Malaysia seems to be going through a trend with the influx of homegrown gourmet artisanal products on offer in the country. This is no surprise with so many well-travelled Malaysians, who have a finely honed interest for niche, gourmet and artisanal products which are widely found in countries such as Europe, US and Australia. One such example is Dapur Sainer (Sainer's Kitchen) one of the country's gourmet food producers that has exploded into many Malaysian households with its fiery range of chili oils.
It so happens that the entrepreneur and mom-preneur behind the brand is none other than Adilah Ahmad-Sainer, a friend of mine who has forayed into the world of gourmet artisanal food after a long stint in the corporate and retail world. Adilah invited Batik&Bubbles over to her home for lunch where she cooked us a special meal using her products from the Dapur Sainer range.
As Yiga and I walked into her home, we couldn't help noticing a large painting on the wall of Adilah clad in a sarong with plates of chilies laid in front of her. She told us then that this painting was created by renowned Malaysian artist Jai Abu Hassan back in 2011 way before she started her business in 2014.
So it seems quite co-incidental that Adilah decided to venture into the gourmet chili oil business, a prophecy perhaps?! She thinks so! Adilah has recently decided to use the painting as the label on her chili oil jars which gives a very personal and artistic edge to the brand.
While Adilah prepared lunch, we proceeded to ask her a few questions about her company, Dapur Sainer:
Batik&Bubbles (B&B): Adilah, Tell us a little bit about your background and how it led you to launch Dapur Sainer?
Adilah: I have always wanted to do something on my own however, I never really knew what that was. Having been in the corporate and retail world for most of my working life I was keen to try something new. I had dabbled in jewellery and other small side businesses but did not have the courage to leave my day job.
Soon after having my first child, Markus, I discovered that it became rather a feat to cook for all my family as we (my husband and I) wanted to have spicy food however we weren't able to do that because of the baby. I then created my own chili oil which serves as a great condiment to accompany any dish, be it western or asian cuisine.
Soon after, my friends were telling me that I should start a business selling the oils but I was quite hesitant about it at first . However, the deal breaker came when I eventually got a call from BFM radio and Nona TV3( a popular Malaysian women's daytime TV program) to feature on their program. I was in a dilemma as I couldn't be seen having a business while working full time. That's when I decided to leave my day job.
So by June 2014 I was able to concentrate fully on Dapur Sainer even though I had already started selling the oils at the end of 2013. I have a lot of gratitude towards Nona because soon after the program screened on television, I was immediately inundated with orders . I didn't quite expect such an overwhelming response from the public!
B&B: Have you always had an interest in cooking?
Adilah: Growing up, I was never in the kitchen. My mother used to despair of me, I being the eldest of 8 siblings and not having any interest in cooking. I was more interested in other household duties like cleaning and interior decoration. However, things changed when I started working and living on my own. That's when my interest in the culinary world began.
B&B: What made you decide to sell chili oil and not curry paste for example?
Adilah: I did alot of research beforehand and noted that there was already an abundance of curry pastes on the market. Gourmet chili oils however were not available. I could not find anything spicy enough to suit my palate that was without MSG or preservatives.
B&B: Where and how do you source your ingredients?
Adilah: I did a comparison between buying produce from wholesalers and supermarkets. Although wholesale would be more cost-effective method, the produce is not always fresh and not really up to standards. I now buy nearly all my ingredients from supermarkets as I can be certain of the high quality and freshness.
B&B: Tell us about your products? Any plans to expand into other gourmet foods beside chili oil?
Adilah: At the moment we have 5 products : Gourmet Chili Kering Oil (Not so spicy) at RM 22.00, Gourmet Chili Padi Oil (Quite spicy) at RM 30 and Gourmet Chili Belacan Oil or Sambal Belacan Oil (Quite spicy) at RM 35. They can all be used as either a condiment or cooked as an instant paste with both western and asian dishes. We also have 2 types of pickles on offer such as Gourmet Pickled Habanero Chili (So Spicy) at RM 30 or Gourmet Pickled Petai and Chili Oil (not so spicy) at RM 28.00. The oils can be kept up to a year however they must be kept in the fridge to maintain its freshness and flavour. We advised customers to not keep it outside or they will be quite disappointed!
All in all, the pastes are targetted at busy parents or professionals who love spicy food and wish to cut down on their cooking time. Dapur Sainer's oil and pastes provides an easy shortcut by eliminating the need to chop onions and chilis. It's a foolproof way to serve a delicious meal in a quick and easy time frame.
As for new products, I have been planning to add 2 more oils to the line but it will all depend on manpower as at the moment I am cooking all the oils myself and handling all the packaging and marketing of the products!
B&B: Aside from online where else do you sell your products?
Adilah: I use Instagram and Facebook mainly for sales and sometimes I have a booth at various Farmer's markets or Food festivals around the Klang Valley. Aside from that you can find our products at some speciality stores (see below).
B&B: What are your most favourite and least favourite parts of this job?
Adilah: The best part is being able to be home and see more of the family as obviously working in a full time job involves long working hours. My least favourite part I have to say is the preparation of ingredients such as chopping onions and chilies. The cooking itself is therapeutic for me, it's just the prep which isn't!
B&B: In your opinion, which spice or ingredient is fundamental to Malaysian cuisine?
Adilah: Ha ha I of course would like to say chili but to me belacan is the most essential ingredient used in Malaysian cooking due to its distinctive yet pungent flavour. (Food note: Belacan is a paste made from fermented small shrimps mixed with salt). Malaysians often refer to belacan as local cheese due to its strong and smelly flavour!
B&B: There seems to be a surge of artisanal products on the Malaysian market. Why do you think this is?
Adilah: I started cooking my products for personal use and I made sure that I was using quality ingredients such as the oil itself. By doing this, I was breaking away from the mass market and focusing more on a niche product which certain groups here are beginning to appreciate even more. My products continue to be handmade and done in small batches and there are a growing number of consumers who appreciate the care taken during the process of making the oils and are willing to pay a premium price for quality products such as mine.
B&B: Any words of wisdom for aspiring chefs or cooks who wish to start their own gourmet food brand?
Adilah: My motto for working on your own is basically "Dream it! Wish it! Do it!". It's really important to focus on what you want to do. Eventually it will come to you. You just need to take your time in deciding in what interests you most and then follow your heart!
With that we ended our lunch with happy tummies and enlightened minds. Thank you for having us for lunch and we look forward to hear what's in store for Dapur Sainer. We hope our readers enjoyed feasting on this tasty story.
Bon Appetit !
For more info on Dapur Sainer visit Instagram or Facebook to purchase their products or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also purchase their products at The Red Cherry Store in Pop, The School Jaya One in Petaling Jaya or Moripin, Level 1, Great Eastern Mall, Ampang.
Dapur Sainer is also available in Singapore. Please email email@example.com
Watch this space for a chance to take home some of Dapur Sainer's ultimate range of hot goodies!