Tuesday, March 29, 2011

More Than Just Salsa

There has been a strange trend as of late that when I meet people for the first time their first response is, "Hey you're the guy who sells salsa right?" Yes I am the salsa master, well at least according to the business cards that Kim had printed for me. It's not a bad thing to be known for as it is usually followed up with something like, "My room mate bought it and we both loved it so much we were eating it with a spoon." Which is a nice compliment, especially considering I don't even eat it with a spoon....well maybe the pomegranate.

This last weekend though my brand of Enlightened Salsa was no more, I'm rebranding and expanding into a wider array of food. If this first weekend was any indication, then it should be a success as I sold out of almost everything that I cooked up for the markets. The new items expand on the Mexican theme, providing things like; veg. chili, refried beans, and south west style pulled chicken (soon to be chipotle chicken when I get my peppers from Harilo). The larger expansion is into other American styles of cooking offering everything from Italian style pasta sauces to Tennessee style BBQ. This weeks items included BBQ Pulled Pork, Marinara sauce made with roasted red peppers, Mushroom Garlic pasta sauce, Bruschetta (which to be fair is just a slightly altered form of my old Greek salsa), Tzatziki, and Greek style triple strained yogurt.

Really the dairy products may be one of the largest areas I could expand into. The yogurt and tzatziki sold out about half way through the first day at the market. I've already been making my own butter, and butter milk but really haven't had any suitable packaging to sell it in. I'd also like to possibly move onto selling sour cream and possibly flavored cream cheeses if I can get the process down a bit more reliably, as I think those items would sell very well for the breakfast crowd. The problem with dairy is that it really needs refrigeration on site, and coolers here are absurdly expensive. My next order through Harilo will include a collapsible cooler which will make my expansion into dairy products possible.

Harilo also offers some room for further expansion, as you can get quite a few items from the States that aren't available here or items whose quality is vastly superior to what is available locally. Corn products for instance are a real problem here, and there is nothing worth using. Making BBQ mean you really want to have corn bread, and making Mexican dishes you really want corn tortillas. So in my shipment that is on the way I have a 4 pack of 20oz bags of Bob's Red Mill Cornbread mix and in my shipment I'm putting together now I'll have a cast iron tortilla press and a 10 Lb bag of Masa Harina so I can actually make tortillas. Beyond just corn products though I'm also able to purchase certain spices that you can't find here like the previously mentioned chipotle peppers, American style chili powder (which has a very different flavor than the local stuff) , the best BBQ sauce in Sweet Baby Ray's gallon containers (which is cheaper through Harilo than buying inferior quality stuff at Bhat Betini), and kitchen utensils like whisks which are apparently unavailable in Nepal. Who knew? But then what Nepali food would require a whisk to make? Once I have a whisk here I'd like to make home made mayo...possibly some flavored stuff, as my food processors whipping attachment just isn't capable of making it. Sure you can buy low quality brands of mayo here, but it's very expensive compared to the ingredients.

All of this is part of an expansion that I'm planning to do as a way to move into catering and hopefully a restaurant if the stars align for me. I'm putting together a business plan and a mock up menu for the restaurant idea, but as one can imagine getting hard numbers here is a bit tough. The idea though is to have a place/person that people can go to to get authentic North American style food, which is currently completely lacking in this city. I think there is a ton of potential for this, but there are some good sized hurdles too. Getting quality beef cuts in a Hindu country isn't as easy as walking down to the local butcher...I think it's still a crime to kill a cow. Cheeses such as Monterey Jack, Colby, Sharp Cheddars, Provolone, Swiss and Blue Cheese will all have to be imported (by the way I compared prices and it's half the price per unit weight to import through Harilo as it is to buy at Bhat Betini). Fountain drinks aren't the norm here and most people use bottles, but figuring out how to get fountain drink machines running here could mean a good size reduction in price and that would allow for free refills, which is something that is lacking and drives me crazy here. Then there is the whole planning prep in a country that is often lacking electricity and thus consistent access to refrigeration.

It's the difficulty though that I find attractive, because if you can solve the puzzle it's almost sure to turn a profit. It's a design and tuning issue, a combination of balancing numbers, creativity and quality. That kind of thing I've always found attractive, and it's the kind of thing I can throw all my time into and be perfectly happy doing so. So if you happen to be in Kathmandu, I'll be having more than just salsa available in the future. Hopefully soon I'll have something put together for catering, and I'll post all the info here. Until then may we all dream of six different kinds of Buffalo wings.


  1. Great to hear about the expended selection! I need to stop by farmer's sometime soon.

    P.S. - I sense a business opportunity in importing/making fountain vending machines for soft drinks and draught beer.

  2. Wow that is expansion in the cooking world!

  3. Brian, when do you sleep?!???!!

  4. Yes it's quite an expansion, and I'd be happy to have more people stop by the market, really look forward to it every week It's a great group of people that are vendors and really it's a great crowd that shows up week after week.

    As for my sleeping habits, in an effort to keep all of this as fresh as possible I cram all of the cooking into Thursday and Friday which makes for a long two days of cooking. Some stuff gets bottled Saturday morning. Still it isn't too terrible a schedule yet, though I am looking to get a helper to make this a little easier.


Related Posts with Thumbnails