Outside, in Carr Street, is a mural of a coffin and an angel but that turns out to be next door. The part of the pinkish building Heather and I enter bears an array of elderly spikes and barbed wires, giving away nothing of its inner enchantments, except the name, Mallies Spice Works.
Restaurateurs know this name. So do big foodstuff suppliers. The shop was named two generations ago, but it’s meaningful. There’s a whole lot in the works here. Passing under shelves into the next room, we enter a surprising succession of double volume factory size spaces. There’s a mill producing Mallies’ flours, chickpea flour, black mung bean and more.
The accountant brother, Premul Jhina, shows us around and we meet his engineer brother, Paresh Jhina, who has a smidge of flour on his forehead. Their mother is deliciously named Sushila Jhina. Upstairs, where incense is boxed for deliveries, the air is more ethereal. Back in the orders and shop area, the Nigerian businessman who was seated in a chair oddly placed almost in the middle of the floor has gone and the present incumbent is from Bela-Bela. It seems to be the chair for the customer of the moment.
We’re going through the shelves of chia, mustards and salts and arrive at the jaggery cones and tamarind, probably my favourite spice, when Premul ruefully says often his work entails dealing with politicians. He still hopes local farmers can produce for the business, but he’s having more success working with Southern African Develpment Community farmers.
Since Mallies Spice Works is a family business, Premul says that if any product is fine enough for his own family to eat, it’s good enough to sell with pride.
“I’m giving you some of the Indian and the Thai tamarind to try. Just small amounts so you come back.”
I depart with these, the fudgy jaggery of fermented palm sap and an Ayurvedic muti for cuts and wounds. Similarly, the Jhinas personally advise even their very biggest customers on what would work best for their needs and gives them the options to see what works for them.
- Mallies Spice Works 111 Carr St, Newtown