Kitchn Love Letters

This Chef-Made Pantry Starter Kit Is the Only Thing I Need for Big Flavor in the Kitchen (It’s on Sale!)

updated Apr 11, 2023
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Spices and various cooking ingredients organized in pantry
Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’m all in favor of using whole ingredients in your dishes, building layers of flavor over low and slow cooking time, and really being thoughtful when I cook — but when I clock out of work, crack a beer, and turn the TV on, the last thing I want to think about is heading to the grocery store to pick up food for a weeknight meal. That’s why I always have my pantry stocked with what I call “flavor bombs.” They can be things as simple as bouillon cubes or leftover instant ramen flavor packets, or as complex as furikake or homemade sazón, but the running theme is that I can quickly toss them into what would otherwise be a bland, simple meal and elevate the flavors to something spectacular. 

That’s why I was so psyched when I picked up Momofuku’s pantry staple starter pack. If you’re not familiar with the brand, Momofuku was founded by chef David Chang in 2004 with the opening of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City — one of my personal favorite spots to slurp down a piping hot bowl of ramen. The company then expanded to sell pre-made ingredients to home cooks, and if you haven’t tried them yet, you need to — they’re terrific. Plus, the brand just restocked the incredibly delicious (and extremely popular) Barrel Aged Soy Sauce, where they partnered with Kings County Distillery to age their already-excellent soy sauce in bourbon barrels, adding a level of complexity and flavor that you’d be hard-pressed to find outside a restaurant.

The Pantry Starter Pack has everything you need to introduce elevated flavors to any meal. Right off the bat, it includes three different kinds of Momofuku’s seasoning salts: Savory, Tingly and Spicy. While they’re all delicious — Savory is great for cold-weather stews and protein-focused dishes; Spicy is good for literally everything else — Tingly is my favorite, hands down, since it includes Sichuan peppercorns, which have an ever-so-slight numbing effect on your mouth when you eat them, hence the name.  

Another piece of the starter pack is the Chili Crunch — a spicy-crunchy chili oil that packs a serious punch along with a great texture. It’s made up of three Mexican chilis with garlic and shallots, and is an incredible topping for noodles, salads, sandwiches, and pretty much anything else you can think of. (Personally, I don’t think I’ve had a bowl of at-home ramen without adding a dollop since I first got my hands on this stuff.) 

Credit: Ian Burke

The last (but absolutely not least) items included in the pack are Momofuku’s Soy Sauce and Tamari. The soy sauce is steeped with kombu (edible kelp) for 48 hours to achieve a richer, rounder final product, and you’ll definitely notice the difference — particularly if you’ve been using leftover takeout packets as your main source of umami. Momofuku’s Tamari, though, is my favorite part of the whole pack. This stuff also gets steeped with kombu, but it’s also gluten-free — perfect for people with allergies. I use it in essentially every savory dish I make, from ramen broth and Colombian-style chicken and potato soup to scrambled eggs, bolognese, and more. (Trust me, it works.)

For alleviating stress surrounding weeknight meals, you can’t beat having this fully stocked arsenal of pantry staples at your disposal. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the other goods Momofuku has to offer, including their high-quality instant(ish) noodles — which I eat (at least) once a week.

Buy: Momofuku Pantry Starter Pack, $60 (normally $74)