Omsom
(CNN) —  

Before we get into everything that Omsom delivers, I want to state clearly: This is one of the best cooking products I’ve ever tested. A bold claim, I know, but thanks to Omsom — a sauce kit that makes cooking with incredible Asian flavors uncomplicated to newbs — I’ve become more comfortable throwing together recipes I’ve never tried before, and I’ve even expanded my pantry to include things like fish and oyster sauce. (This by no means deserves any congratulatory praise; I should have invested in these condiments a lot sooner. Still, I’m grateful that Omsom was able to show me the way.)

What is Omsom?

Omsom

Omsom is a direct-to-consumer food brand that sells “starters,” which are ready-to-use pouches that serve as the base flavor for a particular Asian dish. “Each starter combines all the sauces, aromatics, seasonings, citruses and oils that decades of tradition call for,” Omsom’s website states, and man, these things are truly bursting with flavor.

The company was founded by sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham, who are the daughters of Vietnemese refugees. While their Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ starter is positively divine, all of the sisters’ flavors rock. You can buy specific starters once you find your favorite, but I recommend testing out the product by buying a bundle, which includes all six starters that span six different cuisines. Here’s what you’ll get:

Southeast Asian Omsom Sampler ($29)

  • 2 Vietnamese starters
  • 2 Thai starters
  • 2 Filipino starters

East Asian Omsom Sampler ($29)

  • 2 Japanese starters
  • 2 Korean starters
  • 2 Chinese starters

Why Omsom is awesome

Omsom

I was especially lucky to have tried Omsom deep into the pandemic. A mix of cooking fatigue, life fatigue and that painful combination of nostalgia and longing you feel when you look back on travel photos and have no idea when you’ll ever set foot in an airport again because of a global pandemic (just me?) made the timing just right to try something new and delightful. Omsom was it.

I first tested the Thai Larb starter, which I added to a mix of mushrooms and mixed veggies. The first bite took me right back to my honeymoon in Thailand — and, to be real, I was a bit surprised I could make something that tasted so good and flavorful. Of course, it was Omsom that deserved the credit, since I didn’t do much beyond a bit of chopping, slicing and dicing.

Another gift that Omsom offers? It makes you feel like you’re eating something very special. Every recipe I tried was restaurant quality. My family felt like they were eating a meal that came from an actual restaurant, something that’s become a little bit foreign to us over the past year. And here’s another cool thing about Omsom: Many of the recipes are crafted by “tastemakers,” the beloved Asian chefs of some of the most influential restaurants in the US. New Yorkers will be especially thrilled: Included in the mix is Nicole Ponseca of Jeepney, Jimmy Ly of Madame Vo and the Suansilphong brothers of Fish Cheeks. It really can’t get much better.

Every starter sauce comes with two recipes, usually one featuring a meat protein and one with a vegetarian or pescatarian focus, and Omsom shares additional recipes online. The East Asian starters are all vegan (and gluten-free), while some of the Southeast Asian starters contain seafood ingredients like oyster or fish sauce. I find this to be so rare — usually pescatarian or vegetarian recipes are an afterthought — and it felt rewarding to have my dietary preferences at the center for once. Still, if you’re a meat eater, there are plenty of recipes that incorporate foods like pork and chicken. And just FYI, each individual sauce pack makes two to three servings.

Who should try Omsom?

You should. Omsom’s recipes promise to take no more than 30 minutes, so the sauces are truly the foundation for quick and easy cooking. If you detest a flavor (I can’t imagine this being the case), you won’t be wasting a whole bottle of something, and you can easily move on with your life.

The Omsom bundle ($55 for 12 sauces) would make a great gift for anyone who loves to cook, misses restaurants or dreams of traveling again someday. You can invest in your favorite flavors ($12 for a three-pack) once you know what you like, but I would encourage you to try them all.

Omsom’s team has worked out all of the science to make the packets shelf-stable, meaning they don’t need to be refrigerated (I could truly see myself traveling with these). The thing is, I only wish they made enormous bottles of these tasty starters so I could hoard them in my fridge — I’m confident that nothing would go to waste.