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Food can bridge cultures. After all, the most surefire way to someone’s heart is through a sweet or salty comfort snack (or maybe both), especially if that snack has a story behind it.
During the pandemic, anti-Asian racism spiked, and businesses owned by Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) entrepreneurs were impacted intensely. And while activists are working to change that, stories of creativity and resilience among the AAPI community are shining through. In May 2021, coinciding with AAPI Heritage Month, Netflix launched a campaign with the platform’s AAPI creators and talent, featured in a bold, unapologetic way. The idea: to celebrate creativity and the incredible breadth of AAPI storytelling on-screen. To complement that initiative, we’re also spotlighting a range of AAPI-owned small businesses that happen to make snacks and drinks (and even home goods) perfect for a night of streaming.
Each brand in this list has an important story to tell. It might seem like a simple gesture to buy a snack or two from an AAPI-owned brand, but it can be a powerful act. The companies below draw influences from their founders’ childhoods and family stories, and they offer a way for everyone to experience culture and a sense of connection.
It also helps that these snacks are tasty. Some are beloved on both sides of the ocean: cult classics making inroads now. Others are modern twists on tried and true flavors, newly rendered for modern palates and diets. We’ve even recommended a graphic blanket for those nights when you want to snack and lounge in style, and you can use this handy Netflix link to find shows and movies spotlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander stories you’re sure to love.
So grab a snack, cozy up at home, and know that you’re supporting AAPI creators while doing so. Whether you chow down with Brooklyn Delhi’s Curry Mustard and spill the chai with Devi (Never Have I Ever), channel your inner Sasha Tran (Always Be My Maybe) with Omsom starters, or go on a Hawaiian Host adventure to paradise with Pili, Ioane, Hana, and Casper (Finding ‘Ohana), the common threads are fun flavors, great designs, and the promise of a little extra comfort while you’re enjoying them. Shop the list below, and enter for a chance to win the whole lot here.
Founded by Vincent Kitirattragarn and named for his mother (known as Mama Dang), this brand was inspired by the street snacks that the CEO and his brother grew up eating in Bangkok. Their fan-favorite Thai Rice Chips come in five unique flavors that blend crispy, toasted sticky rice, white sesame, and flavors like coconut, Sriracha, and aged cheddar into bags of crispity-crunchity goodness. They’re sold in 12- and 24-pack bundles on the Dang Foods site, where you can currently use the code AAPIDANG10 for $10 off any order of $29 or more.
Om Sòm is a Vietnamese phrase that means noisy and rambunctious, and founders Vanessa and Kim Pham want to bring that lively energy to your dinner table. “No more cultural compromise,” as the founders say, and there’s no compromise needed with their starter spice blends, which let home cooks perfect dishes without hunting down copious spices. Omsom sells spice blends crafted by some of the hottest NYC chefs, who provide shortcuts to dishes like Thai Larb, Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki, and other unique recipes. The Best Seller Set gives a taste of Omsom’s fan favorites. Just add protein and veggies — and you’ll get a party on your plate.
Perfected by expert chefs in Singapore, these chips were inspired by Irvin Gunawan’s most famous dish at his seafood restaurant: Salted Egg Crab. When all of those flavors were distilled into chip form, the snack earned just as much fame. In the chips, salted duck-egg yolk combines with fragrant notes of curry and red chili pepper and takes on crispy potato form. The brand just launched in the U.S. in 2020 after years of success in countries like the Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan.
“The cure for seltzer fatigue,” according to Grub Street, Sanzo’s lineup (available in a 12-pack sampler) is a love letter to perennial Asian flavors like lychee, mango, and the Philippines-native “golden lime” known as calamansi. In the form of sparkling water, however, Sanzo avoids the sweeteners and artificial flavors of many similar drinks: no added sugar, no gluten, entirely vegan, and made with fruit. Founder Sandro Roco, born in Queens and Filipino American, considers it a celebration of Asian popular culture on a global scale. We’ll drink to that.
Mustard is having a hot moment right now, far beyond the confines of a hot dog bun. Mustard Heads can argue endlessly about the merits of dijon, stone-ground, horseradish, and even mustard-mayonnaise. But chef and cookbook author Chitra Agrawal’s mustard recipe adds something to the mix: earthy notes of cumin and paprika, tangy tamarind and sweet brown sugar, plus a curry blend with seven spices. Keep your eyes on Brooklyn Delhi, since Agrawal visits family in India every year and is constantly on the lookout for new treats.
Mamoru Takitani wanted to create a world-famous candy, and despite a humble start in his parents’ attic in Maui, he did just that. The brand Hawaiian Host launched the very concept of a chocolate-covered macadamia nut: Hawaii’s signature treat and an ever-popular souvenir for visitors. As tourism paused during 2020, the company faced some of the greatest challenges in its roughly 100 years of candy making. But Hawaiian Host hasn’t stopped producing and shipping its nutty, decadent treats around the world. Order the classic candy, or branch out with other varieties like multi-colored KOHO candies that sparkle like sunlit waves.
The two founders of Immi, both named Kevin, grew up eating ramen in Taiwan and Thailand. And by making instant ramen “surprisingly healthy,” they found their chance to offer what the ubiquitous noodle bricks typically don’t: Namely, Immi products are high in protein, low in carbs and sodium, and entirely plant-based. Vegan versions of Spicy Beef, Black Garlic Chicken, and Tom Yum Shrimp — available in a 9-pack sampler — are all immensely slurpable.
Hong Kong-born and LA-based Carrie Lau is a multi-faceted talent: illustrator, graphic designer, and maker of playfully minimalist ceramics. With her brand Object-Matters, or O-M, she sells items like vases, planters, and cups that feature her trademark colorful shapes and speckled patterns. Now, these eclectic graphics are featured on her Weekend and Dreamsy Blankets, both of which spotlight what Lau calls “the curiosity of materials, shapes, and interaction.” Woven from 100-percent cotton, an O-M blanket is big enough to cuddle under and stylish enough that you might never want to emerge.
As Netflix puts it: “Asians deserve better than the erasure, caricatures, and stereotypes perpetuated by the entertainment industry.” Cozy up with a few snacks, then settle in for a night of streaming with the shows and films in Netflix’s “Celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Stories” collection. You just might find your next favorite character on the screen.