Cuisine pushes boundaries and a growing roster of consumer culinary products exploits heritage ingredients and flavors to bring an authentic taste of their culture to home cooks, chefs and more.
Good Morning America Food asked a handful of these founders to explain how they succeeded in fusing a personal narrative with a love of food at a company that offers something more than a brand label.
“Flavour is the best way to bridge the gaps between cultures. At Fly By Jing, we say our products are not traditional, but personal, and this is how we encourage people to use them,” founder Jing Gao told GMA. “I first launched Fly By Jing as an underground dinner club while I was still living in Shanghai. This was where I had my first ‘aha’ moment as the flavors of Sichuan were exciting and globally appealing… People’s eyes would light up when they tried to ascertain dishes. “
After visiting the Expo West, the largest natural foods fair in the United States, Gao said that “Asian flavors were grossly underrepresented,” which was the catalyst for the brand’s launch. “I decided to launch Fly By Jing’s all-natural Sichuan Chili Crisp as a precursor to a range of CPG products that I knew people in the West would be excited about, because there wasn’t much on the market at the time… I want these flavors to have a place on everyone’s table. “.
Gao also proudly supports AANHPI-owned food and beverage brands to expand their presence through goods that give back to their communities.
“My fridge is always full of Sanzo sparkling water,” she said. “I love the way founder Sandro Roca infuses the Asian flavors of Seltzer Alley with Asian flavors like calamansi, yuzu and lychee.” “I admire the work that Sandra Nguyen does at the Nguyen Coffee Supply. Her goal is to increase the economic advancement of Vietnamese farmers, so she sources directly from family-run coffee plantations in Vietnam, then roasts the beans in Brooklyn.” She also commended “the work that Sana Javeri Qadri is doing to build a fairer spice trade in India and Sri Lanka in the Diaspora Company – and the heirloom spices they source are just as full of flavor as they were sold in the same year as ‘re-harvested'”.
“If you are lucky enough to travel, you realize how much natural overlap there is across the kitchen,” Momofuku restaurateur, chef and founder David Chang told GMA. “That’s the cool thing to me about food – you see different cultures looking for what’s delicious and come up with similar results.”
From chili crunch to baked salts, noodles, and vinegar, the Asian American Pantry Essentials line originated with a simple goal: “Redefine the look of an American pantry.”
“Growing up, I couldn’t have imagined that the foods I mocked to bring to school for lunch would be considered common. But there is still a lot of work to be done,” Zhang said. “Why do grocery stores have one or two brands of soy sauce but dozens of olive oil? Why are ramen noodles cheap but people will pay for the noodles? We’re making progress but we’re not there yet.”
“It’s amazing to me that we can change that and give people the same products we use in our restaurants,” he said.
Eunice Byun, CEO and co-founder of sustainable kitchenware brand GMA, told that their company has sought to reimagine the shopping experience for home chefs with products that “people use regularly and meaningful, beautiful designs” that continue.
“Growing up, I was definitely that kid who scoffed at eating seaweed or dried squid as snacks, so it’s amazing to see how prevalent certain food items or flavors are,” Byun said. “But, to me, I think what is most moving is the ability to bring elements of history or art into the kitchen through collections like our ceramics, which are made up of five types of Korean soils in a region of Korea that has been mastering the art of ceramics for generations.”
“There are so many amazing AAPI-owned brands in the kitchen right now. I love Brightland,” Pune said of clean olive oil brand Aishwarya Iyer. Just like Gao, Byun also said, “My beverage drawer is always full of Sanzo, which I buy from the online Asian grocer Umamicart. I also always have the Partake double chocolate cookies for my daughters and their friends — and adults too.”
Archer country provisions
“The Asian American community rallied to help promote me and the Country Archer – there were tough times with the business when we struggled to get our feet in the door,” CEO and co-founder of artisanal jerky brand Eugene Kang told GMA.
When Sriracha hot sauce was first in vogue, Kang reached out and “tighten the heart strings” of Huy Fong Sriracha owner and collaborated on making Sriracha-flavored cheese. “You put Archer Country on the map and I am grateful for what they have done for me,” Kang said. “Now it’s about pushing forward. If there’s advice, I can help a young founder, and I’m happy to give a voice.”
“I grew up in a Korean immigrant family, and my grandfather would come to the country for less than $20. He started working in a convenience store because it was the business where you didn’t need to speak much English,” Kang said. “As a result, I grew up in stores and around CPG food products all the time. Thinking about my family starting there and now being an Asian American business owner for a CPG Food brand is emotional and amazing.”
Chinese Americans, co-founders and childhood friends Ashley Z and Heidi Yu, immigrant daughters bring nostalgic and innovative foods, like crunchy black sesame butter to the masses.