Seattle, the city she still calls home, even though she moved to St. Louis during the pandemic.
Lieu connected with Li on Instagram as the #veryasian movement gained traction, and the two hit it off. Li says she immediately resonated with Subtle Asian Baking because she always uses Asian ingredients in her cooking, like adding rice cakes to macaroni and cheese, and she loved the group’s supportive nature.
“I always add that Asian subtlety to my life,” Li says. As a transracial adoptee, she also appreciates Lieu’s belief that all Asian Americans “can be subtly Asian and very Asian at the same time. “.
Although Subtle Asian Baking is a global network, many of its members live in the Seattle area. Leann Dang, for example, met Lieu in April last year and baked macaroons in the shape of cute anime characters and animals for the Welcome to Chinatown fundraiser. Dang started cooking in May 2020 and quickly built a following on Instagram (which gave him the opportunity to pop-up at Seattle-area businesses like Ironsteak in the Chinatown-International District).
Beyond the money raised from these fundraisers, Dang thinks they are important for the visibility they bring to the Asian community. “We shouldn’t be silent,” Dang said. “It’s really important that people know what we believe in and what’s important to us.” She will also be participating in this year’s fundraiser, with details to come on her Instagram. Oh… macaroons, a pop-up bakery based in Bothell, is also donating to the cause.
Lieu bakes Japanese and Basque cheesecakes to raise money for the Renton-area pickup fundraiser, while finishing the keys to her book, Modern Asian Baking, which is slated for release in June (she’s donating all net profits from pre-orders to organizations helping Ukrainian citizens this month and part of pre-orders thereafter), and raising her son. She plans to continue working to support AAPI causes and hopes to soon begin partnering with businesses and organizations in the Seattle area.
“You still want to fight that,” Lieu says. “I don’t want my son to experience this kind of hate and racism.”