Those of you who might be looking for cooking shortcuts right now, might be interested to learn of a new Southeast Asian pantry goods company by the name of Omsom. Officially launching in New York today, the products are a collaboration with some of our favorite Southeast Asian restaurants.
While you can't dine-in at restaurants these days, Omsom attempts to recreate that IRL magic accessible at home. Working with chefs from notable NYC restaurants such as Jeepney, Fish Cheeks (which also happens to be a Time Out Market New York vendor) and Madame Vo, the curated kits come with pre-distributed packaged seasoning and sauces to help you elevate your home cooking in a pinch, alongside recipe cards for further instructions. Each kit focuses on flavors needed to complete signature dishes from the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, such as larb, a Thai meat-centric salad. The point is to introduce consumers to dishes that are lesser known in America rather than, say, pad Thai, which has been afforded more notoriety. A commission of each sale will go back to the participating chefs.
Co-founders and sisters Kim and Vanessa Pham started their company long before the pandemic, but in an era in which diners are cooking at home more than ever, Omsom's products are especially useful.
“There’s also almost an activism to the brand: to be actually able to feed someone can create a more meaningful connection across different communities,” says Kim in an interview with Time Out New York. “We definitely want to bring joy in a time that’s difficult for many folks and give them a connection to their families and home as well as offer a way to try something new for others.”
“Kim and I did a ton of research and found that people lacked confidence in the kitchen. And even if they were of Asian descent, it was hard for them to recreate the dishes they grew up with, without having access to hard-to-find ingredients,” says Vanessa. “We don’t want to be one part of someone’s meal, we want to be the whole flavor driver.”
With Omsom, there’s a strong focus on restaurant-quality sourcing, meaning you won't be getting that same old spices you might find in your corner store. In an era in which getting top-notch ingredients from the supply chain has proven to be difficult for customers waiting with bated breath for grocery delivery slots, Omsom not only provides a way to get those ingredients but also demonstrates the capacity for new dimensions of flavor.
“[Even before all of this happened] it’s really hard to source the right ingredients, such as our Thai dried chili, because they’re not really being imported at scale. Our chilis are very aromatic and fresh and different from chilis from other parts of Asia. Our lemongrass has a completely different flavor than what people might be used to,” says Kim.
What also sets Omsom apart is its colorful, playful branding that packs a deeper meaning. Frustrated with the ways in which supermarkets have long pushed Asian pantry staples to the “ethnic aisle,” the team sees Omsom as a way to “decolonize” supermarket shelves by bringing a modern perspective; the company doesn’t rely on "cliches like pandas and bamboo" in its branding.
“Our name Omsom, is rooted in a Vietnamese phrase, which translates to mean rowdy, riotous, rambunctious,” says Kim. Their parents often used it when they were growing up and getting scolded for doing something naughty. “If we say proud and loud in our name, it better show our packaging, too. We're not submissive.”
“We’re really passionate about honoring and celebrating food traditions and that’s why we seek to amplify Asian cultures,” says Vanessa. It’s clear these line of flavor packets are just one part of the overall goal. The team tells us they have plans in the works to roll out shortcuts for Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes as well.
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