15 AAPI Women-Owned Food Brands You Need on Your Shopping List
If you're planning to stock up your kitchen soon, consider supporting one of the many small businesses owned by Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander women. From ice cream inspired by the flavors of South Asian cuisine to the most authentic Thai tea outside of Thailand, there are a ton of delicious options to choose from. In the process of buying these tasty products, you'll also help put money back into Asian American communities. Here are a handful of AAPI women-owned food brands to look for during your next shopping trip.
When Mama Lam emigrated from Malaysia to New York City in the 1980s, she quickly learned that none of the hot sauces sold in the US compared to the curry pastes used back home. Thirty years later, after her daughters Cassandra and Carissa convinced her that her homemade curry paste was too good not to share, the Mama Lam's brand came to be.
Still operating as a mother-daughter business to this day, Mama Lam's now sells both traditional and vegan curry pastes, hot oils, and hot sauces. However, Mama Lam's Malaysian Traditional Medium Curry Paste ($8) is the product that started it all. This versatile curry paste can add heat and flavor to meat, seafood, and vegetables; be combined with coconut milk to make a delicious sauce; or even be used as a dip.
After dealing with chronic pain and gut issues for many years, Dalci's Bengali founder, Najwa Khan, cut processed foods out of her diet. She soon realized how difficult it was to find sweets that weren't packed with gut-irritating additives. In response, Khan put her baking skills to the test and developed a brownie recipe that was tasty and free of chemical substitutes, gums, gluten, dairy, and emulsifiers.
Treat both your taste buds and your gut to these Dalci Dark Chocolate Brownies ($20). They're as rich, chocolaty, and delicious as traditional brownies but are made with seven clean ingredients that are naturally gut healthy.
The daughters of Chinese immigrants, Ashley Xie and Hedy Yu grew up on both American food and Chinese food. After leaving home for college, Xie and Yu didn't have access to as many home-cooked meals and Asian grocery stores and felt the need to reconnect with their roots. Thus, Rooted Fare was born: modern, uniquely Chinese American pantry staples such as Black Sesame Crunchy Butter, Dried Chili Sichuan Dressing, and Roasted Peanut Dan Dan Sauce.
This Rooted Fare Black Sesame Crunchy Butter ($15) is a recipe inspired by 汤圆 (tang yuan), a Chinese New Year dessert consisting of a glutinous rice ball filled with ground black-sesame seeds, lard, and brown sugar. The spread is best served on toast, oatmeal, apples, or ice cream.
When Emshika Alberini's grandmother would make her Thai tea, it was never the bright shade of orange most Americans are used to seeing. While you can find that sort of drink in Thailand, it's actually known as a Thai tea latte, and it only exists because of Western influence on the country's street-food scene. Alberini believes there's a much better way for people to enjoy Thai tea stateside, which why she started Emshika's — her own brand of canned Thai teas and coffees.
Keeping with the simplicity of traditional Thai tea and her family's recipes, Emshika's beverages are made with sustainably sourced tea leaves and 100-percent natural ingredients, and they're also nitro infused and dairy free. Emshika's Oat Milk Iced Tea Latte ($27 for a 6-pack) is like the Thai tea you're already familiar with, but better. It's dairy free and sugar free, getting its creaminess from oat milk and its sweetness from monk fruit.
Growing up in central Seoul, Annie Chun never ate packaged seaweed. Instead, her mother would dry, roast, and make it from scratch at home. Wanting Americans to experience the snack the same way she did as a child, Annie and her husband, Steve, started gimMe, the first USDA Certified/Non-GMO Verified Organic seaweed in the US.
GimMe's seaweed is sustainably grown in the clean, nutrient-rich waters of the protected South Korea coast, harvested from the first winter crop, and cut while still on the water. As a result, the seaweed you get is at peak taste and texture. The brand's best-selling gimMe Sea Salt Premium Roasted Seaweed ($7) is light, crispy, packed with umami flavor, and only made with three ingredients.
Having spent her childhood making cookies and cupcakes, Indian entrepreneur Shelley Gupta set out to create a subscription service that would bring more diversity to the baking world. She eventually cofounded BāKIT Box with her best friend and business-school classmate Carla Medina Jacobson. Subscribers to BāKIT Box receive a monthly baking kit filled with labeled, premeasured ingredients and step-by-step instructions to make baked goods like Gulab Jamun and Matcha Mochi Cake.
Get a taste of Persia with this rich and fragrant BāKIT Box Persian Love Cake ($28), flavored with lemon, rose water, cardamom, and pistachios. Everything you need to make and decorate it comes in a beginner-level baking kit. It should also be noted that baking kits like this one can be bought individually without a subscription.
Recognizing the absence of Asian representation in the alcohol aisle, first generation Asian Americans Holly Paul and Chris Tran decided it was up to them to bridge the gap. Inspired by the fruit of their parents' home countries, the two launched MIZO, a hard-seltzer brand that features flavors like Lychee, Calamansi Lime, and Asian Pear.
Come June 2022, MIZO Hard Seltzers will be joined by a line of gluten-free, vegan, and keto-friendly MIZO Hard Lemonade Pouches ($22) available in Original Lemonade and Asian fruit flavors such as Blackberry Lychee, White Peach, and Mango Passionfruit.
Pooja Bavishi always loved experimenting with spices, and she realized that ice cream was the perfect canvas for them. In 2015, she launched Malai, which features flavors like Pumpkin Garam Masala Crumble, Saffron Pistachio, and Golden Turmeric. Thanks to its use of South Asian ingredients, Bavishi's creations are giving other ice-cream-lovers a new way to enjoy the frozen dessert.
This variety pack of Malai Signature Ice Cream ($90) comes with four pints of the brand's signature flavors, including Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Masala Chai, Orange Fennel, and Sweet Milk. They can be enjoyed on their own or in one of Bavishi's recipes.
If you thought butter only came in salted and unsalted, you've likely never heard of Liko Lehua tropical-fruit butter. Owned by Hawaiian entrepreneur Dawn Kānealiʻi-Kleinfelder, who took over the business from her Aunt Diane Kānealiʻi, Liko Lehua started out as a soccer-team fundraiser in 1996 and became a local delicacy. While the butters are now available nationwide, the brand still remains entirely family run and continues to use Hawaiian-grown products and all-natural ingredients.
Liko Lehua butters are available in seven flavors: Passion Fruit, Tahitian Lime, Vanilla, Guava, Mango, Pineapple, and Coconut. Liko Lehua Tahitian Lime Butter ($10) is a sweet and tart combination of lime and vanilla that works with spicy and savory foods like sautéed fish and burritos, as well as cheesecake and ice cream.
Mason Dixie Foods
Although Ayeshah Abuelhiga is a first-generation Asian American with a Korean mother and a Palestinian father, she grew up primarily eating southern homestyle comfort food. After leaving home, Abuelhiga found herself craving the foods of her childhood but found that there were hardly any options besides fast food. Taking matters into her own hands, Abuelhiga started Mason Dixie Foods, a line of homemade-quality biscuits and breakfast sandwiches made only with real ingredients and no chemical additives or preservatives.
These Mason Dixie Cheddar Biscuits ($7) are as close to from-scratch as you can get from the store. Made with real butter and cheddar cheese, they're oven-ready in just 25 to 30 minutes.
Ninong's Dessert Lab
Ninong's Dessert Lab is a family-run Filipino bakery that initially opened in 2008 and is led by Kissa Ortega. Thanks to the overwhelming success of the brand's Ube Pancakes, the brand's line of ube-flavored Filipino pastries has continued to grow. Branching out to online and wholesale operation, Ortega's business is becoming the authority on all things ube flavored.
With Ninong's Dessert Lab Ube Cookie Butter ($7), anything from pancakes to pandesal can be ube flavored. Use it as a spread or eat it by the spoonful — this cookie butter can satisfy any sweet tooth or ube craving.
Afghan American sisters Yasameen and Sheilla Sajady and their two other siblings grew up putting their mother's "Magic Green Sauce" on everything and realized one day that it was good enough to be bottled and sold. Taking the name Maazah — the Farsi word for flavor — the Sajady sisters and their mother, Fatima, took to the kitchen to come up with a recipe for what eventually became the brand's original chutney.
Never eat bland food again with this Maazah "Mild" Chutney ($9). Made with cilantro and ginger, this chutney is the best way to spice up any dish.
Through her experiences with diet culture as a model and the entrepreneurial spirit instilled in her by her parents, Grace Cheng was inspired to launch Mylk Labs in 2018. Noticing the need for delicious food options that were equal parts accessible and nutritious, Cheng saw oatmeal as the perfect vehicle to achieve that balance.
Mylk is dedicated to making vegan-friendly, gluten-free instant oatmeal with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, whole grains, and no refined sugar or artificial additives. This Mylk Labs Roasted Almond & Himalayan Pink Salt Instant Oatmeal ($20), sold in a pack of 6, is lightly sweetened with organic coconut sugar. It's as nutritious as it is delicious.
Whenever Gia Huynh would get homesick, one memory would always pop into her head: eating Mut Rau Cau candies during Lunar New Year. Craving a taste of home and wanting to share it with Americans in an aesthetically pleasing way, Huynh started Silky Gem, a candy business specializing in handmade vegan, gluten-free candies that look like real crystals.
At first glance, these candies may just look like beautiful edible crystals, but they're actually inspired by Vietnamese Lunar New Year traditions and the Japanese Kohakutou art form. The Silky Gem Edible Floral Crystals ($35) set of candies comes with a variety of Asian-inspired flavor combinations, including yuzu, hibiscus blueberry, and butterfly pea coconut.
A microbiologist and food-studies professor who grew up eating natto — a fermented soybean superfood popular in Japan — Ann Yonetani started NYrture with the goal of spreading the word about this delicious side dish and snack. Unlike other natto that is typically imported into the US from Japan, NYrture's natto is cultivated locally, made with premium non-GMO soy, and packaged in a recyclable glass jar.
Enjoy this NYrture New York Natto Original ($10) with soy sauce, chopped scallions, egg yolk, seaweed, and rice for a traditional Japanese breakfast. Each jar includes five servings of the freshest natto in the US.