As the pandemic lingers, it has been a busy time for binge-watching Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix–over and over again–to soothe that wanderlust itch. A different (and tastier) coping strategy involves cooking in your kitchen with interesting ingredients, condiments and pantry staples that can help one travel through food.
As cheesy as it might sound, it does work!
In that vein, consider stocking up on these made-in-British-Columbia pantry items, all of which were launched during pandemic times.
Frozen dumplings by Dumpling Drop (Victoria)
Victoria's Dumpling Drop offers up delicious dumplings that locals and tourists alike can't get enough of. Owned by Tarn Tayanunth, the successful business began as a pop up in 2018, but recently transitioned into a fixed home smack-bang in Victoria's historic Chinatown where they make freshly-fried dumplings via with a rotating menu in addition to offering plenty of frozen cook-at-home varieties too.
"Dumpling Drop was born out of my mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Mom’s neurologist told us that repetitive fine-motor activity was good for keeping symptoms under control. I just knew that it was time to roll some [Chinese-style] dumplings [with a Thai flair]," says Tayanunth. " "If we can bring more people downtown to explore different cuisines or shop at the local market, great! That’s exactly what we exist to do."
Community is at the heart of everything Tayanunth does and by the sounds of it, the feeling is mutual.
Packages of dumplings ($15-20) and can be purchased online or from their downtown Victoria storefront.
Kanada Shoyu by Koji Fine Foods (Chilliwack)
Did you know Canada produces soybeans?
That discovery sparked Koji Fine Foods, a habit-turned-full-time-business for 40-year-old Saskatchewan-born Denver Mace. Made using all-Canadian ingredients (organic soybeans from Quebec, B.C. soft white wheat, Fraser Valley spring water and Vancouver Island sea salt), think of this unique product as Canada's equivalent to soy sauce–like Okanagan sparkling wine to champagne.
Kanada Shoyu is brewed then fermented for a minimum of a year using Okanagan red wine barrels rather than the traditional moromi. This technique was first tested by Japanese master shoyu maker, Toshio Shinko from Yuasa Shoyu and has proven to a recipe for success.
Sold in monthly 300-bottle releases, expect a lighter caramel tone–which mimics its sweet nose–leading to a sodium-rich punch that demands centre stage.
Kanada Shoyu comes in 375 mL bottles ($40) and can be ordered online.
Kaya by Miss Chen Kaya (Richmond)
The story of how an 11-year-old pivoted in style to land her forever friend, Otis the mini schnauzer.
When operation fundraise for a puppy via babysitting came to an abrupt halt last spring for Isabelle Chen, this bright spark channelled her inner entrepreneur to come up with a delicious solution: selling coconut and pandan leaf jam.
For those of you who are not familiar with kaya–that was also me–it is a slightly grassy, yet creamy and caramel-y spread that is a staple across Southeast Asia. Unlike the average supermarket kind, Miss Chen Kaya is all-natural and free from preservatives and artificial colours. Seeing as Isabelle is the daughter of acclaimed chef Alex Chen, I'd expect nothing but the best!
Load it onto buttered toast every morning or eat it by the spoonful.
Kimchi by Kimchi Daddy (Victoria)
There are small-batch producers, and then there are the teeny-tiny ones like Kimchi Daddy, a business by chef Claude Joo with weekly ferments on the go.
Leaving South Korea to pursue culinary arts in Canada, the chef spent time working at Momofuku's Noodle Bar in Toronto before Victoria became home. Kimchi Daddy may have just launched this winter, but it is the result of years of kimchi experiments with a traditional base recipe combined with Joo's worldly culinary experiences.
Claude has two very different types of kimchi up for grabs that use a base of crunchy Napa cabbage and daikon radish. As you open up the most common red kind (burp and all), the initial chilli kick morphs into an explosion of umami with this lingering fermentation tingle. His white kimchi is fermented without chilli, and so you're left with more of a refreshing and tangy vibe that produces a load more liquid-y goodness–which would probably be cool in a savoury cocktail like a Caesar.
Joo's red or white kimchi is available in 500 mL containers ($10 each) and can be purchased online with pickup/delivery in Victoria only.