My father, mother, grandparents, and soon after my little brother all lived together under one roof and though it seemed a bit cramped when I was growing up in a one bedroom apartment, it was one of the best ways to grow up. The experience and time spent with my grandparents was something I cherish today. Lots of people say that growing up with grandparents is a gift, but I truly resonate with that statement. Not only did I get to learn the language we speak at home, but my grandmother went the extra effort to share Hindu mythologies, prayers, traditions, and even mannerisms unique to the region of Gujarat we come from. A lot of those moments and memories resonated with me through my youth, into college, and today.
My culture has since become a major part of my identity. Being a South Asian holds a lot of definitions, but for me it’s about identifying with my cultural heritage and faith. Growing up in the US and UK, I came to realize that it’s actually very easy to lose sight of what it means to be South Asian to you. I grew up in a predominantly white community and often separated my Indian and American worlds, which is something I spoke more about on this YouTube video.
As I’ve come well into my adulthood, I guess I’m reverting back to bringing out all those moments of cultural understanding and learning. I want to take those traditions, values, mannerisms, and stories that my grandmother took time to introduce me to and celebrate them. Part of doing that is taking part in building my own traditions and enjoying the culture, so I wanted to share an evolving and rotating list of some of my favorite South Asian brands!
One of the first South Asian brands I came across on the internet and I am honored to be collaborating with on this post is Craftisan. Craftisan is a brand that combines tradition and service by promoting traditional craftmanship of different parts of India and giving back to that community at the same time. Please take a look through Craftisan’s curation as they work with artisans, master craftspersons and NGOs across India. To not only promote equality, but also place India’s craftsmanship in the spotlight.
If you follow any South Asian’s you most likely already came across some of Simmi of Paper Samosa’s work! She combines popular meme culture with art and Indian culture. I love her light-hearted doodles and relate to them so much. They’re then translated onto cards, apparel, posters, and more! So if you’re planning on sending a birthday card or want to send a little gift to a friend, then Paper Samosa is the place to get it!
My first memory of “practicing” my culture was when I watched my mom make chai one morning. I’ve shared this on TikTok, but my mom is very particular about her morning cup of chai and the meditative process is something I found myself adopting. When we would go to India, she would always start her day with a chai at home, made by her mother. Her second cup soon after was had right downstairs from a chaiwalla she’s known since her days in grade school.
When we brewed the first cup of One Stripe Chai Co’s Chai Me At Home Blend, it reminded her of the chaiwalla! It’s perfectly spiced made with high-quality CTC and only needs to be brewed with equal parts of water and milk!
One of the major critiques I have about spices from India are the fillers and coloring that is added. There was a time where it was happening so much that my mom decided to stop using some of the spices in our food because we were concerned about the harmful impact on our body. Diaspora Co was founded to create an equitable vision of the spice trade. Historically, the spice trade was dominated by colonizers and farmers were not appropriately compensated. We recently bought their trio, which includes turmeric, red chilli powder, and black peppercorn. The taste is incredible, the aroma is endless, and the quality cannot be compared. Finding quality turmeric and chilli powder is a major challenge and I think Diaspora Co. addresses that!
I accidentally came across Malai Ice Cream when I was visiting San Francisco! The branding initially caught my eye, and then the name was something I recognized! Malai is an eggless ice cream brand that combines the flavors and textures of India. It was especially exciting for me to see them partnering with other South Asian brands like Diaspora Co for the flavors!
Flavors like carrot halwa, masala chai, and sweet roti and ghee remind me of moments from my childhood. The ones I’m keen to try now are jaggery with tamarind caramel, pumpkin garam masala crumble, and tulsi chocolate chip!
I haven’t really had the chance to experience this brand, but I did try a little piece of one of their chocolate bars! My cousin made a visit to Austin and brought home a few bars from Madhu Chocolate and I was lucky enough to get the end of one bar. Similar to Malai Ice Cream above, I was drawn by the branding and immediately looked into the brand. Harshit’s story resonated with me as it involved drawing inspiration from watching his mom cook. Madhu Chocolate is a 100% LGBT owned, bean-to-bar chocolate shop drawing inspiration from India! I got to try their cardamom dark chocolate, but am dying to try their saffron milk chocolate!
My parents and grandparents came together and gifted me with a few pieces of jewelry after graduating from my post-graduate program. I was determined to find some pieces that I could wear for years to come and share with future offsprings. Haati Chai’s pieces combined a lot of those elements that are important to us in the Indian culture to modern design, which makes the pieces so wearable for every day! I love that the brand is ethical and luxurious!
I grew up using Ayurvedic ingredients to help heal ailments. When I came across Ranavat Botanics, I was excited to see so many of the ingredients, I grew up knowing, are used for skincare. Ingredients like ashwagandha, neem, and sandalwood were just a few of the ingredients I used to help address skin and hair concerns. To see it methodically extracted and turned into a well-researched formula makes me really happy! I love the Kiss of Royal Tea Hydrating Masque and am dying to try more.
Do you support any South Asian brands or brands started by a South Asians? I’d love for you to share!