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May is Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month. And since it’s customary for people in many Asian countries to greet one another with the question “Have you eaten yet?” we thought it only fitting to celebrate by rounding up some of Wirecutter’s favorite Asian food items. Here they are, from hearty noodles to sizzling spices.
We love ramen so much, we gathered all of our favorites in a guide to instant noodles. One of the tastiest on our list: NongShim Shin Black Noodle Soup, a Korean ramen that guide writer Anna Perling couldn’t stop eating. She notes: “It has a winning combination of a complex, spicy broth, substantial dehydrated vegetables, and toothsome noodles.” But honestly, you can’t go wrong with any NongShim noodle—we also love the combo of its Chapagetti and Neoguri flavors, as made famous by Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning movie Parasite.
For seafood lovers, we also adore Prima Taste Singapore Laksa La Mian, which uses air-dried instead of fried noodles. Those noodles take seven full minutes to boil, so they’re a little less “instant,” but top them with some tofu or sliced chicken, a squeeze of lime, and some fresh mung beans and cilantro, and you’ve got a bowl that tastes like a restaurant-quality meal. The rich, spicy coconut-milk-based curry broth comes in two packets—a dehydrated coconut milk and a pleasantly pungent dried shrimp paste. As our ramen guide writer Anna Perling says, “The burnt-orange, chunky laksa paste tastes like galangal and dried shrimp…. When you stir [it in], bright red flecks float to the surface and bring to mind Jupiter’s swirled surface.”
We call the jam-packed Classic Bokksu: Seasons of Japan snack box “a treasure chest of treats” in our gift-basket guide: “So many of the treats wowed us. The flavors of the crackers, puffs, and candies inside were alternately zingy, tart, sweet, and salty. Textures ranged from crispy to chewy to melt-in-your-mouth cotton-candy-wispy.” Although we think it’s a perfect gift, it’s also a great way to treat yourself. And if you’re looking for more inspiration, Bokksu just launched an Asian Heritage Month Collection in its online grocery shop, featuring lots more good eats from AAPI-owned brands.
We love Fly By Jing, a female-owned company that makes delicious condiments and Chinese pantry staples for every heat-seeking taste bud. In our gift-basket guide, our experts praise the Lucky 88 Spice Lovers set: “When admiring the jars and packages … you may feel as if your cool friend brought you on a pilgrimage to Chengdu—one of China’s most hallowed food destinations—and led you through mazes of local spice markets, showing you all the best stuff to tuck into your carry-on to take home.” If cooking with the pantry staples feels intimidating, Fly By Jing’s ready-made sauces—such as its Instagram-famous chili crisp—are available for purchase separately and great for topping just about anything.
Diaspora Co.’s founder, Sana Javeri Kadri, sources her company’s 30 heirloom spice varieties from family farms in India and Sri Lanka. We love the Build Your Pack option, which allows you to choose three, six, or nine jars of your liking. In our guide to gift baskets, editor of kitchen coverage Gabriella Gershenson writes, “Even everyday spices from Diaspora Co. feel premium. The Aranya black peppercorns are so big that they can be mistaken for capers. Grinding them unleashed a nose-tickling floral scent, and the taste carried a hint of licorice; it elevated the simple dishes we sprinkled it on, like avocado toast and scrambled eggs.” She shows similar love for the company’s brightly pigmented Guntur Sannam chile and earthy Nagauri cumin seeds, among others.
Bull Head Shallot Sauce is the ultimate shortcut for giving your dishes a burst of rich, oniony flavor. Shallots are a primary building block of Taiwanese cuisine, but this condiment works well on everything from soups and stir-fries to fish and sautéed greens. It’s a favorite of editor and avid home cook Ben Keough, who calls it “an umami bomb the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced.”
Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp has graced Asian American fridges and eatery tables since the late ’90s. Made with Guizhou peppers, numbing Sichuan peppercorns, and crunchy soybeans, it adds a mild heat that can upgrade almost any dish. In our roundup of our favorite condiments and spreads, Wirecutter’s Erin Moore says, “A spoonful of spicy chili crisp improves just about any carb-heavy meal—whether it’s drizzled over a bowl of rice and veggies, added to ramen, used as dipping sauce for dumplings, or even dabbed atop some vanilla ice cream.”
If you’re a fan of Tootsie Rolls, you’ll probably love this creamy, milk-flavored analogue wrapped in edible rice paper. Like Tootsie Rolls, White Rabbit candies are soft and chewy when fresh, but according to editor of kitchen coverage Marilyn Ong, stale versions that get stuck in your teeth are a point of nostalgia for Asian American kids who grew up eating imported bags. Our senior photo editor Rozette Rago says, “It’s [a favorite] that I still seek out whenever I’m at an Asian grocery store. It’s really hard to not eat the whole bag in one sitting.”
Hi-Chew candies are fruity Japanese sweets that taste especially juicy and have a slightly bouncy texture. Think Starburst, but whereas the American candy aims for maxed-out artificial flavor, Hi-Chews go for verisimilitude. “As Willy Wonka’s Violet Beauregarde would say (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘The raspberry tastes like raspberry! The mango tastes like mango! The pineapple tastes like pineapple!’ writes deputy editor Annemarie Conte in our guide to Halloween candy.
We can’t help but love this craft brewery’s name as much as its beer. The brewer explains that dokkaebi are “mysterious, shape-shifting creatures found throughout Korean folklore … who love to eat, drink, and be in the company of others.” And what better way to eat and drink with others than with a Kimchi Sour in hand? The brew, one of Dokkaebier’s signatures, uses the company’s own homemade kimchi juice to do the souring and includes ginger and gochugaru, the Korean dried chili flakes. Wirecutter senior engineering manager and brewery enthusiast Polina Grinbaum says, “I am not big into flavored beers, but I have not had anything not delightful from them. The Kimchi Sour may seem gimmicky at first, but it’s beautifully balanced.”
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Marilyn Ong.
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