If I were ever to pick up ingredients that form the heart of the dish, I would choose spices. I am sure many of you would agree with me on the same. Without spices, food tastes dull and flavorless. In the essence, Team Relishious had a chance to meet Anisa Arif, the curator of Zaiqa, an online spice store, whose magic spice blends are making homes eat lip smacking meals every time.
It’s said beautiful people don’t need coats; it’s their aura that keeps them warm. So is Anisa, with a warm and happy demeanor welcomed us at her home, and started off to talk about her successful journey so far. Our mistress of spices, who is Gujju by genes (now we know why Business!), married a Bangalorean foodie boy and settled down in Chennai.
Relishious: How did you find interest in cooking?
Anisa: Before marriage, I never cooked. After marriage, as it demanded me to cook, I tried cooking and stormed my kitchen with culinary disasters. Then I slowly started to learn cooking from my mother and mother-in-law who are my inspiration.
Relishious: How did spices happen?
Anisa: Whenever my husband travelled abroad, he would bring me back a suitcase of masalas. Every packet had a unique spice blend. As I tried cooking, it started to turn out good. That created interest on how spices can create magic in food.
Relishious: What made you start trying your own blends?
Anisa: As my family enjoyed my cooking from commercial spice blends, they started developing health issues due to the chemicals and preservatives present in them. So I bought fresh whole spices and ground at home to make different blends for different recipes. I did reverse engineering and experimented as many times as I could to recreate the same taste which my family and friends loved. I later shared the masalas with my friends too.
Relishious: When was Zaiqa born?
Anisa: By word of mouth, my spice blends started getting famous among my circle. With a suggestion from a friend, I decided to create a page on Facebook to sell my products. The demand increased tremendously, which gave birth to my online spice store, Zaiqa.
Relishious: How are the ‘Magic Masalas’ made?
Anisa: I buy the highest quality of whole spices, dry them under the sun for a couple of days, hygienically grind them at home, mix and seal in these bright pouches. Currently I make 15 varieties of spice blends.
Relishious: Do you add preservatives or colors?
Anisa: No, I don’t add any preservatives. Blends like Butter Chicken Masala demanded red color, which I used to add in the past. I tried replacing the color with dried beetroot, but that didn’t give the exact color and also added bulk to the product. So I stopped adding colors, as I want my customers to have unadulterated and pure spice mixes. Everybody is family at my store. I serve my customers what I feed my family.
Relishious: Which was your first creation and what tops Zaiqa fans list?
Anisa: My first ever creation was Sindhi Biryani Masala, which is a hit till today. The crowd’s favorites are Butter chicken and Bombay Biryani Masala. The other favorites are Chettinadu Masala, Arabic Al-Faham Masala, Lahori Karahi Masala, Achari Masala and many more.
Relishious: What makes people come back to Zaiqa?
Anisa: I think it’s the authenticity of the blends, which creates the same delicious taste every time they cook and of course blended with my love. I have my clients not only in India, but also based in US, Canada and Middle East. They pre order in large quantities, before they come down and collect when they go back.
Relishious: What’s lined up for your fans in the near future?
Anisa: Right now, I am working on few international spices to create something unique and a couple of Indian blends are ready to be launched soon.
Relishious: So what’s the mistress of spice’s favorite spice?
Anisa: I think Jeera(Cumin Seeds). I love jeera added in any recipe. The flavor it gives is amazing.
Relishious: Where do you see Zaiqa in the years to come?
Anisa: In the coming years, I would like to have my spice store in the city and serve more homes eat better food with my creations.
Avid learner, passionate entrepreneur, brilliant cook and a cool mother. Am sure these divine secret blends can make even an amateur cook, feel like a pro! I have one thing to say after the candid chat with Anisa Arif: If you still haven’t tried Zaiqa masalas, you’re definitely missing the spice of your life!
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