At Smorgasburg Los Angeles, the staple foodie festival in Southern California, the Ensaymada Project’s big, yellow logo banner stands towers above all the other tents - but that’s not why they’re hard to ignore. The business has caught the attention of numerous media outlets, from the Los Angeles Times to OC Weekly, and for good reason: their take on the traditional Filipino ensaymada stays true to the classic Filipino dessert while putting a fresh spin on it.
FPAC had the opportunity to talk with Chari, founder of the Ensaymada Project, about the business’s origins, the meaning behind #butterbuns, and why EP is excited for #FPAC25.
How did you come up with the idea of the Ensaymada Project?
We usually know that it's just cheese, and you want something homemade because Ensaymadas are always homemade. So we created it. And the reason why it’s called the Ensaymada Project is because it’s always evolving - there’s always something new. It’s ongoing.
Was ensaymada something you made often before you started EP?
It’s something we made every Christmas. It’s a very tedious task, not something I can make everyday and it was a lot of preparations and I really don’t know how it became a staple everyday - it’s just a lot of work, year round.
How do you come up with all the flavors?
You wanna keep it as a traditional as possible. You don’t wanna veer away too much. I always say, it’s still 80% Ensaymada. When you bite into it, you know the distinct taste of the yeast - but then there’s a bit of a twist to it, a light flavor. I say 80% because it’s 20% different and it’s not overpowering or too sweet. [People] always buy a dozen, and if you turn them off with something too sweet, they’ll never move by the dozen. But they do move by the dozens.
You’ve been getting a lot of media attention! How does it feel?
It’s so surreal. I never thought it would go this big - I was always hidden in the house, and people would come find me. I always wonder, How do you find me? I know it’s social media now. The power of tagging and hashtags.
So is the official hashtag, #butterbuns?
Actually, it started off [like that]. It’s very hard to introduce the word "ensaymada” so we used “butter bun" first. And... people got used to it, because it’s self-explanatory: What is an Ensaymada? It’s a butter bun! And then we gradually moved back to the original [word "ensaymada"].
What are you excited about for FPAC?
I’ve never been there! And you know, I wanna see the faces and reactions of people when they see that there’s something more than the cheese ensaymada. And I’m going to create some surprises - introduce new flavors - and I hope you guys are just as welcoming!