The Best AAPI-Owned Condiment Brands to Kick Up Your Cooking

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Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

What takes an ordinary meal from good to great? It’s the add-on of something spicy, sweet, or special that comes out of a jar and makes your homemade meal sing. It lifts up an everyday plate, almost like a benevolent savior, and lets you take all the credit for it. That’s the magic of a good condiment.

While the grocery shop aisles are filled with a range of these, we thought a good way to narrow down our picks was by highlighting brands that are AAPI-owned. We zeroed in on seven products that bring out the best from the Asian diaspora, all while proving how far reaching the influence of these flavors have been to America’s cuisine.

Yun Hai is a Taiwanese and Chinese pantry that helps home cooks add Asian notes to their everyday meal. Run by Lillian Lin, Lisa Cheng Smith, and Ivan Wu, the company sources from artisans, farms, and soy sauce breweries in Taiwan. The Nyonya Garlic Chili Sauce is procured from makers in Central Taiwan, and contains heavy sriracha-like notes with add-ons such as garlic, chili, vinegar and sugar. Our recommendation is to add a dash of this condiment to your morning scramble, burrito bowl, egg fried rice, an Indian paratha, or a bowl of steaming pho.

This hot sauce promises ample umami and has a tomato base. It’s flavored with chili, turmeric, garlic, and has sour notes coming from tamarind and vinegar. The chilies that are used to make this sauce are procured from another AAPI label, Diaspora. Coming from the eponymous region of Guntur, these are single-origin and heirloom variety chilies with fiery notes. It tastes best with Indian breads like thepla or parathas, but you can also add a dash to Mexican tacos, fried snacks, or a simple hollandaise sauce.

An essential Malaysian condiment, this sambal is heavily flavored with makrut lime leaf, dried green pepper, and fresh chillies. Auria’s specializes in Asian pantry staples, inspired by the flavors of Seremban, Malaysia. The brand stocks up on spice blends to make wholesome meals, sweet kaya, and this sambal that is its take on the Malaysian street treat. You can mix this paste with mayonnaise for a lunch toast, eat it with your dosa, or use it as a marinade for meat.

Who isn’t borderline obsessed with hot, tasty things coming out of a jar? This Sichuan Chili Crisp is all-natural, free of preservatives, is made in Chengdu and retailed via Fly By Jing. Started by Jing Gao in 2018, the label as he describes is “Made in Sichuan province, but living in America, like me.” Besides being hot and spicy, it has a complex “xian” quality, which stands for the umami in this condiment. You can add it to everything from spicy weeknight noodles, Asian salads, or even a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

One of the most underrated sweet condiments from South East Asia is coconut jam or kaya. Kaya is made on a base of creamy coconut milk and has a jammy texture. In 2017, Nigel Sielegar, who grew up in Indonesia, launched Moon Man to share his love for Asian street food. Pick from pandan-flavored kaya, ube or yam kaya or our favorite palm sugar kaya. You can scoop this on breakfast sourdough, on ready-to-eat tart shells or add a tiny hint of sweetness to a spicy salad dressing. Why not?

Since 2009, Lauryn Chun has been retailing her kimchi from an original recipe she procured from her mother’s restaurant. Chun is the author of The Kimchi Cookbook and makes a mixed bag of products such as gochujang, kimchi, and mul—which is drinkable kimchi. Her recipes are built on authentic Korean cooking traditions. We especially love the sesame gochujang fermented chili sauce that’s made on a base of gochujang paste, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, chili pepper flakes, and soy sauce. It goes well with noodles, summer rolls, or on a bed of sticky rice.

Made with red volcanic clay (hence the color) red Hawaiian sea salt is highly revered around the world for its antioxidant properties and buttery aftertaste that elevates any dish. The Salty Wahine Gourmet company specializes in tropically infused seasoning with roots on the island of Kaua’i. Owner Laura Cristobal Andersland learned the value of Hawaiian sea salts from her paternal Hawaiian grandmother. Traditionally used to season and preserve meats like kalua pig and pipikaula jerky, red sea salt is also a great topper on avocado toast or a fresh poke bowl.

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Sonal Ved is a Thrillist contributor and the author of Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine. She is the content lead at India Food Network and Tastemade India, and the food editor at Vogue India.