Kitchen & Cooking

I tried the sauce kit that's all over Instagram—here's how it went

Omsom’s Asian cooking staples are packed with flavors.

Omsom Asian cooking starter kits are a convenient way to cook the dishes I’m familiar with and some that I’m not. Credit: Omsom / Jenny Huang

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Ordering delivery can be a fine alternative to indoor dining, but there are dishes that have strict requirements on serving temperature and vessels—like sizzling sisig, a Filipino dish that I love. As the name suggests, this dish is served sizzling hot right off the grill, which is simply impossible with takeout.

However, cooking this dish from scratch is challenging—most of my condiments lean Chinese, Japanese, and European, and the ingredients this dish calls for are hard to find in the grocery store near me. Then I discovered Omsom, a pantry brand that focuses on all things Asian.

What is Omsom?

What is Omsom?
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

We got the Omsom bundle to try out.

If you’ve ever been to an Asian grocery store in hopes of completing a lengthy shopping list for a complex recipe you’re ambitiously attempting, you know what it’s like: The recipe asks for fish sauce, but the store probably carries at least 10 different types of fish sauce, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Then you start to get frustrated because you aren’t sure which brand to get, and this is only one of the items on your long list.

Omsom is a pantry brand founded by Vietnamese-American sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham in New York City. This product is your friend who does the tedious pantry shopping for you when you want to recreate the delicious dishes from Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and other Asian restaurants in your own kitchen.

Each sauce comes with a cooking guide, featuring detailed, step-by-step instructions about how to cook the dish that the sauce is named after. This guide not only tells you approximately how much time it’ll need from start to finish, but it also gives you recommendations on cooking vessels, as well as side dishes that pair well with the main course. As the kit only gives you the sauce, you’ll still need to shop for the other ingredients, but they’ll be easier to find. The recipes I chose called for things like pork belly, chicken, onions, and shallots.

What is cooking with an Omsom starter kit like?

What is it like?
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

Each cooking sauce comes with detailed instructions.

What caught my attention was the restaurants and chefs behind Omsom's starter kits: Madame Vo, Fish Cheeks, and Mala Project—each of them a legend in the cuisines they represent. As a person who hasn’t done a lot of Southeast Asian cooking (except Thai), I cooked the dishes suggested by Omsom, and here’s what happened:

what i made
Credit: Reviewed / Valerie Li Stack

These pre-packaged sauces have made my quarantine cooking more fun.

Sizzling Sisig: Traditionally, the sizzling sisig calls for parts of the pig head and chicken liver, seasoned with calamansi fruit that’s native to the Philippines. Though it’s the national dish that helped Filipino cooking earn its fame abroad, its ingredients are hard to find in North America. The Omsom sisig sauce kit made the process much easier—the recipe calls for pork belly (I used the pork belly with skin on to mimic the pig head texture), which is also common in the supermarket.

Get the Sizzling Sisig sauce from Omsom for $12

Lemongrass BBQ Pork I was intrigued with this one because the sauce was devised by chef Jimmy Ly of Madame Vo, an iconic Vietnamese restaurant in New York City. Compared to the barbecue pork I’ve had in Boston, this sauce is more subtly-flavored and mouth-wateringly good.

Get the Lemongrass BBQ Pork sauce from Omsom for $12

Larb: This dish really brings back memories of traveling on the back of an electric bike in the humid and hot winter of Southeast Asia. Larb is a popular Thai street food that combines sweet, sour, spicy, and umami in one dish. The addition of fresh herbs makes the plate bright, light, and fragrant, which is perfect for a quick salad on a busy weekday.

Get the Larb sauce from Omsom for $12

Is Omsom worth it?

Is it worth it?
Credit: Omsom / Jenny Huang

In addition to its prime quality, Omsom's stunning packaging makes it a perfect gift.

Whether you’re buying it for yourself or gifting to others, Omsom starter kits are a great way to recreate restaurant-quality dishes for those who miss going out. There’s only a slight learning curve to whipping up a dish—the recipe guide explains everything you’ll need and how long it will take, so you’ll feel comfortable putting the ingredients together rather than cooking a recipe for the first time from scratch.

Additionally, the sauces were developed by award-winning chefs whose restaurants have successfully represented the chefs’ home cuisines. As those independent restaurants are among the worst hit by the pandemic, Omsom is supporting small businesses and advocating for these immigrant-run establishments.

Of course, each cuisine represented in the starter kit can’t be explained in one dish—but they serve a purpose as an introduction to something that many of us aren’t as familiar with, almost like an ambassador from one of the many Asian countries.

Get the Omsom Asian cooking starter packs starting at $12

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