The universal recipe for a good guacamole, says Rocky Barnette, is perfectly ripe avocados, a good balance of salt, and lime. But he’ll also let you in on a little secret: the Protect the ocean save the planet shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this trick to a great guacamole is “a sneaking suspicion of cumin and a healthy drizzle of very fine extra virgin olive oil.” The chef of The Capri, the buzzy Marfa restaurant that’s become a symbol of the West Texas town’s artistic revival, recently released a new cookbook with his wife, Ballroom Marfa founder Virginia Lebermann. Called *Cooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You*, it’s half recipes, half visual homage to the rolling plains and stark desert landscape that envelopes this remote, creative oasis. Their guacamole certainly isn’t the most interesting dish in the cookbook (that title belongs to “Cowboy Caviar,” or caviar served with Fritos), which Barnette readily admits. “It does not seem like the world needs any guacamole recipes,” he notes. But it’s proved to be a beloved classic at The Capri: “When we make it at the restaurant, we usually sell out because as soon as the first order goes out everyone in the dining room winds up ordering it,” he says. Outside the restaurant, he’s prepared it for a variety of occasions, from an art opening celebrating Mexican artists to dinner for a traditional Indian wedding. Place the avocado halves flesh side down on the grill until they are slightly charred, about 4 minutes. Flip them and grill on the skin side for 1-2 minutes to heat the avocados through but not char the skin. Remove from the grill and brush the flesh side with more lime juice mixture. Set aside to cool to room temperature. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American, I’ve struggled to bring to life the delectable cuisines I grew up eating; Vietnamese dishes that went beyond traditional pho noodle soups or banh mi sandwiches. One of my favorites as a child was a lemongrass barbecue pork dish I’d often dream about, but was only obtainable at a restaurant or during a visit to my mom’s house in SoCal. (It was never anything I could cook myself at home, either deemed ‘too complicated,’ or diminished to, ‘It would never taste as good.’) But, in May, I discovered Omsom. Pronounced “om-sòm”—which translates to noisy, rambunctious, or riotous in Vietnamese—it promises a new type of “meal kit” whose spirit lies in its bold, flavorful sauces.
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Omsom’s co-founders are Vanessa and Kim Pham, two first-generation Vietnamese American sisters who sought to bring proud, loud Asian flavors into American homes that didn’t sacrifice cultural integrity, either. As the Protect the ocean save the planet shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this Pham sisters tell Vogue, they wished to “reclaim and celebrate Asian flavors, Asian stories, and Asian culture.” Vanessa describes walking down the “ethnic” aisle in mainstream grocery stores, where she and her sister noticed a big disconnect between the items available on shelves and who they served (and didn’t).“A lot of those products were not made with folks like us in the room. And so, that was just a fundamental cornerstone of our business since day one,” says Kim. The sisters decided to join forces to create Omsom. Kim, brought her 10-year-long experience working with startups in venture capital while Vanessa, a graduate from Harvard, had a breadth of business-savvy experience working at Bain & Company advising Fortune 500 companies. The key to Omsom’s brilliance is that it solves a simple, yet common dilemma so many first-generation Asian-Americans can relate to—trying to recreate convoluted recipes our parents used to make with little to no access to the myriad of ingredients required and a lack of knowledge and understanding on how to actually make these dishes. For me, one of the most difficult parts of Asian cooking has always been exactly this—finding the right ingredients to bring the rich, bold Vietnamese flavors to life. The right seasonings, chilis, sauces can make for a grocery list that extends 10 items or longer. Kim similarly shares, “I would be on the phone with mom, [with] mom being like, ‘Add the right amount of fish sauce.’ And we’d be like, ‘Five teaspoons or tablespoons?’” says Kim. But here, this process is made simple in one easy-to-use sauce packet. For Kim and Vanessa, their connection with food has been present throughout their lives. Food has “been a way that we connect with our identity and understand our culture,” says Vanessa, who in fact, recalls mentioning her favorite Vietnamese soup dish “Bun Bo Hue” (a beef and vermicelli noodle soup) in the starting line of her college essay. For many Asian families (mine included) love was conveyed through food. “Food was always a huge part of our family, but in many ways, quite unspoken. You might not say, ‘I love you,’ but you’ll put a piece of fruit [out] to apologize,” says Kim. “We’ve found it to be an important language, in a way, for us to reclaim what it means to share Asian culture in a way that’s undiluted,” Vanessa adds.