The sisters, turned co-founders of Omsom, have sold out three times since launching their business that sources restaurant-quality ingredients.

By Jamie Weissman
January 27, 2021
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Omsom starter packs for cooking in Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, and other Asian flavors
Credit: Courtesy of Omsom

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They say that food is the gateway to the soul but for sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham, it's more than that—it's personal. So much so that the duo launched Omsom, a company dedicated to flavorful pantry staples that'll bring authentic Asian cooking to your kitchen.

Home Is Where the Inspiration Is

When Vanessa and Kim were young, food in the Pham household wasn't just a meal. It was also a love language and a way for the sisters, who are daughters of refugees and first-generation Vietnamese-Americans, to connect to their roots. "Growing up, we never felt represented by the 'ethnic' aisle in mainstream grocery stores, so we were driven to build a company that reclaims the complexity, integrity, and nuances of Asian cuisines and communities," says Kim. "Our mission is to give Asian Americans a modern way to access a real deal taste of home and to show non-Asian Americans what it means for this category to be done right."

Vanessa and Kim Pham of Omsom at a bar
Credit: Courtesy

Meet Omsom

The name Omsom, according to their website, is derived from the Vietnamese phrase "Om Sòm" which means noisy, rambunctious, and riotous. The phrase, used by Vanessa and Kim's parents, sets the tone for the brand, which pairs punchy packaging with easy-to-use starters that'll create bold flavors. Available in two categories, Southeastern Asian ($29, omsom.com) and Eastern Asian ($29, omsom.com), you can bring a variety of authentic dishes straight to your kitchen table. Some of Kim's favorites are Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ Pork Shoulder ($12 for pack of three, omsom.com) and Japanese Eggplant Yuzu Misoyaki ($12 for pack of three, omsom.com) but no matter which starter you choose, it'll come with a recipe so you can get cooking with ease.

Getting Started with Starters

When Vanessa and Kim began working on Omsom, they didn't know what direction the company would end up taking. After all, both sisters were working full-time jobs at the time while devoting nights and weekends to the brand. Regardless, they were both passionate about their mission at hand. "We spent the first six months learning as much as we could about how folks engage with Asian food. We surveyed 300-plus folks, spoke on the phone with 100-plus, and actually went into the homes of 50-plus to better understand how people plan for, cook, and eat Asian food," says Vanessa. "From that research, we crafted the concept of the starter—an all-in-one packet with all of the aromatics, spices, and seasonings needed to cook a specific Asian dish."

After two years of research, the company launched in May 2020 amidst unprecedented times. Nevertheless, the sisters believed the brand could be a bright spot for those at-home, rediscovering their passion for cooking. "Our mission is focused on reclaiming and celebrating Asian flavors by partnering with and amplifying iconic POC chefs," Kim said. "Between the rising Asian American population, voice, and buying power, and the exploding interest in Asian cuisine and cultural stories, it just felt like the right time for a company like Omsom to launch."

Omsom's Mission

In an effort to build a brand with cultural integrity, as Kim describes it, the duo have partnered with Asian chefs for R&D, as well as sourced 90 percent of their specialty ingredients from Asia. Though it has presented some logistical issues along the way, the sisters say they wouldn't change a thing. "For first- and second-gen Asian Americans like us, we hope to make them proud by building products without diluted flavors or cultural compromise. Something unapologetically Asian," says Vanessa. "For those who are less familiar with these cuisines or dishes, we hope to spark ownership and excitement for the process of delving into the history and flavors of each dish."

The Future of Omsom

Though Omsom is new to the market, Vanessa and Kim are looking towards a bright future with the brand. "Our ambition is to be this new authority in Asian food [consumer packaged goods]," says Vanessa. "We would love to be a household name, Omsom sitting right in your pantry between your tomato sauce and your olive oil. That's the kind of prevalence that we aim to have."

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