One thing that's kept me happy/sane/grounded during the pandemic is indulging in my favorite childhood foods derived from traditional Japanese home cooking. My ideal breakfast consists of natto (aka gooey fermented soybeans) served over rice with nori (dried seaweed) and freshly made miso soup (I love miso so much, I named my dog after the fermented soybean paste). Although living in NYC has blessed me with access to an abundance of excellent Asian-food offerings, I still felt as though the stars had aligned when an email pitch about something called Umamicart landed in my inbox. I clicked in to find out more about this new, virtual Asian grocer founded by Andrea Xu and felt instantly seen; the name spoke to my soul, the visuals were vivid (seriously, give the IG a follow), and I immediately recognized all of my favorite pantry staples glimmering on the lively homepage's carousel. If your interest is also piqued, then join me below as I find out everything there is to know about shopping at Umamicart — from the overall site experience to the prices, shipping, and packaging.
The Site Experience
From the punchy color scheme to the "Quick Adds" that somehow (already?!) know me a little too well, the overall experience of ordering from Umamicart (click here to check it out yourself) was a solid 10/10. It was super easy to search for things I knew I needed — "sesame oil," "mirin," "Yakult," — and for everything else, I was able to easily browse comprehensive sections divided among pantry essentials, sauces & condiments, meats, and more. While the site's offerings undoubtedly appeal to those already familiar with Asian cuisine, it also offers options for those wanting to learn more about cooking authentic dishes at home. Bundles that include everything you need to make various dishes — from mapo tofu (yum!) to dumplings (yum!!) to DIY sushi (yum!!!) — and automatically add all the necessary ingredients to your cart with the single click of a button. Genius.
Also, the prices were pretty reasonable by my standards; on par (or less than) with what I was used to paying at brick-and-mortar Asian grocery stores in the city. I'd call this an affordable, accessible way to shop for specialty authentic goods you wouldn't otherwise have access to. (They even had the internet-famous Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp — an R29 MVP Award winner)
The Shipping & Packaging
Aside from the occasional Whole Foods delivery via Amazon Prime, I almost never get groceries delivered — I like picking my own produce! That said, I was super impressed with how my Umamicart order arrived. The box was sizeable (I was graciously gifted a $50 credit to use for review purposes), and every glass bottle was wrapped with cushiony woven paper to ensure it delivers securely. Frozen items were packaged in an insulated silver-bubble pouch to maintain temperature and everything else was nestled within recyclable paper. Nothing (not even my Doraemon dorayaki nor my shrimp chips) arrived squished! Umamicart currently offers next-day delivery (free with orders of $49+) to zip codes in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, with plans to expand the delivery range to Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and beyond later this year.
Nothing in life is perfect but, IMO, Umamicart comes pretty darn close. Unpacking the box made me unexpectedly emotional; it feels like ages since I've grocery-shopped with my grandmother in Japan. (For now, I'll just have to keep showing her my joy-sparking hauls over FaceTime.) The female-founded site is legitimately fun to surf and, in a time where Asian hate crimes are rising, Umamicart is a much-needed source of Asian joy that I am happy to support. (It's also a Pocky goldmine.) While it likely won't replace my trips to the local Japanese grocer — in these socially distant times, I really appreciate saying arigatou to a human — Umamicart has earned bookmark status for whenever I need to recommend something special to friends OR try something new that I can't buy nearby.
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