What’s the story behind Maya Kaimal?
Before launching my business, I wrote two Indian cookbooks that were inspired by my South Indian father’s heritage. My first book, Curried Favors was lucky enough to garner the Julia Child Best First Book award. In 2003 I pivoted from a career as a photo editor of Saveur magazine in New York City, to launching my own line of Indian sauces. I wanted to fill the gap I observed in the marketplace, and create refined-tasting, home-style Indian food. I continue to innovate new products with my Upstate New York team, and have grown the company into many categories including simmer sauce, dal, chana, rice, chili sauce, and soup. I love what I do!
What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about cooking traditional Indian food at home?
Indian food is traditionally cooked by many hands in the kitchen, so it can be daunting to make a homemade meal from scratch as one person. Lots of prep is required, and part of the magic is how cooks manipulate the spices to get the most flavor from them. I make sure to follow those authentic methods when we make our products, so people can save time without sacrificing flavor.
Family and tradition are at the center of everything you do. How has that impacted the way the brand has developed and continues to operate?
As a cookbook author and someone who has spent a lot time in Indian kitchens, I draw my inspiration from home cooking. Each dish begins with a real dish I’ve tasted. I’m always thinking about how to match up my favorite authentic Indian recipes with American palates and lifestyles. For example, our chili sauces are inspired by Indian chutneys, but are packaged like familiar hot sauces or sriracha. Our Everyday Dal takes an Indian staple food, and adds in non-traditional but delicious butternut squash and comes in a ready-to-eat microwavable pouch.
Has anything surprised you about your journey/success?
I’m pleasantly surprised by the rising interest in Indian food since launching the business. My instinct told me there was a bigger appetite for Indian food than was being served, and it’s actually been proven true. In fact, Indian food outpaces all other cuisines in the fast-growing “ethnic food” category! And what’s great is that it’s happening in the restaurant world, in print, and on social media too. It’s exciting to be a little part of the growing appreciation of Indian food.
What’s next on the horizon for Maya Kaimal or what do you hope to do next?
In 2023 I’m releasing my third cookbook, called Indian Flavor Every Day. It’s yet another step in my ongoing mission to help people enjoy making Indian food. The book’s recipes are approachable, but it also teaches the tricks of Indian flavor so people can incorporate those ideas into other foods they make. I’ll also continue developing new products, of course!
Tell us about one thing on your mind right now either environmentally or socially.
We think about this topic a lot at our company. We’re trying to have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible. We debate glass jars versus plastic ones, and plastic pouches versus plastic trays, and we think about what our consumers will prefer, and try to match that up with a price point that will allow a product to succeed. We recently switched one of our Costco product lines from plastic trays to biodegradable ones, but we won’t stop there!
Want to explore more from Maya Kaimal? Check out their full line of products here.