Vanessa Pham + Kim Pham
Growing up, sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham, daughters of Vietnamese refugees, were told they were too rowdy. Now embracing this quality, they are making Asian sauces that are as loud and proud as they are. Working with iconic POC chefs, they produce uncompromising and deliciously authentic sauces for everything from Filipino Sisig to Thai larb.
Rowdy Asian Starter Kits
If my pandemic cooking had a cheer song, it would be OMSOM OMSOM OMSOM. Pretty much any time I had guests over, one of the dishes was made with Omsom.
A Conversation With...
Vanessa Pham + Kim Pham
When did you and your sister Vanessa conceive Omsom?
I like to joke that Omsom has been in the works since the early 90s. I’ve long wanted to start a business with my sister Vanessa! I was just waiting for her to get okay with the risk.
In all seriousness, we started brainstorming on Omsom about two years ago—mostly on nights and weekends, as she was still working as a management consultant at Bain & Company, and I was a digital nomad traveling throughout the US. We officially launched Omsom in May 2020!
What does the name Omsom mean?
Omsom originates in the Vietnamese phrase om sòm, which roughly translates to rowdy or rambunctious. It was a term our parents would use to chastise Vanessa and me when we were growing up. We were too noisy, too wild! We loved the idea of reclaiming this, because we’re trying to do the same thing with Asian flavors—make them proud and loud. No more diluted dishes, no more cultural compromise. Our mission is to honor the multitudes in Asian cuisines, cultures, and communities that are so often bastardized or approached in reductionist ways.
Where do you create the product?
Rejecting common short-cuts and substitutes in mass market foods, we do robust R&D and work with iconic POC chefs with generational roots in the recipes behind the products. That means regularly sampling from 15 plus suppliers for a single ingredient, importing ingredients from Asia that aren’t currently being brought in by any other food brands, partnering with deeply respected Asian CPG brands such as Red Boat and achieving shelf stability with no artificial flavors or preservatives.
What was your first entrepreneurial effort?
Vanessa and I used to help our mom fold, stuff and stamp bills for her office. She is an accountant and, at the end of each month, she would have to send out a lot of notices. One day, Vanessa and I got up the courage to ask for payment for our labor! Negotiations were long and hard over the dinner table (hah!), but we eventually worked out a fair deal!
Who is your angel and why?
Our Bà Nội (grandmother) is our angel—she inspires us everyday. She sacrificed endlessly for our family and has shown an entire lifetime of grit and determination. Omsom is already a Phamily affair in so many ways, but we truly build to honor and celebrate all that she has done for us.
Vanessa and I are first-generation Vietnamese-Americans and the daughters of refugees. Our background isn’t in restaurants, but food has always been a way that we access and feel pride in our heritage. We hope that we can be part of a larger conversation about the changing DNA (and dining table) of this country, where one-third of the US population is now composed of immigrants and their children. Our pantries should reflect this with Omsom sitting right in between the tomato sauce and olive oil.