17 Editor-Loved Food Brands to Shop AAPI Heritage Month – Food & Wine
Being from a place that is celebrated and known for its culinary traditions, I intrinsically link my Taiwanese identity to the concept of food. Sights, smells, tastes, and the texture of beef noodle soups, lu rou fan, pineapple cakes, oyster vermicelli noodles, and aiyu jelly rush to the forefront of my mind when I'm homesick, when I'm happy, when I'm sad, when I'm simply existing. It's an innate part of me, as closely held to my Taiwanese heart as the way my mother expresses her care for me by asking "Have you eaten?" every time I step through the Taoyuan airport security checkpoint after a long time away from home.
I'm sure I'm not alone: The Asian diaspora is so closely tied and revered for its food that it's impossible not to think of lamb biryani, nasi lemak, oyako don, har gow, haemul pajeon, tahdig, boba, roast duck, bánh mì, and countless more iconic dishes every time Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is observed in May. The ubiquity and influence of Asian culture on the history of food in the United States can never be understated, and AAPI Heritage Month is the perfect time to spotlight the traditions, people, literature, and more that shape Asian American identity through this communal love for good food.
As a lifestyle shopping writer whose job is to learn about and highlight products and brands, I've been fortunate enough to interact with many fantastic Asian-owned food, drink, and kitchen brands over the years. They're the first I think of when I need a new jar of honey, a few bags of snacks for when friends swing by, and cans of refreshing spritzers for hot, humid days. Some of them work with organizations like Stop AAPI Hate, Welcome to Chinatown, and Heart of Dinner that champion and serve our community—efforts that are more pressing than ever with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes by 339% in the United States and discrimination as a result of xenophobia flamed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Related: Asian American Business Owners Launch Campaign in Response to Surging Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
AAPI Heritage Month might seem like the perfect time to support these Asian-owned food, home decor, and kitchen brands, but it will be even better to shop them year-round like I do. They're more than worth your attention for kitchen staples and more. You'll find Food & Wine editor favorites like Fly By Jing, Material Kitchen, Our Place, and a few fresh brands such as Dear Bella Creamery and Bowlcut.
Keep reading below for the 17 food brands that are worth shopping year-round per this lifestyle writer, arranged in alphabetical order.
When international travel all but became impossible during the coronavirus pandemic, I found myself craving freeze-dried strawberries covered in white chocolate and seaweed senbei that I could only find in Japan. Thankfully, there was Bokksu, the second best thing to actually making the long plane ride to Japan. The company founded by Danny Taing delivers subscription boxes full of snacks created specifically for Bokksu, as well as artisan desserts and teas made locally in Japan. The brand has also launched in recent years a marketplace for stocking up on snacks you’d find in each box, as well as an online grocery store that has an AAPI Heritage Month destination.
What to buy: Bokksu Japanese Snacks Subscription Box, From $40 at bokksu.com
« Our parents cooked so that we could realize our dream, » says this new condiment brand on its website. As children of immigrants who ran Chinese restaurants in small towns, Crystal Ung, Adrian Ng, and Will Kang wanted to create a food brand in the height of the coronavirus pandemic dedicated to the flavors they grew up eating. Their star product is the small batch-made Char Siu sauce, which makes creating this finger-licking, sweet yet savory flavor iconic to any Chinese American restaurant all the easier to accomplish at home; just drop dollops on your pork tenderloin or chicken. Don’t miss the Chili Crisp, either—or better yet, grab both in a duo set.
What to buy: Char Siu BBQ Sauce, $14 at thebowlcut.com
The California-based olive oil company by Aishwarya Iyer has the approval of celebrities like Jessica Alba as well as Food & Wine editors, but its foray into vinegars and honeys are just as noteworthy. If you have yet to try it, start with the Luminous Capsule that combines the brightest flavors of the brand and will remind you of a sunny day on California’s Highway 1. You’ll find its Awake extra virgin olive oil that goes with just about anything, the Parasol champagne vinegar you’ll love on salads, its California Orange Blossom Honey that goes perfectly with tea, and its brushed gold stainless steel spout for a dripless smooth pour.
What to buy: The Luminous Capsule, $88 at brightland.co
With flavors Taiwanese pineapple cake and mango sticky rice, Dear Bella Creamery by Alice Cherng and Belinda Wei infuses traditional vegan ice cream with flavors from their childhood. They’re proving that plant-based frozen desserts don’t need to mean boring, basic flavors—quite the opposite. The Los Angeles-based company also created a limited-edition AAPI Heritage Month bundle, and will have a collaboration coming in June with Brightland.
What to buy: Pick Your Pints Pack, $65 at dearbellacreamery.com
Whenever I need to gift chocolates for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, or for a just-because occasion, Deux Cranes is my first choice. The Los Gatos, California-based brand is known for its impeccably stylish packaging, a reflection of Co-Founder Ayaka B. Ito’s creative designer background. That doesn’t mean it’s all style over substance: Under the hands of Michiko Marron-Kibbey, the chocolates are smooth, sweet but not sickly so, and pays homage to her fourth generation Japanese American background. Start with the Flavors of Japan Care Package bundle, which includes the brand’s Dark Chocolate and Miso Almond Bar, Matcha and Caramelized Sesame Bar, and Milk Chocolate with Buckwheat, Sesame, and Ginger Bar.
What to buy: Flavors of Japan Care Package, $35 at deuxcranes.com
I’ve sung praises for Fly By Jing’s famous Chili Crisp before (and I’ll never stop), but its launch last fall of Pork Xiao Long Bao is just as worth the attention. I never believed that frozen soup dumplings could be as good as those I grew up eating at Din Tai Fung in Taipei, but these come extremely close. They’re juicy and plump, with plenty of the rich broth flavors I’d be lucky to find in even the best Chinese restaurants in New York City. These dumplings are the first I’d pull out if I wanted to impress my family—just remember to eat it carefully with a spoon, unless you want to find splatters and bursts of broth on your shirt.
What to buy: Pork Xiao Long Bao, $40 at flybyjing.com
Made in Chinatown was created by Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots organization based in New York City founded by Victoria Lee and Jennifer Tam during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Xenophobic rhetoric and racist connotations significantly impacted small businesses and restaurants at the heart of New York City’s Chinatown from the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, so Tam and Lee started fundraising initiatives such as the Longevity Fund and Made in Chinatown to give back to their community. On the latter’s site, you’ll find kitchenware, tees, and totes designed by local artists that benefit restaurants in New York City. All proceeds go to the restaurants and local businesses they’re inspired by, including the iconic Jing Fung, Wing on Wo & Co., Hop Lee, and more. For AAPI Heritage Month, pick up the special Somebody in Chinatown Loves Me Tee, whose proceeds will go to the Longevity Fund.
What to buy: Somebody in Chinatown Loves Me Tee, $35 at madeinchinatownny.com
Already an Oprah-favorite, this New York City-based bakery founded by Umber Ahmad is known for its aptly named Heavenly Cheesecake, decadent chocolate chip cookies, and buttery croissants. Yet having tried nearly everything on the menu through many trips down to its bakery in the West Village, it’s the Chocolate Chip Cream Scones I find hardest to resist every time. It’s pillowy soft, never dry, and so flaky that the next best thing is to pair it with a cup of coffee.
What to buy: Chocolate Chip Cream Scones, $36 at mahzedahrbakery.com
With approval by Oprah as well as Food & Wine‘s Senior Editor Katie Macdonald, Material Kitchen by Eunice Byun and Dave Nguyen consistently gets rave reviews for its stylish yet incredibly practical kitchen tools and ceramic dinnerware. Sure, blates might be taking over TikTok, but Material Kitchen’s new Breakfast Bowls deserve just as much attention. Made with natural clay by SoilBaker from Korea, the Breakfast Bowl is deep enough for your daily yogurt, wide enough to double as a dessert bowl at night, and gorgeous enough to get your compliments from friends who stop by for a meal.
What to buy: The Breakfast Bowl, $50 at materialkitchen.com
I’ve long heard of (and was a little skeptical of) the tech-forward Oishii, known for its Omakase « Tesla of strawberries, » but it wasn’t until I tasted it did I understand what the hype was all about. Co-founded by CEO Hiroki Koga, Oishii’s famous strawberries are so fragrant that just putting it in my fridge made my entire studio apartment smell like a strawberry farm—in the best way. The berries, grown in vertical farms and monitored by robots to reach their sweetest, most gorgeous potential, are so smooth that they almost have a creamy texture with a flavor that slowly permeates throughout your mouth with the first bite. You’ll want to savor every last bit of these $50 strawberries, to say the least.
What to buy: The Omakase Berry, $50 at oishii.com
Our Place took over the DTC kitchenware space with its Instagram-famous, pastel-colored Always Pan that combined eight cooking functions into one incredibly photogenic pan; it has racked up 30,000-person waitlists since launching in 2019. Since then, the brand by Amir Tehrani and Shiza Shahid has launched the Perfect Pot, alongside dozens of accessories including the Flipping Platter and Fry Deck that will streamline so many steps in your cooking process. Its latest high-profile collaboration with Selena Gomez will surely make the company even more of a household name.
What to buy: Home Cook Duo, $250 (originally $310) at fromourplace.com
As the first Chinese American department store in the world, Pearl River Mart by founders Ming Yi and Ching Yeh Chen is the decades-old beloved institution in New York City’s Chinatown that many visit for its collection of porcelain dinnerware, pantry essentials, home decor, and more. Its story is one of resilience so familiar amongst many immigrant-founded stores: It faced fivefold rent hikes, five location changes, and of course the shutdown of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet Pearl River Mart is looking to the future, bringing its blue tableware, snacks, ceramic teacups, home decor, and more kitchen essentials online with its e-commerce platform. Want to pick up something new for your home? This dishwasher-safe Blue & White Teacup Set is made for a slow afternoon sipping on a nice oolong and will look great on any coffee table.
What to buy: Blue & White Teacup Set, $27 at pearlrivermart.com
If you’re on the fence about trying Sanzo after spotting it at your local supermarket, take the leap now. The brand’s refreshing sparkling water is my absolute favorite drink for cooling down on a sunny day, or just to use as a mixer for a dinnertime cocktail. The calamansi flavor was my go-to for years until Sanzo outdid itself with its new Yuzu sparkling water that comes with a hint of ginger. It smells so bright and crisp, that cracking open a can in my kitchen is my form of aromatherapy.
What to buy: Yuzu Sparkling Water 12-Pack, $30 at drinksanzo.com or amazon.com
North Carolina chef and five-time James Beard nominee Meherwan Irani’s spice brand Spicewalla is a favorite of mine for fresh spices that look great on my kitchen counter. Sure, spices might seem like just spices to many, but Spicewalla’s small batch-sourced spices are fresh, fragrant, and add punches of flavor to any dish. I love topping off my homemade cardamom bread with the company’s Cardamom Sugar, but for the summer, I can’t think of a better set than the Grill Lovers Collection that comes with everything you need to spice up (literally) your meats and vegetables.
What to buy: Grill Lovers Collection, $19 at spicewallabrand.com
Amidst the hustle and bustle of New York City, Té Company is like a calming hideaway, a sanctuary you can escape to in the middle of West Village on a busy Saturday afternoon. The company by Elena Liao sources its high-quality oolongs, jade rouges, and more tea directly from Taiwanese farmers, and impressively, even sells the elusive Maqaw pepper local Taiwanese would only be able to find in the central mountain ranges. As much as I love Té Company as my go-to for teas, it’s the company’s Pineapple Linzer that I always think of first when I want to bring a gift to a friend. Thankfully, you can combine the best of both worlds with Té Company’s Choicest Tea & Biscuits Set that comes with a box of its Oriental Beauty loose leaf tea and a box of its pineapple linzer cookies.
What to buy: Choicest Tea & Biscuits Set, $62 at tecompanytea.com
When I was studying at boarding school in California, all I looked forward to was when family friends would pick me up and take me to Asian supermarkets in San Jose during long weekend breaks. There, I’d stock up on all the Pocky boxes, instant noodles, and Calpico drinks that would see me through the semester. 15-year-old me would be crying tears of joy to hear about Umamicart, the online grocery store launched last year by Andrea Xu that delivers fresh Asian ingredients like Nappa cabbage, leafy pea snow pea shoots, and thinly sliced pork belly for hot pot, plus pantry staples such as instant Shin Ramen, Yakult yogurt drinks, Calbee potato chips, and shrimp crackers straight to your doorstep. The company also launched an AAPI Heritage Month bundle with sesame oils, Fly By Jing’s Chili Crisp, Omsom’s Southeast Asian Starters, Japanese-style tea cups, a bento box, and more; Umamicart will also donate two pounds of fresh food to Heart of Dinner for each purchase of the bundle.
What to buy: AAPIHM Umamicart Pantry Premium Kit, $115 (originally $128) at umamicart.com
Founded by Lisa Cheng Smith, Ivan Wu, and Lillian Lin, Yun Hai is my go-to direct-to-consumer shop anytime I need a new bottle of soy sauce, a jar of sesame paste, or a specialty pantry essentials like plum powder and aiyu jelly seeds that would be almost impossible to find online. The brand has shown how soy sauce can be an artform that’s worth your time delving into as much as wine (I dare you not to fall down the rabbit hole of fermentation time and the intricacies of vats), but it’s really the brand’s recent expansion into dried fruit that had me jumping with joy. Taiwanese dried fruit has long been my favorite snack that I shake at in disbelief for how little people know about it, and Yun Hai’s bags of dried mangoes, guava, and pineapple are impossible to resist. Trust me, you’ll want to stock up with multiple bags—I finished an entire pack just in one sitting without even realizing.
What to buy: Yun Hai Selection Dried Pearl Guava, From $10 at yunhai.shop