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Chinese Culture Meets Peanut Butter at Rooted Fare

Rooted Fare

Ashley Xie and Hedy Yu’s friendship dates back to kindergarten when they attended Chinese language classes after school. It was important for both of their families that they not only learn the language, but also connect with their roots both in and out of the house. Years later, Xie and Yu would become the co-founders of Rooted Fare, makers of a black sesame crunchy butter. A uniquely flavored and addictively delicious spread inspired by Xie’s grandma’s Tang Yuan recipe, this is a sweet rice ball with a luscious black sesame filling. Rooted Fare is both a product of Xie and Yu’s shared experience as second-generation Chinese Americans and a love letter to their cultural upbringing.

“Both of us were born in L.A. and raised in Diamond Bar, CA,” Yu told Beyondish. “Our families put us into Chinese language [classes] after school since it was important to them that we spoke the language.” Food played an even larger role in their childhoods, with some of their happiest memories being made around the dinner table.

“I grew up in my mom’s Chinese restaurant, which became my playground and solidified my love for food,” Xie said. “I remember helping roll dumpling skins and eating baos fresh off the steamer. As I got older, I started watching Food Network. I’ve always loved the act of cooking for others.”

Founders Ashley Xie (left) and Hedy Yu (right).

Coincidentally, Yu also began learning about her own family’s roots during mealtime. “In the summers, my dad came home to visit (from China),” she said. “My mom cooked a small feast almost every night and they’d both recount stories of growing up and living in China, their love story, what it was like to immigrate to the U.S. I love how food brings my family and others together and allows for deep storytelling and connection.”

While surrounded with culture and history at home, both Xie and Yu also saw very little Asian representation in mainstream culture growing up. At the time it was rare to see faces and experiences like theirs being celebrated and uplifted, much less shown as success stories. “As a kid, I wanted to assimilate to American culture so badly that I didn’t embrace my Chinese heritage,” Xie said. “It’s so silly to think that I once preferred Lunchables over dumplings, and that I dreaded going to Chinese school. I didn’t understand how lucky I was that I got to experience two cultures and that it can be my superpower.” Watching Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan on TV dominate her sport also helped to change Xie’s perspective. “She made me believe that I could one day achieve big things too,” she said.

In 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Xie and Yu launched Rooted Fare in L.A., selling their Black Sesame Crunchy Butter. It’s a nutty, sweet and crunchy spread, which Xie describes as a grown-up, sophisticated version of peanut butter.

Locally sourced and only made in small batches, the spread’s primary ingredient also happens to be the star of her grandmother’s award-winning Tang Yuan, Chinese glutinous rice balls filled with the earthy, nutty goodness of black sesame that is traditionally eaten on Chinese New Year. “To me, the best part of Tang Yuan was always the filling,” Xie said. “I wanted to figure out a way to eat it on anything and at any time.”

Rooted Fare’s Black Sesame Crunch Butter can be enjoyed on toast, as an ice cream topping, fruit dip, or even as a boost of umami to noodles. A post on the company’s Instagram page highlights how black sesame is truly an unsung hero of Asian cuisine, used in Indian Black Sesame Ladoo, Japanese Kuro Goma Purin (black sesame pudding), and Filipino Buchi (sesame balls).

“All of us honor our cultures in our own way and for us we’re bringing the spirit of celebration, tradition and creativity into our everyday modern lives,” Yu adds. “It’s a daily reminder, as we spread black sesame crunchy butter on toast or swirl it in a yogurt bowl, that just being ourselves is honoring our heritage. We are enough in every aspect.”

“There’s still so much work to be done, but I’m so proud of the way Asian American culture is evolving and that our company can be part of this beautiful movement,” Xie said.


Marc Cuenco

Marc Cuenco is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer with over 10 years of experience covering pop culture, food, fashion and lifestyle. A healthcare professional by day, Marc spends his free time taking photos of his puppy Chandler and exploring L.A.’s diverse food scene.


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