Growing up in Hawai‘i, I wouldn’t say we’re a bagel culture.
Sure, there’s This Is It in Kaka‘ako and Lox of Bagels in Kalihi. But by and large, we’re not like some cities on the Mainland — often near Jewish neighborhoods — where bagels are like glazed donuts or malasadas here. Every bakery makes ‘em — and some are better than others.
That was never more evident than when I lived in Chicago. Bagels and schmear (Yiddish for “cheese” and refers to whatever you spread on a bagel) was my go-to breakfast. Baked fresh at a shop near my apartment, these bagels were fluffy and dense at the same time. I had never had anything like it before.
And I’ve been a bagel dreamer ever since.
So when I got a phone call from Melanie Kosaka of CookSpace Hawai‘i, telling me that New York-based chef Dianna Daoheung of the renowned Black Seed Bagels — it’s literally got a cult following — was coming to Honolulu to offer two master bagel-making classes, I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Not that I wanted to learn how to make bagels. I mean, sure, that’s interesting. But I was going to be able to eat one of her hand-rolled, wood-fired bagels — a Montreal style — so famous and sought-after there are still lines forming outside the Nolita bakery. (Here’s a peek at last year’s menu.)
“We are super surprised and continue to be flattered by people’s reaction,” Daoheung says. “It’s been an amazing year for us. To be recognized for something so iconic is amazing because there are so many opinions and when the majority of them are positive, it’s a great feeling.”
Daoheung, a first-generation Laotian-Thai American, garnered her skills and love for cooking at home, being forced to prep and assist her mom in the kitchen. After graduating from college with a degree in social behaviors and business management, she moved to New York City to work in advertising. That lasted about four years before Daoheung was back in the kitchen, doing what she loved.
She studied at the French Culinary Institute in Pastry Arts, worked as a line cook, dabbled in pastry in San Francisco, and worked as a sous chef in Brooklyn. But it wasn’t until Black Seed Bagels started that Daoheung found her calling: bread.
And now she’s sharing what she’s learned — including the hand-rolling technique that makes Black Seed Bagels so unique — with avid bakers in Honolulu with two classes on Saturday, Feb. 28 at CookSpace at Ward Warehouse. (Both of her classes are already sold out.)
We caught up with Daoheung, en route to Honolulu, to find out what makes Black Seed’s bagels so awesome and what she’s planning to do while she’s here.
1. What’s a Montreal bagel, exactly?
The best way to answer this question is with a comparison. The Montreal bagel is different than a New York bagel because of the following: it’s smaller in size, denser, sweeter, cooked in honey water, and made in a wood oven.
2. How difficult is it to create the perfect bagel?
It’s not difficult as long as you know the basic principles of bread-making. Also, everyone has an idea of what a perfect bagel is and it may not be what the person next to you thinks is a perfect bagel. So if you know how to adjust the water, the yeast and the cooking method, you can make your perfect bagel.
3. What is it about the bagel, anyway? What does it have such staying power?
The bagel has been around forever and is such a nostalgic food for many. It’s also a food that is affordable for the masses and is a versatile product that can satisfy almost any craving — sweet, savory, salty.
4. What’s your favorite kind of bagel?
My favorite kind is the plain bagel. Yes, it sound boring at first, but this is the only bagel where you get to taste the depth of the dough’s flavor. When you cover up the dough with seeds, you get mainly the taste of the seeds. I literally eat a plain bagel every day to make sure the dough is spot on.
5. First time to O‘ahu? What are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in town?
I have never been and I’m so excited to bring our bagels to you guys. I’m extremely excited to eat the local foods and see the nature that O‘ahu has to offer.
For more information about the classes, visit CookSpace Hawai‘i or call (808) 695-2205. Follow Daoheung on Instagram @dough_eung.