Omsom Starters Provide a Shortcut to Asian Flavors

When you don’t want to trek to a specialty supermarket and you don’t feel like ordering in, it’s still possible to enjoy Asian dishes at home. A new company called Omsom, run by two Vietnamese sisters, Vanessa and Kim Pham, sells pantry starters that contain all of the seasonings you’ll need to make traditional versions of some classic Asian meals.

Omsom works with chef “tastemakers,” mostly in New York City, to develop the flavor combinations included in their kits. Currently there are six packages you can buy: Vietnamese lemongrass BBQ, Filipino sisig, Thai larb, Japanese yuzu misoyaki, Korean spicy bulgogi, and Chinese mala salad. Each starter serves 2-3 adults, and is sold as a 3-pack for $12 (you can also buy a more expensive combo pack that includes multiple flavors).

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My first experience with Omsom was the Thai larb salad. All I needed to pick up at the grocery store was ground chicken, scallions, shallots, and mint. After cooking the chicken, I mixed it with the starter, which includes Red Boat fish sauce, lime juice, cane sugar, and Thai dried chili flakes. Then I added in the vegetables and herbs, as well as a packet of toasted rice powder that was included with the starter. I cooked up some jasmine rice, and served the larb over a bed of spinach (cabbage is traditional, but not my favorite), with cucumbers on the side.

The salad was full of flavor, with some moderate heat from the chili flakes, sweet and sour notes from the lime juice and sugar, and a hint of nuttiness from the rice powder. The fish sauce added a lot of salt – there are about 600 mg of sodium per serving – but if I had made the sauce myself with a teaspoon of fish sauce per serving, I would only have cut out about a quarter of the sodium.

I’d recommend giving Omsom a try if you’d like to sample a variety of Asian dishes and don’t want to stock your pantry with specialty ingredients. Of course, you can always substitute with items you already have on hand, but you may not get the traditional flavors in your recipe. Omsom starters will save you an extra trip to the specialty market, and might just keep you from placing an order for takeout.

What I Ate (for Lunar New Year): Thai larb salad with ground chicken on a bed of spinach

Omsom starters include all the seasonings you need to make dishes such as Thai larb salad