This Online Spice Shop Is My Secret Weapon for Making Weeknight Dishes Way More Delicious 

published Nov 29, 2023
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Chả giò (fried spring rolls) on a platter with hands setting the platter down on a table.
Credit: Photo: Jenny Huang; Food Styling: Thu Pham Buser; Prop Styling: JoJo Li

In my house, seasoning is always a huge part of any meal. And, while I can always count on the tried-and-true spices I grew up with and keep in my spice cabinet at all times (garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, crushed red pepper, sazón, and Italian seasoning, to name a few) I love trying out new ones and cooking with new flavors. Unfortunately, you can exhaust your average supermarket’s spice selection pretty quickly, and sometimes, finding a particular spice or herb can be difficult, depending on where you live and what markets you have access to. Thankfully, there are a ton of great online spice shops that let you bring flavors and aromas from all over the world right into your kitchen at home. I recently got the opportunity to try out some spices from Vân Vân, an online purveyor of single-origin spices and herbs sourced from different growing regions around Vietnam, and I can’t stop raving about it.

What Is Van Van? 

Started in the summer of 2022 by founders Thảo and Duy — who have a background running popular cooking pop-ups and pick-ups — Vân Vân has a foundation rooted in Vietnamese home cooking, history, and culture, with a mission to “invest in local growers and support their livelihoods by paying a fair price for their products,” according to their website. By partnering with small growers, the brand aims to put premium Vietnamese products on center stage and showcase the country’s diverse flavors. Vân Vân offers a collection of unique herbs and spices that are available a la carte or as bundles. (They have some pretty cool merch, too.) 

Credit: Van Van

Why I Love Van Van

I live in New York City, and even with access to tons of high-quality markets around town, it’s tough to find many of these spices in my local supermarket, and even if I could, the fresh versions would probably go bad before I could use them all. The best part about Vân Vân is that the spices and herbs come dehydrated, so when you want to use them, you can just soak them in water for a minute or two and they’re good to go! The Bundle of Flavors collection (which I tested) includes Northern Mountain Garlic, Delta Lemongrass, Sparrow Ginger, Coastal purple shallot, and Heaven Facing Chili. Besides being delicious additions to my spice cabinet, they’re also fairly priced, and I can feel good about supporting small businesses when I order them — rather than buying spices of questionable origin from some mysterious grocery store spice giant. And, while you can cook meals and make cocktails based around the spices themselves from the recipe bank on their website, you can also just add these spices to your regular weeknight meals. Being able to cook with high-quality spices that I’d usually have to go to a restaurant to taste has been great, and it makes my weeknight meals so much more interesting and fun to eat.

I’m also not the only one who digs the spice shop. “I bought the bundle of flavors so I could try them all!” one reviewer wrote, “They are so convenient to have around, I find fresh lemongrass hard to find in my local supermarkets, so to have it on hand is so convenient, same with all the other spices. Secondly, the flavor is phenomenal. I find myself gravitating towards the smaller garlic, the lemongrass, and the chilis the most when I’m cooking. The chilis have some good heat!” So, if you’re looking to, er, spice up your weeknight meals or try some new and exciting recipes, give Vân Vân a try ASAP — especially while it’s on sale.

Buy: Bundle of Flavors, $53 (normally $56)