South Asian food is having a moment. With excellent restaurants opening countrywide wide, and pantry items becoming readily available, consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about cuisine, ingredients, and flavor, leaving them wanting more. Entrepreneurs coming straight from their homeland, and first, and second generation immigrants, are sharing their love and passion for the foods they grew up with. But are also doing the hard work or creating the demand and then meeting it with ethically sourced and high quality products.
Fresh spices, unique condiments, strong teas, are now at our fingertips thanks to unique, independent, small businesses, deserving of all our attention and support.
If you want to recreate that cup of chai you had at your local favorite Pakistani restaurant. Or looking for a new hot sauce for your eggs, here are some of our favorite brands to stock your pantry with.
Most paneers are rubbery and squeaky, almost making it hard to chew, but not the one by Sach Foods. Their sampler pack includes all three of their flavors of paneer that they make, and each one stands on its own. Made with organic and sustainable, grass-fed milk, you can really taste the difference between this and your regular paneer. Creamy and smooth, you can grill, pan fry, eat it on toast (my favorite), or of course make saag paneer, this will quickly become a staple in your pantry.
Panjiri by Babo Concept Kitchen
Used in South Asian kitchens for nourishment and replenishment, panjiri is a dry crumble filled with nuts, ghee, sugar and warm spices. Traditionally used for recovery by women who have just given birth, it is also prescribed to those in need of healing, energy, or for those looking to keep their body warm in cold weather. The accessibility of Babbo’s panjiri is thrilling. Her mix is fresh, balanced and can be used in western applications also. Just sprinkle and roll it up in your cinnamon rolls, enjoy it over your yogurt like granola, or ice cream as a nutty topping, or maybe even add it to your cookies like sugar, and just enjoy!
Honey is a staple in South Asian kitchens. Used to soothe throats, add to teas, spread on breads; the ingredient has multiple purposes. Since it’s usually eaten in its raw form, the honey needs to be good. Brightland’s California Orange Blossom Honey is sweet and balanced. With subtle savory notes, you’ll also taste citrus, caramel, and light florals, making it versatile in the kitchen. Add it to your dressings, your marinades or like me, enjoy it simply by the spoonful. The advantage of getting the luminous capsule? It also includes an olive oil and a vinegar for getting familiar with the female-owned business.
Used as a condiment to elevate the simplest dahls, tomato achaar is a favorite in South Asian homes. Loaded with the usual suspects, turmeric, garlic, tamarind –the achaar by Brooklyn Delhi is just the right balance between sweet, salty, tangy and savory. Available in lots of grocery stores and specialty markets, everything by the brand is special and filled with flavor. Spread it on toast, enjoy it with eggs, flatbreads, or rice, you can’t go wrong with anything from the brand.
Translating to ‘bundle of three’, the teeno bundle by Peepal People is a great way to try everything that the brand offers. From the mildest to the hottest, the family run business has tried to fill the gap of South Asian flavors in the form of hot sauces. Combining the fermented kick of achaars (pickles), with heat from home grown chilis, the bottles are filled with thought, and something for everyone. Try them in marinades, over chicken, or even in your ramen; the sauces are just the right balance of the heat you desire, with other notes, like sweetness from the amchur powder in the Hara Bhara, or sharpness from garlic in their spiciest Bhoot Bangla (which hilariously translates to ‘ghost house’.
Created with a passion for ethically sourced ingredients, that shine bright in flavor and packaging, every item by Diaspora Co. is guaranteed to elevate your cooking. Fresh spices you can trace back to their literal and figurative roots, if you’re curious about the brand but don’t know where to start, the pantry refresh is great for getting familiar. Floral black pepper, medium heat chili powder, and earthy turmeric are just half of the spices included in the variety pack.
This trio of turmeric ginger jam, ginger tamarind jam, and garlic scape pickle could not be more appropriate for the times we are living in. South Asians swear by the healing powers of ginger and turmeric, and we all know the power of garlic. Atina foods have turned these essential ingredients into delicious spreads that go great on toast, roast chicken, or even a grilled steak. Sweet, salty and complex in flavor, the package of three is called a holiday box, but really are timeless.
Garam masala has become a well-known spice blend. What’s important to note is that while you can definitely find it in its powdered form, there are some recipes that call for all the spices to be whole. And of course every South Asian mother’s blend is slightly different. Where do I go when I’m looking for whole, beautiful spices that get me excited? Spicewalla, their ajwain and black cardamom help me duplicate my mothers recipes, and my favorite part about their products is the small containers they come in. They are generously packed, but also just enough so that you’re not holding on to that same cumin 5 years later, and you’re always buying fresh, flavorful spices for your cooking. I recommend their 6 pack masala collection for some classics to start with. Use the tandoori masala with yogurt to marinade lamb chops or chicken, or use the chai masala to elevate your cup of tea. This chef-run business also collaborates with other chefs to come up with unique blends and custom flavor.
Everyone knows about cold brew concentrates, but chai concentrate? Genius. One Stripe Chai has created a chic glass bottle that holds enough for 8 cups of chai, and you have the option to have it hot or cold! Already sweetened, and equally balanced with their organic, strong Assam tea, the Chai Me At Home is a great alternative for those not looking to get fussy with the kettle and tea strainer. Use it as a midday pick me up, or that first cup of chai to wake you up in the morning.
Haldi doodh (turmeric milk) has taken the western world by a storm, thanks to its well-known anti-inflammatory benefits, and Kola Goodies have taken it to the next level. With warm cinnamon and ashwagandha, their turmeric latte is calming, comforting and flavorful. Easy to dissolve into a creamy luxurious cup, their turmeric is sourced from Kandy, and their cinnamon is of course from Ceylon. Founded by a Sri Lankan craving a taste of home, everything the brand has to offer, is for a transportive experience.
To start the day, mid-afternoon, at the end of a long day of work, or a big meal (anytime really,) a cup of tea is called for in South Asian homes. Advocating for tea as a way to self-care, while also sourcing in an ethical and sustainable way, House of Waris has done its work, bringing high-quality ingredients, thoughtfully blended, to your lips. My favorite has been their sweet clarity sachets for my afternoon slump. Floral, and balanced, with soothing and refocusing tulsi, and energizing eluthero, while surprisingly caffeine free, this adaptogenic blend is a great introduction to the brand and their teas.