Omsom's 'pantry shortcuts' help you make iconic Asian dishes in under 30 minutes — I tried nearly all of them and my favorites were Yuzu Misoyaki and Thai Larb
Prices are accurate at the time of publication.
When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.
- Omsom is an AAPI women-owned company offering "pantry shortcuts" to real Asian food in under 30 minutes.
- I tried the $55 Omsom Bundle , which includes the East Asian Sampler and Southeast Asian Sampler .
- I loved that the kits feature authentic, un-Westernized dishes and are chef-vetted to be restaurant-quality.
I'm Asian. Not only am I Asian, but I'm the daughter of a Chinese chef, and spent much of my childhood working at my parents' restaurant.
And yet … I still find Asian supermarkets as intimidating and overwhelming as they are treasure troves. There's just SO. MUCH. Going. On . Sauces glistening in glass jars like gems. Dried goods waiting to be unfurled in a water bath. Bottles of extracts, concentrates, and acid blends that may have the same general label but a tremendous difference in appearance from its neighbor, or the same appearance but a wholly different name, description, and price point. Plus, across the enormous continent of Asia is a wealth of diverse culinary traditions, all with their own big brand names and variations.
Omsom's "starters" are single-meal, pre-mixed sauce packs with super simple instructions, minimal ingredients, but zero compromise for authenticity. At the heart of their company is AAPI pride: "omsom" actually means rambunctious, riotous, raucous, and noisy in their native Vietnamese, and they're applying that swagger to kitchens across America in a loud campaign for appreciation of Asian culinary culture and diversity.
Working with some of the most highly regarded Asian chefs and makers in America, they're decoding real Chinese, Filipino, Thai, Japanese, and — of course — Vietnamese cuisine into accessible, easy-to-use sauce packets. Curious, I tried the Omsom Bundle , which features six of the brand's signature starters.The details
- We tried the $55 Omsom Bundle , which includes the East Asian Sampler and Southeast Asian Sampler .
- Each sampler box contains two packets of three different sauces with flavor profiles typical to that region's cuisine.
- Although weight per packet varied, each starter was enough sauce/seasoning for 2-3 servings per recipe.
There was a lot to like about how the product is packaged. I was delighted by the bold, bright, wavy logo repeated on the blindingly colorful, slim, lightweight boxes, looking like cartoon aroma drawings. If that doesn't scream out "mmm" with "mmmphasis" I don't know what does. The back of each box wasn't overwhelming — a brief description of what's in each kit, suggested proteins, and a shout-out to the chef that created the sauce.
To open them and reveal the meal-starter packets, I used the helpful finger grips punched into the sides of the tray containing the sauces to separate them from the outer sleeve. In each slot were two packets of each sauce and a heavy card stock pamphlet with two clearly laid-out recipes. Each card also tells you what equipment, ingredients, and how much time you'll need. I loved that at the bottom of the main recipe, they give you two options on what to serve with the dish: traditional and a way to "mix it up." This made it a no-brainer to make complementary sides even if you weren't familiar with the flavor profile you were preparing.
Setting up to make each dish and flavor varied, but it mostly required minimal ingredients from any typical market and grabbing your trustiest big skillet or pan. Personally, I opted for one of my beloved woks each time, with mostly good results.
Here were my impressions of each Omsom starter:Thai Larb $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Thai Larb starter
Representing Thailand is the Omsom starter for Larb , which is a spicy salad typically made with ground meat. This blend was developed by Chefs Chat and Ohm Suansilphong of Fish Cheeks in New York City, and they recommend serving your masterpiece with sticky or white rice and raw cabbage or as a lettuce wrap with raw cucumber.
This starter was a two-piece set, and the only one of the whole bundle; it included a sauce pack, plus a separate bag with "nutty toasted rice powder" to finish.
The ingredients were very simple and the only thing that needed to be cooked was the ground chicken. You can set and forget the rice if you have a rice cooker, and it's easy enough to get green beans in a microwaveable bag. The bulk of the hands-on work was just chopping up the herbs: scallions, cilantro, mint, and shallots.
As soon as I opened the starter package, I could smell the lime juice coming off of it, refreshing and zingy. This gave the chicken such a lovely citrus accent, which it held onto thanks to the tip of cooking the ground chicken with some water. The result of this technique was a thin, lovely sauce that felt so lean and healthy, yet was very filling and meaty.
Although this is rated 3 out of 3 peppers for heat, the spiciness crept up slow and warm, sneaky and subtle. The raw, fragrant, and above all, cooling cilantro, mint, and scallions made it so that it was not merely tolerable, but straight-up enjoyable. I had some trepidation about using raw shallots instead of cooking them into the chicken, but it ended up being beautiful.
Overall, this was honestly a restaurant quality dish that is excellent for all seasons. The sticky rice suggestion was a great one, and I loved how refreshing this dish was, even though it was substantial and satisfying. This was incredible for the first one I tried, and it made me very excited to cook through Asia with Omsom.Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ starter
I was particularly pumped about the Vietnamese contribution to this set , knowing the ethnic background of its founders. For this classic flavor — typically used on pork which is then served on rice or thin rice noodles with cucumber, cilantro, mint, and peanuts — Omsom paired with Chef Jimmy Ly of Madame Vo, also in New York City, to offer a "bold, aromatic twist on grilled bbq."
This one required more planning and prep, since the meat needs to be marinated. Technically, you can get away with just 15 minutes, according to the recipe, but honestly, Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ is too tasty to not give it its proper due and let it sink in! Additionally, they recommend pork belly be lightly frozen for easier slicing.
I chose the shrimp option, which required defrosting, peeling, and therefore, more planning. Everything else was either just soaking the rice noodles or setting your rice cooker and cutting up some fresh veggies and herbs.
Tearing open the starter, it hit me in a whoosh of beautifully sweet, rich, garlicky aroma. Unfortunately, some of those precious chunks were stuck inside the packet and I had to scoop it out with my finger. This one doesn't quite "thicken" like many others in the Omsom line did, but boy does it impressively nail that chargrilled flavor! Salt, sweet, strong, and smoky, it captured the essence of the layered, complex tastes of Vietnamese grilling.
Cooked, it dried out a bit; a lot of sauce stuck to the pan, which was a real shame since it was delicious. Fortunately, there was enough coming off my shrimp to spread around my bowl of rice and mix with the very necessary cilantro and mint. It would have been helpful had they specified how much of those herbs to throw in, but that's easily remedied to taste.
It's recommended to serve this with "Mama Pham's Nuoc mam," but since I was testing these in a vacuum without supplementation from their website's many recipes, I omitted it. However, I did end up adding Sriracha, though, since it felt a little too sweet, like it was missing acid. Just a tad made this nearly as good as any I've had in a pho shop.Filipino Sisig $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Filipino Sisig starter
I'm personally not very familiar with Filipino cuisine, but was looking forward to getting to know it! The Sisig recipe was a contribution from Nicole Ponseca, owner of New York City's Jeepney, who suggests that this "kissed by tart calamansi" (that's a citrus fruit) dish be served with white or garlic rice and topped with sliced chili and scallions or with sautéed greens. It's typically made of minced pork and chicken liver, and is considered a staple dish of northern Philippines Kapampangan cuisine.
Like with the Lemongrass BBQ, I again didn't opt for the more classic pork belly because I wanted to test with a range of proteins — particularly a vegetarian option — and because I wanted to stick to the ones that would likely be the easiest to procure. This meant making the tofu version on the card, which required some additional prep. The recipe didn't specify if it required the tofu to be pressed and dried, but this is best practice to ensure that it cooks up without flooding the pan and absorbs the all-important sauce we're here to review.
This was the only recipe where my wok was perhaps not the best vessel for cooking, since it's hard to resist the urge to stir-fry so that the diced pieces can sit and sear. And for the tofu version, it was unclear when the optional egg ought to be added to the pan.
There was an aroma reminiscent of light hoisin that rose from the packet, but an immediate hit of acid to the nose affirms that this is a cuisine with an identity and ingredients all its own. It's much thinner than most of the other ones, but gets thickened by the addition of mayonnaise, which is mixed in after turning the stove off. This gets tricky, as you don't want the heat to curdle the mayo, which adds a slight tang.
Although the egg got lost in this, the tofu took on the sauce pretty well, absorbing the vinegary elements of the Sisig starter and a mild burn that was much more shy to appear than that sharp front note of acid. It definitely needed the "salt to taste" the recipe called for, and made me wonder if it'd be better and more complex if I used fish sauce, instead. Overall, it was really light and not robust. The spice was a background player and that little sweetness there was, was very, very subtle, coming from the cooked red onion. I felt it could have used more than prescribed, but to be fair, I also love alliums indiscriminately and in great quantity.
Regardless, the raw red onion and scallion garnish were absolutely necessary, despite the astringent theme of the dish, to create textural interest and make it a fresh as well as bright dish — which it was despite its appearance.
This was the least on-brand of all of the flavors tested, as it wasn't bold nor loud nor overly distinct, but it was still pleasant and simple to throw together.Chinese Mala Salad $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Chinese Mala Salad starter
Sichuan food has become all the rage, knocking Cantonese off its laurels, and everyone is chasing that signature numbing Sichuan peppercorn feeling. Amellie Kang, the owner of New York City's Mala Project, is the one responsible for adding this hot Chinese sensation to the Omsom portfolio, with 2 ½ out of 3 pepper-level spice and nothing more than white rice or lettuce and cilantro to accompany.
I chose the poached chicken breast option. Unfortunately, I am terrible at poaching chicken, even while following their instructions to a T. The amount of water recommended didn't cover the breasts as promised and, in the time quoted, they emerged woefully undercooked. This required a second poaching and therefore, second boil, toughening it, and set me back time wise to starting from scratch.
The instructions were also a tad unclear for the cucumber portion. They say to scoop out the cucumber, and possibly also peel it, but then the yield from a thin English cucumber is sparse. Granted, the seeds might give off a little bitterness, but it felt wasteful to chuck the innards.
This was, by far, the most problematic and time-consuming recipe to execute — ironic given my own heritage and the fact that it's, at its core, a cold shredded chicken salad.
The dressing comes out rich and thickly chunky. One lick of my finger told me it wasn't going to be lacing in heat, so I opted to serve with both rice and salad greens. However, this proved to be overly cautious, as the blanched enokis and crushed cucumber added enough liquid to dilute the sauce when thoroughly tossed. It's not immediately hot, but it will kick in pretty quickly, creating an interesting sensation to have such warm heat, like a quick sear of spice, against cool ingredients.
This dish was nicely balanced — a very classically Chinese play of yin and yang, with hot against cold and unexpected but nice smoky bits that played against the vegetables. While it did make my nose run eventually, its main notes were simple, clean, and refreshing.
If I were to make it again, I would poach chicken cutlets instead of breast halves and add more salt. I'd also skip the optional but pricey enoki, as they really didn't add any discernible flavor; and I'd cut the cucumber into strips instead of dicing it for easier handling with chopsticks.
With so many caveats, though, it's no wonder this was my least favorite recipe to prepare.Korean Spicy Bulgogi $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Korean Spicy Bulgogi starter
Bulgogi may mean "fire meat," but that's actually due more to technique than spiciness. That made it a pleasant thrill to discover that a capsicum-laced version was in this pack, even though it rated a mild 1.5 out of 3 peppers for spiciness. This recipe hails from the West Coast — San Francisco, specifically, from Chef Deuki Hong of The Sunday Family — and is usually accompanied by lettuce wraps or white rice and kimchi, but can also turn a lettuce, cucumber, and perilla salad into a hearty meal.
This is another recipe that requires marinating, so you'll want to plan ahead to make sure your meat has enough time to soak up the flavor. I found it interesting that of the four recommended proteins, beef was not among them, as bulgogi and beef often go hand in hand. Nevertheless, I followed directions, and marinated my cubed chicken thighs for eight hours and found that it still wasn't enough to fully penetrate into the meat, so I can't imagine that the short 15 minutes set as the minimum would do much.
The rest of the prep and cook was easy-peasy, requiring nothing but stir-frying onions, removing them, cooking the meat, then putting it all back together in my wok. Using a wok allowed the meat to sear well since there's a lot of surface area to get those cubed corners, but the sauce pooled a little in the well, slowing down the caramelization process.
All of the red Korean aromas are present and accounted for right off the bat — it's tangy, sweet, spicy, and fragrant in a distinctly warm manner. The meat took on a beautifully glistening sheen as it thickened, and I started drooling.
Once it was done, it proved to taste significantly mellower than it smelled. The spice level really wasn't very hot, more slow meandering heat rather than, say, the Mala's quick blast. It ended up not being very saucy, either, nor very soy-y or sweet, and I found myself adding Sriracha to punch up the gentle flavor.
This was an easy cook, and while it was good, it was not a standout. But this is a good entry-level gateway sauce for building deeper, more pronounced flavors.Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki $12.00 FROM OMSOM
About the Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki starter
For their Japanese offering, I appreciate that Omsom didn't just opt for their own version of crowd-pleasing teriyaki sauce and called it a day. Instead, the Phams and the owner of Bessou in New York City, Maiko Kyogoku, chose to do a citrusy Yuzu Misoyaki . For this, they advise you to make some white rice or roasted vegetables at the same time as cooking the fish or eggplant on the recipe card.
This was one of the very easiest things I have ever made in my life and took the laughably short 15 minutes the recipe promised. The eggplant option was much more involved and time-consuming, but I went with salmon and it was literally as simple as two and a half steps. Basically, throw your rice in the cooker and set it to quick mode and throw the salmon in your toaster oven on a timer.
The skin came out a little soggy on the salmon fillets, so I'd recommend a bit higher of a temperature, an air fryer, or just a better oven than mine. But don't be afraid to stretch this sauce out — the recipe said two 6-8 ounce fillets, but there was plenty to cover four 5-ouncers.
This was absolutely delicious and probably the richest sauce in the pack, living up to its promise of "umami-packed." It was especially rich against a fatty protein like salmon, and they worked together to create a sense of savory creaminess. The citrus from the yuzu and lemon is a joy, dancing through the syrupy tones of sugar and miso.
The sauce didn't penetrate the salmon since it is, after all, just a glaze, but it does a nice job of caramelizing. The instructions say not to feel alarmed if it gets dark, and I'll vouch for that. Save the drippings and run-off sauce for dipping or mixing up in the rice. You'll want more of this flavor to enjoy for sure.Cons to consider
- A little pricey at roughly $4 to $4.50 a pack, considering whole bottles of sauces can be the same cost.
- There's only one dish per country at this time (with the exception of Thailand, which has two).
- Some of the recipes are unclear or lack specificity.
Ignoring the reasons of principle (such as supporting an AAPI business owned by first-generation American women who are working to elevate appreciation of Asian cultural and culinary diversity and heritage) the answer would still be yes. The flavors and recipes are great, and the website offers even more flexibility. It's a phenomenal way to get acquainted with not only the cuisines of different countries across Asia, but also the diversity within them, as the featured starters are not always the predictable favorites. And finally, it beats going to an Asian supermarket trying to get the right brand of hoisin, for instance (they are not all made equally) or having barely used bottles sitting in your pantry for a recipe you make infrequently.
Which flavors should I get?
I really liked the bundle since it gave me a chance to try all of the signature flavors, and two of each so that I could learn from mistakes and ace the encore. (Mala chicken salad, hi.) You can buy flavors you're excited about individually in packs of four, but exploration is half the fun, so I advise against limiting yourself.
That said, the Best Sellers pack includes four of my favorites (Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, Thai Larb, Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki, Korean Spicy Bulgogi) and adds in a bonus Thai Krapow , which is not part of the original sampler and therefore not one I tested.
Some of these are available in a new Instant Pot kit and they also offer a gluten-free collection.
What are the alternatives?
Traditional mass-produced jarred sauces by brands like Lee Kum Kee, Ka-Me, Kikkoman and the like, in supermarkets or Asian groceries. Store brands like Lidl and pop culture-driven brands like Iron Chef are also getting into the game, but they can't promise chef ownership and use of name brand-specific ingredients like Red Boat in their mixes. The closest thing would be getting the individual ingredients yourself and making your own recipes from scratch, which can be expensive and daunting, considering the breadth of wet and dry ingredients that are integral.The bottom line
Omsom's starters are brilliant and the quality is very high. User-wise, the potential of human error is very low for the majority of their recipes, even as you branch out into the spins they offer on their website. The recipes actually serve two hungry people and none of that "serves four" in tiny portions nonsense. The owners respect every Asian culture represented, sourcing authentic recipes and ingredients and using the native written name of each dish.
Although the starters are a little pricey when you look at per-unit cost, it's a lot cheaper than building a pan-Asian pantry from nothing. Balance it out with the fact that one of the best things about Asian cuisine is that it typically comes together relatively affordably since it's veggie-heavy and protein is a complement, and the per-serving cost starts to feel like a bargain. Plus, many of the renditions are restaurant quality because they come from restaurants and professional chefs.
Pros: Easy to make, great way to experience several types of cuisine, quality ingredients, chef-developed recipes, authentic bases, lots of options for use, durable recipe cards
Cons: Pouch notches not always visible, packets don't rip open across cleanly, some sauce loss for thicker ones, instructions unclear on some flavorsOmsom The Try 'Em All Pack $70.00 FROM OMSOM Originally $76.00 | Save 8%
Read the original article on Insider