In a year where most of us spent more time in our own kitchens than we thought possible, it’s safe to say that we’ve all expanded our horizons even just a little bit when it comes to our cooking abilities and recipe repertoire. As a long time home cook, it has been especially fun to share my favorite recipes with friends who were, for the first time, really learning to enjoy their time in the kitchen while trying things they never had before. And as an advocate for always growing our own global kitchens, it’s been even more fun to share some of the ingredients, tools, and cookbooks that I’ve continued to learn from when it comes to trying recipes and techniques from different cultures and cuisines.
In that spirit, I’ve created my ultimate foodie gift guide with a list of ingredients, cookbooks, treats, and more, from my favorite brands that are bringing the cuisines and ingredients from different cultures around the world into my home. For the friends who are either just beginning their home cook journey or for the long-time foodie who loves spending extra time in the kitchen, get ready to receive the award for “best gift” this season.
You might have seen Diaspora’s brightly colored pink boxes all over social media, but what’s inside the box is even better. Founded in 2017 by Sana Javeri Kadri, Diaspora Co. is a direct trade, single-origin spice company dedicated to building a better spice trade. That means putting money, equity, and power back into the hands of Indian farmers, to disrupt, and decolonize an outdated commodity spice-trading system.
After receiving my spices in the mail a few weeks ago, I can truly say that these are some of the highest quality spices you will cook with. It was like I had never tasted coriander or black pepper before trying the spices in the Diaspora jars. Whether you gift the full trio or one of their amazing collaborations, any home chef will appreciate these spices in their cooking arsenal.
I have been a long time fan of One Stripe Chai’s chai concentrate. I’ve been searching the market for a while and it’s the closest to my mom’s version—it perfectly balances sweet and spicy. When Farah, founder of One Stripe, announced their new product, Haldi Doodh (aka a golden milk latte) in collaboration with Diaspora Co., I knew I needed a bag of the blend ASAP. Lucky for your gifting needs, both the chai and Haldi Doodh come beautifully packaged and are ready for any stocking. Don’t just take my word for it, Bon Appetit’s executive editor, Sonia Chopra, is also an avid fan.
Chicano Eats Cookbook and Virtual Cooking Class
Building on his blog, Chicano Eats, Esteban Castillo shares a bicultural and bilingual cookbook by the same name that includes 85 traditional and fusion Mexican recipes that are as gorgeous to look at as they are to cook and eat in your own kitchen. For the foodies wondering how to recreate some of their favorite Mexican recipes at home, this book is a wonderful addition to any collection. In addition, Castillo also has virtual cooking classes including tamales, salsa, and churros—a super fun idea for the friend who loves experiences more than gifts.
A box of tea is a fine gift, but a box of tea sticks with actual flowers in them? An unforgettable gift. Each tea stick includes handpicked flower teas from Korea that are packaged up oh so beautifully. Perfect for the aesthetic friend who appreciates a pretty package as much as they love a delicious product, these flower tea sticks would make the perfect stocking stuffer. It’s the kind of beautiful gift that I might just treat myself with! If you’re in LA, Rice Blossoms also has the most beautiful rice cakes and songpyeons available for pickup, in addition to virtual classes!
IMHO, no kitchen is complete without good chocolate on hand. And by that, I mean a reserve drawer of chocolate bars that can result in chocolate chip cookies at a moment’s notice. The Sol Cacao chocolate bars are so delicious and beautifully packaged, they make for a perfect stocking stuffer without any additional frills. And if you keep a few bars for your own secret stash, I promise I won’t tell.
For the home chef who lives for flavor but needs help prepping, this curry brick kit will set them up for success. Writer, teacher, and cook, Sonoko Sakai says that the five keys to her cooking philosophy are freshness, seasonality, simplicity, beauty, and economy. At its most fundamental level, her philosophy is about respecting ingredients and letting their natural flavor come through, and she does just that through her curry brick kit.
All you need to do is toast, grind and blend the kit spices together to create a curry powder that’s ready to be used in a number of wonderful recipes, or turned into a roux for a Japanese Curry. The curry brick recipe—featured in the New York Times—comes from the Japanese pantry recipes in her latest book, Japanese Home Cooking, and is the ultimate way to use flavor in your kitchen.
Vanessa and Kim Pham, the sisters and co-founders behind Omsom, grew up at their family’s kitchen counter, watching their mom cook Viet dinners from scratch every night. “Like so many Asian moms, this was her love language to her children.” They started Omsom to bring proud, loud Asian flavors to your fingertips any day of the week, sitting in your pantry right between the tomato sauce and olive oil. The sampler includes starters to get Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki, Korean Spicy Bulgogi, and Chinese Mala Salad on your dinner table in under 30 minutes! The most amazing gift for the friend who loves flavor and needs as much help budgeting time as they can.
If you don’t already follow Hawa, please do yourself a favor and change that, stat. The video personality and CEO of Basbaas released her first cookbook with Julia Turshen this fall and it is a must-have for any chef expanding their kitchen repertoire. The book shares recipes and stories from bibis, or grandmothers, hailing from eight African countries, including Hassan’s native Somalia. What I love so much about the book is its beautiful documentation of intergenerational cooking. The recipes are so delicious, and pairing the book with a jar of chutney is the ultimate foodie gift.
If you’ve never been to the Seed and Mill counter at Chelsea Market, now is the perfect time to order some of their tahini straight to your door. The three founders, Lisa, Rachel, and Monica, grew up in three different countries: Israel, Australia, and the USA. Their paths crossed in NYC, and determined to show Americans how versatile and delicious tahini and halva could be, they became the first store in the US dedicated to sesame products, connecting customers over nostalgic tastes and introducing new audiences to traditional foods, rooted in centuries of culture and history. Their sesame seed-based desserts and spreads are the most delicious addition to any kitchen. For the friend who loves quality ingredients, having great tahini to use in a wide array of recipes is such a special gift. (A pack of halva is also a great alternative to a box of cookies!)
For the date obsessed or date curious, this gift box is a richly wonderful and surprising gift. A pound of juicy Rancho Meladuco organic Medjool dates, 3 bottles of my favorite alternative sweetener, Just Date Syrup, and a book that celebrates date deliciousness, The California Date Cookbook. A collaboration between Just Date Syrup and Rancho Meladuco Date Farm—two women-owned California date companies who share their love of dates—this cookbook inspires more people to savor and delight in the Coachella Valley-grown Medjool Dates and Medjool Date Syrup through beautiful recipes and incredible photos of California food bloggers, authors, and photographers.
As a child who grew up in a coastal town in Asia, Lisa Li drank a lot of herbal teas with her grandmother. Holistic wellness for her was simply a way of a joyful life. Fast forward 20 years later living in NYC burnt out, stressed, and anxious, Lisa wanted to return to a time where wellness was simple. She took a trip to Shangri-la and came across the one-of-a-kind Roses the locals enjoyed. She quickly realized that unless you’re from these small remote villages on the high mountains next to Tibet, you would never have access to those flowers. She set out on a mission to bring these high-quality food-grade flowers to the world and the rest, as they say, is history. For the friend who lives for wellness and beauty, these flower teas are the ultimate treat-yourself gift.
I’m so excited to dive into this book and expand my knowledge of indigenous cooking techniques and recipes. In his first book, Sherman shares his approach to cooking boldly seasoned foods that are vibrant and easy. The book is a wonderful education and introduction to modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. For the friend who is endlessly learning in the kitchen and loves trying new recipes, this book will be one they want to add to their cookbook collection.
I’ve been eyeing a donabe (clay pot in Japanese) for a few months now. The clay earthenware pots are ideal for operating at high temperatures. They build heat slowly and once at peak temperature they keep the heat longer. A gift for the true kitchen fiend, a donabe is just as beautiful as it is functional, and will be a longstanding staple of your friend’s kitchen for years to come.
Aside from making a pretty addition to any home chef’s kitchen counter, Brightland’s olive oil is incredibly delicious for finishing any dish. This gift set also includes two of their mini vinegars which I can’t wait to try. Every good dish starts with great ingredients, and these bottles of oil and vinegar will set any of your cooking friends up for success.
There are a few brands that I am truly obsessed with and this is one of them. Founded by Jing Gao, you might recognize the chili oil that has made the rounds on social media. Produced in Chengdu, and crafted of fried chilies, tribute pepper, mushrooms, sesame oil, and more, this Triple Threat three-pack has been called “good on everything”, and I can attest from the noodles to the salads and the ice cream (YUP!) this spice set is the flavor-packed gift your friend wants.
Consider this your reminder that sometimes the simple gift of really great coffee beans or tea is a real winner. Because is any kitchen really complete without coffee? Maru Coffee is a favorite of mine from LA. I love their coffee beans as much as I love their selection of Ippodo Matcha and their packaging is just as beautiful as what’s inside. Another great option is to support your own local coffee shops by sending coffee from your local shop to friends or family who may not be able to make it home for the holiday!
What matcha collection is complete without a designated matcha bowl and whisk? This sweet gift is a wonderful choice for the design-minded minimalist who loves her morning wellness rituals as much as really great quality matcha. Pair it with a nice matcha powder and you’ve got a stellar gift on your hands.
As a long time fan of Chitra and her recipes, I can personally attest to the flavors and recipes she captures in her cookbook, Vibrant India. Even more special is her brand, Brooklyn Delhi, which is a wonderful curation of condiments and sauces from Indian culinary tradition. Any of the achaars are the perfect gift for the friend who loves adding all things sweet, spicy, sour, and savory to their meals from scrambled eggs to Mac and cheese to eating straight over rice, this is the good stuff.
Really good quality honey should be a part of every foodies’ kitchen. What I love about gifting a beautiful jar of honey like the selection from Zach and Zoe is that oftentimes, we won’t splurge on the good stuff for ourselves, but it’s the perfect gift to indulge on for our food friends. I love the wildflower honey that Zach and Zoey have for their incredible flavor—perfect for drizzling on peanut butter toast, in your morning tea, or straight off the spoon.
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