Hopia Like It: A Fresh Take On Filipino Bakery Treats

Hopia Like It is the name of a pun-loving bakery-cafe in Granada Hills, which also conveys the earnest aspiration of its owners, who “hope-ya” will like their new take on Filipino dishes and desserts, especially the hopia.

Often compared to Chinese mooncakes, these pressed pastry balls feature a thin, flaky outer crust packed with soft fillings, most commonly filled with sweet bean paste. Hopia Like It currently offers 9 flavors of handmade hopia, including traditional red bean, yellow mungo (mung bean), and ube flavors. Several contain custardy fillings made with real pureed fruit, such as pineapple or guava.

Hopia Like It - Ube Hopia - Foodzooka Splat (2)
photo: Foodzooka

“Filipino bakeries have started to get into the mainstream with fusion foods like ice cream with ube, but not with hopia at all,” said James Mercado, whose family opened Hopia Like It in 2015 as an extension of the Kalesa Grill Filipino restaurant his parents and aunt started 20 years ago. “We’re really excited to see how people will receive what we’re putting out there.”

Normally, all flavors of hopia share a uniformly golden surface resembling small biscuits. But at Hopia Like It, more colorful shades of hopia crust hint at different flavors inside. The ube is purple, the buko (coconut) with pandan leaf extract is green, mango-peach is yellow, and guava is pink. Chocolate sprinkles identify the ones with Nutella inside.

Hopia Like It - Bakery - Foodzooka Splat
photo: Foodzooka

Baboy is the one savory hopia option filled with a unique paste made of sweet onions and peanuts. In the Philippines, traditional hopia baboy gets its name from infusing the fillings with pork fat for flavor (“baboy” means pork), though there is no pork meat in the hopia.

Considering that the outer pastry shells are only a few millimeters thick, it’s almost inconceivable that they could hold soft fillings inside and retain such a light, flaky crispness without crumbling apart. “The difference with it is true flakiness,” said James. “That’s exactly what we pride ourselves on around here—is that it’s handmade.”

It’s a puff pastry feat that takes effort to achieve, repeatedly folding and rolling out layers of laminated (buttered) dough. Once the dough is filled, the top is brushed with an egg wash, adding some shine to its golden baked surface.

Hopia Like It - Hopia - Foodzooka Splat
photo: Foodzooka

Perhaps because they’re not so easy to make or find in the US, hopia is often enjoyed as a treat for special occasions. “It’s very common for Filipinos to give hopia as a present when you’re going to events, going to someone’s party, or even just to go visit a friend,” James explained. “It’s just like a gift basket or a gift box of chocolates.”

Being located in a commercial strip on Chatsworth Blvd, Hopia Like It benefits from nearby traffic as well as from the heavily attended Friday night food truck gathering called Grubfest. For new customers who aren’t familiar with hopia, the bakery offers free samples.

“There’s a whole difference between being able to explain it in my words and you tasting it and experiencing it on your own,” James said.

Hopia Like It - Empanadas
photo: Hopia Like It (Empanadas)

If you like the hopia, James suggests trying the chicken empanadas for a more substantial snack. The empanadas use the same flaky crust as the hopia, wrapped around a mix of chicken, potatoes, and raisins. Besides the hopia, the bakery’s best seller is the pandesal, a common Filipino bread roll covered in bread crumbs. The bread menu also includes cheese pandesal, cheese rolls, and freshly made Spanish bread.

“People come in just to get that because it can be used for sandwich bread,” said James.

Throughout the bakery, you’ll find other intriguing snack-sized pastries and a variety of full-sized desserts lining refrigerated cases. Two particularly eye-catching cakes include a pillowy roll of puffy meringue and custard called brazo de mercedes, and the dazzling purple sapin sapin, which is a layered sticky cake made from rice flour and coconut milk with fried coconut shreds decorating the ube-flavored top layer.

Hopia Like It - Brazo de Mercedes - Foodzooka Splat
photo: Foodzooka (Brazo de Mercedes)

Having initially incubated Hopia Like It as a bakery inside their Kalesa Grill restaurant in Winnetka, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Granada Hills bakery location also offers a selection of other Filipino foods for breakfast and lunch. The all-day breakfast menu at Hopia Like It includes a selection of traditional sweet and tangy marinated beef, pork, or fish offerings, paired with fragrant fried rice and eggs.

A signature Filipino pork dish offered at Hopia Like It is called Cebuchon. The Philippine island of Cebu is famous for its lechon, which is a whole pig roasted and basted on a rotating spit. Cebuchon is a simpler, boneless variation made with a rolled log of pork belly stuffed with spices and cooked for 4 hours, similar to an Italian porchetta.

Hopia Like It - Cebuchon - Foodzooka Splat
photo: Foodzooka (Cebuchon)

“Lately, it’s been all about the boneless pork belly,” said James. “You don’t see the pig head, you don’t see the tail, you don’t see the apple in its mouth.”

The slow-cooked dish is memorable for its shiny caramel-colored skin that cracks like a thick candy shell that separates easily from the meat. At the bakery you can enjoy Cebuchon plated over rice or on tacos, or you can order larger portions by the pound. Half or whole rolls (8 to 12 lbs) are also available for large parties.

Among the menu’s other Pinoy greatest hits are inasal chicken (roasted chicken), palabok (pancit noodles), lumpia (egg rolls), dinuguan (pork blood stew), and Filipino-style spaghetti.

For a refreshing cold dessert or snack, you can also try their halo-halo shaved snow options. The Classic version is topped with red and white sweet beans, cream corn, and flan. On the trendier side are the Ooh Bae Be ube-flavored ice, or the Vanilla Dream ice with graham crackers, chocolate, and caramel.

photo: Hopia Like It (Halo-Halo)

If you visit the Winnetka location of Hopia Like It inside Kalesa Grill, you’ll find several similar items in the bakery, while the lunch dishes are offered in a cafeteria-style setting. Both locations are run by members of James’ extended family, including Gerry and Anette Mercado, Susana Puyot, and John Sayno, whose training from Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena influences the still-evolving menu at Hopia Like It.

By opening the Granada Hills location as a standalone bakery, Hopia Like It invites customers to experience the charm of the Filipino community and its cuisine, starting with dessert, in a manner befitting of its name.

“It adopts this kind of punny, Filipino persona. It’s likeable, welcoming, very hospitable,” said James. “That’s what we think meshes really well with American culture.”

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Hopia Like It - Granada Hills - Foodzooka
photo: Foodzooka