Asianati’s Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide -the Sequel

JP Leong

Dec 10, 2021

Let’s be honest: there’re a lot of reasons you may need to use this guide -I’m not judging. I’ve been in this situation before (every year, actually) which is why we started putting these guides together in the first place. Everything in Caitlin Behle’s guide from last year is a great place to start and her selections are the Beckoning Cat’s meow, so I recommend you take a peak at it if you haven't!

Here are even more gift ideas for every situation you may find yourself in this Holiday season:


Party hopping? Bring along a flavor party from Dean's.

It’s the season for party surfing! Whether functional (like, middle-of-the-day work party) or FUNctional (like, celebrating your booster shots with nog-shots) it doesn’t hurt to bring along some decadent nom-noms that will intrigue the whole night. There are plenty of tried-and-true staples like cheese plates (yawn!) or that leftover bag of candy you got for Halloween (you know who you are…) but why not make your contribution to the party more interesting than the small-talk you’re going to fake? We like the fruit trays, nut tins, and bags from Dean’s Mediterranean Imports for their hand-picked, non-traditional variety. Photo by Anjali Fong.


Party avoiding? Escape in a book.

Okay, maybe the idea of ALL THOSE PEOPLE stresses your Asian-food-loving friend out. Or maybe they have only choice moments in the day they can escape the drudgery of cold, overcast winter. Perhaps their taste buds are titillated by tantalizing text. May I humbly suggest the joys of books?
While there are some classic literary depictions of Asian food (moments from Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife, in particular, come to mind) there are a lot more modern and accessible books on the scene. Kevin Kwan’s slightly-famous novel Crazy Rich Asians is replete with food references from the author’s birth country (though lacking that amazing dumpling scene found in the movie adaptation). Kwan provides some real-real depictions of what the cultural and familial dynamics of being Chinese/Singaporean/American is like. Or take a look at Lillian Li’s Number One Chinese Restaurant. Li gives a peek into the upstairs/downstairs world of the immigrant service industry and what it’s like for a family to grow-up together.

Speaking of growing-up… it really is somewhat an unexplainable feeling the first time you see yourself represented in the media you’re consuming. For many of us at Asianati, growing-up in the United States has meant seeing very little to none of ourselves in movies, television, and books. It’s really incredible, now, that so many Asian authors and illustrators are bringing our stories -our cultures- in accessible and visible ways. This is especially true in children’s books and we love so much of the variety out there now. Two really great food-oriented children’s books we’ve read recently are Watercress (written by Andrea Wang; illustrated by Jason Chin) and Hot Pot Night (by Vincent Chen). Photo by JP Leong.


Cultural Enthusiast? Gift bags from Bridges Nepali Cuisine.

We get lots of people asking “What’s something special from…?” and we love fielding those Culturally-Curious questions -not just because we love answering them but also because we don’t always know, ourselves, and get to find out! Bridges Nepali Cuisine is offering gift bags that showcase a variety of flavors (and smells!) in Nepalese cuisine. Gift Bag #1, which I’m just going to dub “The one-with-the-dagger” is jam-packed with the following:

  • Real Gold Beer
  • Mustang Beer
  • House-made roasted cumin spice
  • Yellow Peas sauce
  • Gundruk - an awesome fermented leafy green (this smells amazing)
  • Bags of Kathmandu Cosmos tea
  • Bags of Ganesha Green tea
  • loose Hot Chai (this smells amazing)
  • $25 Gift Card
  • And that big-ass dagger-shaped bottle of Khukri Rum.

It’s not cheap, but it’s cool as hell and I can pretty much guarantee no one’s re-gifting that one. Photo by JP Leong.


Sweets Connoisseur who’s had it all? Pandan Cheesecake from Maker’s Bakers.

Maybe, like me, you’ve got friends with a particular kind of sweet tooth. Sure, they like chocolate… but is it small-batch chocolate hand crafted with cacao from some unknowable part of the world? Yeah, you know these people. Maybe you ARE these people. Delight that sweet tooth with the made-to-order, reserved-well-in-advance Pandan Cheesecake from Makers Bakers in Findlay Market. Yes, the blending of this Southeast-Asian fruit in cheesecake is glorious but the exclusiveness of it will no doubt impress that sweets-connoisseur (okay, you -that connoisseur is you). Photo by JP Leong.


The welcoming people in your life deserve a Beckoning Cat

Then there are the people in your life who have it all. They’ve got a great pad, a lovely relationship with their family, an exciting job, fabulous fashion sense, they invite you over for dinner & never let you do the dishes, and write you thank you notes after hanging out with you. You secretly hate these people. But, really, you love them. But they’ve got everything! Celebrate how welcoming and open they are (and hide your seething) with a Beckoning Cat. These ah-dorable statues are vessels of good luck and found in businesses and homes across Eastern Asia. There are so many different iterations that, even if your person has one, they will love another. Maybe they already collect them? Beckoning Cats are available in a multitude of materials, sizes, and self-waving capability from your local Asian marketplace. And there’s always the accessible corporatized pop-culture version. Photo by JP Leong.


Your souper friends need souper spoons.

While they often get passed over in favor of their flashier utensil-mate, chopsticks, the humble Asian soup spoon really is the scoop du jour. Their flatter, fatter design tradition helps take soup consumption from merely a mechanical exercise to an all out experience. And, as per many Asian culinary implements, soup spoons run the gamut from utilitarian to works of art and are available in colors and designs to suit every occasion or personality. And, yeah, just adding one of these culturally-appropriate spoons will improve your congee. Photo by JP Leong.

Top Image: Bags of locally-roasted nuts from Dean's Mediterranean Imports.
Photo by Anjali Fong