Archive / Kale

Demoing as a Whole Foods Vendor: From dream to reality

Asulia blog-demoing as a vendor at whole foods from dream to realtity WF dedham

Asulia blog - demoing as a whole foods vendor from dream to reality snack aisleasulia blog-demoing as a whole foods vendor from dream to reality asulia boxes in freezerasulia blog-demoing as a whole foods vendor from dream to reality sue and mom

I packed up Asulia dumplings last Saturday (1/11/14) for our very first demo at Whole Foods (WF) with my mom. Every team needs a uniform, we wore wheat-colored sweaters, kale green aprons, and special name tags.

When you’re a vendor at WF, you need to bring everything with yourself and take everything with you when you leave, so it requires a lot of preparation.

The night before, I made a last minute run to find a skillet. After trying a few options, I recently got an induction cooktop for tasting events like these. They heat up in seconds, so they work really well for heating up our frozen dumplings. However, you need induction-friendly pots and pans. I thought my stainless steel skillet would work, but when I tried it out the night before, I realized it was a no go. So off I went in search of induction-friendly cookware. While other people were heading out for Friday night fun, I was heading to Marshalls! I had just an hour before they closed and found a great cast iron skillet, which is great at conducting heat.

On Saturday, we were up early. I saw that it was rainy and cloudy and wondered if that would keep people at home, but fortunately WF shoppers are not afraid of the rain and the Dedham store was packed.

First things first. Before setting up, we had to make sure that enough boxes of dumplings were on the shelf in the freezer case. Check.

Next, we got our table and display all set up, but our electricity kept cutting in and out. So, we loaded everything into a shopping cart and setup shop in our second location, dodging WF customers as we wheeled through the store. The electricity went in and out at our second location too! Finally, with the help of some really great team members at WF Dedham, we got hooked up to the power source at the hot bar and could resume heating up our chickpea, kale, and taro root dumplings.

We shared hundreds of dumpling samples nonstop for 3 hours, to all kinds of people, young and old. We were so busy that as soon as one batch was ready, another line was already forming. Our suggested and preferred way to heat up Asulia dumplings is in an oven, but we can’t seem to heat them up fast enough at tastings. This is why I switched to an induction cooktop. I love seeing people’s faces when they first taste our dumplings. Of course we talked about our mission, vegetables, and healthy eating, but we also talked about other things, what they were shopping for, families, holidays, the Patriots game,  personal stories, things going on in people’s lives. I find that food is a connector, and I love that. Afterwards, we were exhausted and ecstatic at the same time. My mom and I had a late lunch at WF and of course picked up a few items. It’s hard to leave WF empty handed!

For me, the experience was super surreal. It’s a true milestone for me. I’ve spent countless nights and weekends bootstrapping Asulia, taking it from a dream to reality. When I see Asulia boxes on the shelf at Whole Foods, I’m seeing my dreams of helping people eat healthier and helping to send more girls to school come true. I love my job!

Many thanks to the team at WF Dedham! We couldn’t have pulled it off without you.

Stay tuned for future events by signing up for our e-news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and check our events page. We look forward to eating dumplings together soon!

Sourcing locally-grown ingredients from MA Farmers

Eating more fruits and vegetables is not only good for your waistline, but also good for mother earth. The impact on the environment is lessened when we eat our greens.

Asulia supports Massachusetts farmers. We’re busy working to source as much locally-grown organic produce as possible for our handcrafted dumplings. Sourcing non-GMO is important too! We’re not currently certified, but can’t wait to revisit our conversation with the non-GMO Project when we can afford to be certified. Rates are the same regardless of if you’re a startup or a long standing huge food company. With this said, we fully support the efforts of the non-GMO Project and look forward to being certified soon!

Kale is especially resilient and hardy with the cold, so we can use local kale in our dumplings. Some ingredients such as taro root  and chickpeas are not available locally, since they grow in warm climates and prefer lots of sun. Hey, I don’t blame them, I could get used to the warmth too! Also, as we grow, I might change our offerings based on what produce available locally during the changing seasons.

Get Dumplings at Formaggio Kitchen, South End Boston

Great News!  Starting 11/20/13 11/19/13 Asulia dumplings will be available for sale in the freezer section at Boston’s Formaggio Kitchen South End!

We’re so excited – this is our first store!

Just in time for Thanksgiving, our dumplings make great appetizers to compliment your feast with friends and family. Pair with Comté, our favorite cheese at Formaggio, for a savory treat that will delight your guests.

We’re ecstatic that you will be able to buy our taro root and chickpea dumplings from one of Boston’s most beloved specialty food stores!

More store announcements to come soon.

Get Asulia Dumplings in Whole Foods Soon!

Great news! We recently got confirmation that Asulia’s new line of fusion dumplings will be carried in New England-area Whole Foods Market stores and specialty stores very soon. I love shopping at Whole Foods, so I’m ecstatic!

Once the details are worked out, I’ll announce the when and where you will be able to buy our dumplings. It might be as soon as – fingers crossed – Thanksgiving.

To hear the latest about our dumpling launch dates and store locations, sign up for our e-news! We only send the good stuff, news, deals, and reviews.

Connecting for Change and YouthTrade

asulia blog connecting for change and youthtrade 1
My mother and I at Connecting for Change on a cold morning last week in New Bedford.

asulia blog connecting for change and youthtrade 2
Some of the awesome buying team members from Whole Foods Market and YouthTrade team.

Last week, I packed up our veggies and dumplings and headed out to New Bedford for the Connecting for Change conference, an annual event by the Marion Institute. It’s a great conference that brings together people who work in social justice, food, health, green business, women and youth empowerment and sustainability. People who want to change our world. It’s a great fit for Asulia’s values.

It was also fun because my mother came along. She was so excited to be able to help sample dumplings!

While we were there, we also participated in our first YouthTrade show with Whole Foods Market “WFM”. First, I can’t say enough how much I love WFM to begin with. I’ve only grown more fond of the company over the course of this last year as we’ve started our partnership together. Seriously, what’s not to love? Amazing team members that care about our community, animal welfare, planet, and oh, yummy food! The entire WFM team is a joy to work with and I’m beyond ecstatic and grateful for their support in this launch process! If you haven’t heard already, they are implementing a new produce rating system.

Our electric cook top stopped working after a few hours. Perhaps the cold got the best of it? Luckily, one of our volunteers was there to make a run to the store to pick up an emergency toaster oven so we could continue to heat up our dumplings. A huge shout out to Greg L. for his support last week. You rock!

 

Asulia Dumplings in Boston’s Copley Square

asulia blog asulia dumplings in boston's copley square

asulia blog asulia dumplings in boston's copley square 2

asulia blog asulia dumplings in boston's copley square 3

Thousands of people came out on Saturday, 10/5 for the third annual Let’s Talk About Food festival sponsored by Whole Foods and the Boston Globe. Asulia and an awesome crew of volunteers were on hand sampling our kale, taro root and chickpea dumplings non-stop to Bostonians from near and far under the YouthTrade booth. Many were surprised at how good our healthy vegan dumplings tasted! The average dumpling is about 40 calories. With eight pieces per box ranging from 275 total calories for kale, 350 calories for chickpea, and 375 calories for taro root, no wonder eaters were delighted!

We were lucky to have the perfect fall weather as we met and chatted with the great people that stopped by. I especially enjoyed meeting the kids (particularly the skeptical ones) that came back for seconds!

I’m encouraged by your enthusiasm. 10 days of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign remain. Please consider supporting us! Custom color block chopsticks, launch party tickets, and, of course, dumplings shipped directly to you are just some of the rewards we have for our supporters.

Please keep liking our posts on FaceBook, retweeting on Twitter and forwarding our newsletter to your friends and family. Let’s get Asulia on the shelf together.

Special thanks to Grace Lee, Suzanne Brendle, David (he likes to be mysterious), Helen Ye, Rachel Sale, Sarah Cowen, and Steph LaShoto for volunteering! The event would not have been possible without you!

Sue

Developing the Dumpling Recipes – It’s what’s inside that counts

asulia blog developing the dumpling recipes it's what's inside that counts

As you know, Asulia is launching a new handcrafted line of fusion dumplings in chickpea, kale, and taro root. Each fusion dumpling is made locally in Boston in small batches and is certified vegan. People keep asking me how I came up with the dumpling recipes.

These recipes are a modern fusion blend of flavors from the east and west, inspired by my mother’s cooking and my travels near and far. I wanted them to be filled with healthy ingredients that would give you substance without weighing you down. I also wanted the dumplings to appeal to everyone from kids to adults, and keep them locally made in Boston. The dumplings are handcrafted to retain the texture of each filling. I tweaked and tested the recipes two dozen times until I was satisfied!

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from mom and trained chefs is to always consider the elements of taste, texture, appearance, and layering flavors. Food needs to be balanced. When you dine out, typically there’s a mix of soft and crisp textures in your dish. It makes your taste buds happy and excited!

The main ingredients in each dumpling — chickpea, kale, and taro root — have a low glycemic index. They won’t spike your glucose levels. Instead, the nutrients are absorbed more slowly and steadily. This means you won’t be in a food coma after you eat them.

Chickpea Curry Dumplings: This flavor is a variation on indian and thai curries that I grew up enjoying. It’s probably the most traditionally influenced dumpling in our line. Chickpeas are high in fiber and protein. We never use canned chickpeas in our dumplings! We soak dried chickpeas in water for 24 hours, and then carefully chop them to the right consistency to retain texture. Then we steam them and blend them with coconut milk, curry, spices, carrots and more. Cauliflower was added to round out the flavor of the curry and to add texture.

Kale Dumplings: I love kale, it’s one of my favorite foods! It’s so versatile. You can bake it, stir fry it, blend in a smoothie, eat it raw and more. This dumpling is inspired by my mom’s yummy vegetable stir fries and reminds me of the taste of her dishes. In traditional Cantonese cooking, fresh ginger and garlic are used a lot. We mix kale with freshly chopped red and white cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, spices, onions, ginger and garlic. We use shiitake mushrooms to add an element of umami to the filling.

Taro Root Dumplings: I grew up eating taro root in China, where I lived until I was five years old, but it’s less common here in the States. I love it because it has an interesting and unique taste. It has a creamy, custard-like texture and slightly nutty flavor. I like it in every form, from baked to steamed. This recipe is inspired by a dish my mom used to make for me growing up. She would steam taro and marinated meat together in a rice cooker or braise it slowly over the stove with spices. Taro root is great because it has 3 times more fiber than a potato and is a great source of potassium. We steam the taro in small batches until its fully cooked and blend in fresh scallions, toasted sesame, spices, and more to create a savory dumpling filling.

 

 

 

dumpling debut

Wednesday, 9/18 was the first official public Asulia dumpling tasting held at MIT’s Innovation Series “From Farm to Tablet”.  That morning, I dropped my mom off at the airport at 5am. I’ve done this many times before, but that day felt different. I was extra concerned about her safety as she leaves for a month overseas. I got choked up because, not only does she mean the world to me, but also because I want her to be able to continue to see that her decision to become my mom was not for nothing.

Then, I was nonstop all day. Kinda of surprising huh? A dumpling tasting that lasted an hour and a half took a full day of prep! I had to pick up fresh veggies, coordinate with my graphic designer, pick up the Indiegogo info cards from the printer, buy napkins and a table cloth, pack, eat something, and, oh, shower! There wasn’t an oven on site, so I found a friend that lived close by and borrowed hers. I couldn’t have pulled it off without my crew of 3 amazing ladies.

It was awesome to sample to the Boston and MIT community. Over 100 people stopped by Asulia’s table to try our our chickpea dumplingskale dumplings, and taro root dumplings. People loved the taste of the fusion dumplings and wanted to hear more about Asulia and my story. They couldn’t believe the average calorie count is only 44 per dumpling. Many can back a 2nd and 3rd time for more dumplings! I loved seeing people’s faces as they bit into the dumplings and hearing their comments. Instant feedback! I can’t wait to do more demos and share my dumplings with more people.
Special thanks to Suzanne Brendle, Sarah Howes, and Taylor Rose for assisting!
Sue Liang, Asulia Foods

Sue Liang of Asulia Foods setting up for the MIT Dumpling Tasting