Aunty Kel's Kitchen Delights: Malaysian condiments & spices, homemade from a lifetime of love
November 13, 2021
Over half a century of care and experience is embedded in each jar of condiments and spice by Aunty Kel's Kitchen Delights. “We won’t sell what we don’t eat ourselves,” Aunty Kel promises, the result of a lifetime of cooking with love.
Now 76, Aunty Kel has been whipping up food for as long as she can recall.
When she was eight, she collected 10 sen each from other children in their neighbourhood near what is now KL's Jalan Raja Laut. She used the "small fortune" to prepare a feast for them. At the age of 12, she cooked what she remembers now as her best prawn sambal dish. In the 1990s, she supplied her homemade spices to a sandwich chain - all while cooking for her family everyday.
Aunty Kel says she mastered cooking by learning from her five older sisters and keenly watching cooks in eateries and hawker centres that she frequented in KL and Ipoh, where she lived. She would figure out their recipes and tweak them to her style.
At home, she and her family have always made condiments and spice mixes from scratch, with fresh, raw ingredients purchased wholesale. They hand-pick, wash and dry everything themselves, finely chopping and mixing the components.
The same condiments and spices that Aunty Kel relies on in her household are now available for more families to savour - from spicy relishes of anchovies, shrimp or vegetables to garam masala and garlic powder, all concocted in small batches.
Find Aunty Kel's full range of products at auntykels.com
A selection of Aunty Kel's products can also be found at:
Ben’s Independent Grocers in Plaza Batai, Publika, IPC, Bangsar Shopping Centre and The LINC KL
Jaya Grocer at Empire Shopping Gallery, Main Place, Plaza Jelutong, The Gardens Mall, Starling Mall, VERVE Shops, Jaya 33 and SS15 Courtyard
Aunty Kel's original product and enduring bestseller is her Spicy Anchovy Relish (RM12). It's soulful and satisfying, made purely with anchovies, onions, dried chillies and vegetable oil, free of preservatives, MSG and artificial colouring.
The anchovies that Aunty Kel uses are relatively large, whole and well-separated, maintaining their rich taste and robust texture. This is a step up from similar condiments where the anchovies are crushed, losing their crunch and becoming lumpy.
If you love Aunty Kel's anchovy relish, you'll also appreciate her Spicy Shrimp Relish (RM12), made with dried shrimp, onions, chillies, curry leaves and a tinge of salt, with a precision that should pass the test of the strictest matriarch.
These recipes have remained with Aunty Kel for decades. Refining her relishes over time, she infuses onions for a natural sweetness to balance the spiciness of the chillies, shunning the sugar that's regularly found in many supermarket brands.
We enjoyed experimenting with the relishes at home - they're potent enough to pack a punch without overpowering everything else, versatile for everything from fried rice to noodles, salads to sandwiches. We'd happily scatter them on pizzas and pies for an extra kick of sweet-savoury spice.
The anchovies are long and thin, firm and crisp, unmistakably briny to the bite, while the shrimp is a flakier with a clean, clear crustacean flavour, nicely complemented by the herbaceous heat of curry leaves. We can't choose a favourite, so we'd probably buy both - a pleasurable perennial in everyone's pantry.
In the Spicy Vegetarian Anchovy Relish (RM12), Aunty Kel uses mushrooms to replicate the comforting umami of anchovies, harnessing the mushroom's earthiness to excellent effect - the ideal accompaniment if you're cooking a vegetarian nasi lemak platter, for example!
For chefs and cooks who work with Asian cuisine, whether you're a veteran in a restaurant or a hobbyist at home, Aunty Kel's spice mixes would be a valuable tool for more aroma and allure to your creations.
Aunty Kel's Garam Masala (RM13) is a powerful classic, weaving together cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, fennel, turmeric, poppy seed and coriander seed, with one extra element: dried chillies. This lends a moderate heat, so you won't need to add any extra chilli to your masala meals.
The Fish Masala (RM13) is vegetarian-friendly too. It's meant to be the perfect companion for fish, buoyed by cumin, coriander seeds, black pepper, fennel and dried chillies, more concentrated than the Garam Masala. While it's made with fish in mind, it's suitable for various seafood and vegetarian dishes.
We were honoured to have Aunty Kel personally prepare a quick Prawn Curry for us, blending together plump prawns with a combination of her Garam Masala and Fish Masala, mixed with fresh milk and hearty vegetables.
The result will certainly fulfil curry cravings - irresistibly fragrant, deliciously creamy but not too heavy, delightfully refreshing in its mouthwatering medley of spiced flavours. If Aunty Kel had a restaurant, we might order this every month.
For cooking convenience, Aunty Kel also offers Chilli Powder (RM11) and Garlic Powder (RM11).
The Chilli Powder comprises the dried chillies of Aunty Kel's relishes, finely ground, making for a marvellous marinade or a spectacular seasoning.
The Garlic Powder is all about dehydrated garlic, with a pungency that's bliss for garlic enthusiasts, to be sprinkled prudently on dishes.
It's no wonder why Aunty Kel keeps both powders consistently in stock at her own home.