EVERETT — There wasn’t a single free parking spot on a recent Saturday morning at Everett’s Beverly Food Truck Park. More than 40 people had lined up on the gravel lot by 11 a.m., all waiting for the grand opening of GoodBelly LLC.
Customers on Jan. 28 bought malasadas, a Portuguese confection similar to doughnuts, prepared fresh by owner Sreylish “Alice” Tum from inside her brand-new food trailer. The sugar-covered, cream-filled fried dough was cooked on the spot and served up in pink boxes.
Tum, 28, of Everett, first became infatuated with the Portuguese confection after vacationing in Hawaii. Malasadas are popular on the islands and are served piping hot from Leonard’s Bakery, a famous shop in Honolulu. One bite and Tum was hooked.
“It’s quite soft and pillowy compared to a donut,” she said. “I just love them.”
A few years ago Tum searched far and wide in Washington for malasadas just as good as the ones she tried, but was left unsatisfied. So she learned to make her own. She said it was always her dream to one day own a business — just like her parents, who ran a furniture store. But she never knew what kind of business until discovering her passion for malasadas.
Tum started out small in 2021 by selling her goodies on social media. Sales quickly took off. A year later The Daily Herald featured Tum in an article on online food businesses in Snohomish County. Tum always wanted to grow her business, and after years of saving, she finally set sights on her newly constructed trailer.
“When I went to pick it up, it’s like, oh my god, it’s there,” Tum said. “I don’t know how to describe it, just disbelief. It feels amazing though, because it finally happened.”
The journey that led Tum to that moment started thousands of miles away overseas. Tum was born and raised in Cambodia. At 19, she moved to Nevada after receiving a diversity immigrant visa, a lottery program that offers green cards to 55,000 people annually from countries with low immigration rates to the United States.
She describes the move in one word: “challenging.” In the U.S., Tum had no family and no friends, and had to adjust to a new language and climate. Three weeks after the move, she got her first job at a Texas doughnut shop.
For the next two years she worked 10 to 12 hour days, seven days a week. Tum relocated to Washington in 2015 to attend Edmonds College. She graduated in 2018, majoring in business, and became a U.S. citizen a year later.
Malasadas didn’t enter the picture until Tum visited Hawaii in 2018. She was in awe of the Aloha State because it reminded her of Cambodia, and considered moving there. It was during that first trip she fell in love with freshly baked malasadas.
“I was blown away,” she said. “I was like, oh my god, this is so good.”
In 2021, Tum wanted a change of pace. Amid the pandemic, she quit her retail job and applied for part-time work at Ryan’s REZ-ipes Food Truck. Owner Ryan Gobin said he was impressed by Tum when they first met.
“I remember asking her, ‘Do you think you could keep up?’ And she goes ‘I can keep up with anything.’ She’s very, very driven,” Gobin said. “She’s very efficient at everything she does. And when she has her mind set on something, she will not veer from it at all.”
Tum worked for Gobin for a year and developed an appreciation for the food truck way of life. At that time Tum began experimenting with malasadas as Gobin worked on his fry bread, which he said are similar minus a few key ingredients. The two bounced ideas off each other as they perfected their recipes.
“She cracks so many friggin’ eggs,” Gobin said. “I’ve seen how she does it, and it’s a lot of work.”
At first, Tum sold her malasadas on Facebook Marketplace, which caught the attention of Robert Nakihei Jr., the owner of Bobby’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Lynnwood. He reached out to collaborate. Tum sold her doughnuts at his restaurant for three months.
“Instantly, it was a hit,” Nakihei Jr. said. They sold 10 to 15 boxes a day.
Nakihei Jr., who was born in Hawaii, said they’re the best malasadas he’s tasted in Washington. It’s the only thing that’s satisfied his craving for Leonard’s Bakery.
“I promise you, you can put six of her doughnuts in a box, six of (Leonard’s) doughnuts in the box, and you will not be able to tell who’s is whose,” Nakihei Jr. said.
Now with the trailer finally in hand, Tum has a place of her own to sell her treats. She is searching for a regular spot to park and set up shop. For the moment she’s booking gigs through the Washington State Food Truck Association. People can follow her on streetfoodfinder.com and Facebook.
The trailer isn’t the final destination for Tum, only the latest stop. She wants to one day open a brick-and-mortar bakery and operate a second food truck specializing in Asian street food. Tum is pursuing her dream and encourages others to do the same.
“If you have what it takes to start a business, don’t be afraid,” she said. “You should go for it.”
Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; email@example.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.
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