If there is one cuisine which we always find difficulties in satisfying our taste buds, it will be Thai food! Getting vegan Thai food in Singapore is literally non-existence unless you create your own sauce or if you double-check and triple check with Thai restaurants to eliminate all the fish sauces they typically use. Mekhala vegan Thai sauces and dressing is a dream come true for all vegans! I came up with some questions to ask the folks behind Mekhala and here are their replies:
1. Who founded Mekhala? When was it founded?
Mekhala was originally founded at the Asian Leadership Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by Jang Phanthip Bauerle. Jang wanted organic and natural products for her clients and, being a vegan cook and a naturopath, began developing her own range. When Daphne Hedley, a family friend with a business background, came upon the products after returning to Asia with her husband, she and Jang decided to launch Mekhala as a brand in Singapore. Mekhala offers wholesome food and personal care products made from organic and natural ingredients sourced from farms in Northern Thailand. All creations are vegan and free from artificial additives, and Mekhala is dedicated to fostering sustainable relationships with suppliers, customers and the local community.
2. What are the products you guys carry currently?
We carry 2 distinct product ranges aimed at encouraging a wholesome, natural lifestyle: an Asian-influenced organic/natural fine food range and a natural personal care range that is free from chemicals such as SLS and parabens.
The food range includes some Asian-inspired salad dressings, Asian condiments (cooking and dipping sauces/pastes), Thai curry pastes, spreads, oils/seasonings (eg organic coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt) and 4 different types of unpolished organic Thai mountain-grain rice. All of them are made from organic and natural ingredients and are highly versatile.
The majority of our personal care items belong either the anti-oxidant-rich Black Rice range and the nourishing/moisturising Young Rice Milk range. Both ranges comprise a shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash or shower gel and handmade soap. On top of these, we also have a very popular coconut soap that resembles a half-coconut! It’s got a creamy coconut soap on the inside and has a “husk” that is actually a cinnamon turmeric scrub. Our best-selling Tamarind Facial Cleanser, made with organic tamarind and honey, rounds up the personal care range.
3. What was the first product produced?
Mekhala first started off with the Black Rice and Young Rice Milk shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and soaps, coconut soap, 4 types of organic rice and a tea range, which we have now discontinued.
4. What is your best-selling product?
Our Coriander Ginger Dressing. We launched it in mid-July, in conjunction with our packaging revamp, and it’s been flying off the shelves ever since! It is absolutely bursting with flavours of coriander, ginger and lime and is great as a salad dressing, pour-over sauce or dipping sauce – no cooking required!
5. Tell me more about the ingredients you guys use which is different from other brand?
Instead of table salt, refined white sugar and vegetable oil, we use only Himalayan Pink Salt, coconut sugar and rice bran oil in our products.
Himalayan Pink Salt are widely acknowledged to be the purest, cleanest, most mineral-rich salt on earth and gets its pink hue from the 84 different types of beneficial elements and minerals that it contains. We choose to use coconut sugar because it is a clean, unrefined sugar that has not been chemically-treated or bleached, unlike regular white sugar. Lastly, rice bran oil is rich in Vitamin E and anti-oxidants and has been shown to improve cholesterol levels.
6. Where are the sauces and dressings made currently? And how big or small is the team?
They are all made in our small factory in Chiang Mai, located near the retreat at which Mekhala was founded. We have a team of 5 in Thailand that is in charge of manufacturing our beautiful products as well as building close relationships with the farmers and other suppliers from whom we source our ingredients. We have recently started selling in Thailand so they are now in charge of liaising with our retailers too!
Our Singapore side is also 5-strong at the moment, including our sales staff. Our Singapore and Thailand teams work very closely together, sharing ideas on both production and marketing – thank goodness for Skype and Google Hangouts!
7. How do you guys get inspirations for new flavours?
For a start, being based in Singapore and Thailand with an eclectic mix of Thai, Singaporean/Chinese, American & Burmese Shan team members, we are very fortunate to have a wealth of flavours and flavour combinations to tap into. We also get inspired by produce we see at the local Chiang Mai markets and at the farms that we visit, dishes from our childhood, television shows, our travels, restaurants we eat out at, etc. Customers at our Pasarbella shop sometimes suggest product ideas to us and tell us what type of products they want to see, which is very valuable feedback for us.
8. Is there a special tip to use your products?
Look past their categories/names and use them in as many ways as you can think of as they are very, very versatile! For example, one of our best-sellers is a Miso Lime Chilli Dressing that is meant to be a salad dressing, but it is also great as a stir-fry sauce for leafy greens, such as kangkong and spinach, as well as a marinade. We regularly post recipes on our website, Facebook and Instagram and hopefully these inspire customers to come up with their own usage ideas.
With Mekhala sauces and dressing in hand, I decided to whip up a vegan thai meal for our guests the next evening. Feeling ambitious, I made all the dishes for the first time and kept my fingers crossed. Thankfully, they tasted surprisingly decent and I had Mekhala sauces to save the day:P The first dish I made was Basil garlic mushroom rice paper roll with an assortment of dressing like pumpkin black pepper $8.20 for 250ml and coriander ginger dressing $8.20 for 250ml. I suggest making an extra few more rice rolls just in case they do not look as good when you cut them up into halves for presentation. I opted for mushroom fillings and the basil garlic flavours really shone through. Our dinner guest commented that I could have added more mint for a refreshing aftertaste for the rice paper rolls. Overall, it was a pretty easy dish to whip up and is one healthy starter to begin your meal with. Another thing I found useful was Mekhala youtube channel where they share how their sauces and dressings can be used but wished they had more vegan cooking recipes.
9. Tell us more about the home cooking videos you guys have on your youtube page? How long does it take to create one and will you guys be doing more vegan cooking recipes?
Two groups of customers that we focus on are that of people who don’t have much time to cook and those who don’t really know how to cook. Our condiments are really, really easy to use so even beginner and/or time-starved cooks will be able to put together tasty, healthy meals with Mekhala’s help! We know of many people who are just terrified of stepping into the kitchen and we realised that we really need to show our customers how easy it is – just talking about it won’t do very much. Hence, the Mekhala Living Food Channel was born! We release one video every 1-2 weeks and also post the recipes on our website.
It takes us about 1-2 hours to prepare one video, depending on how many times we flub our lines. The cooking itself is usually very quick, but the set-up, filming of ingredients and photography can take a while. Definitely! We have recently filmed about 4-5 new vegan recipes, which we will be sharing very soon.
I also wanted a fusion soup as I had a couple of pumpkin squash in the fridge. So I googled for a recipe that required me to use green curry paste $5.50 for 100g and I found it right here. The flavours combined with the spicy green curry paste with roasted pumpkin and coconut tasted heavenly! This soup dish was a winner. If you want it less spicy, I recommend using more coconut milk to blend them all up.
I also made some crispy tofu steaks with some crushed peanuts and sweet plum sauce for extra texture.
The main dish was phad thai using organic mulberry leaves rice noodles which was really unique. It tasted more firm than the usual phad thai noodles when cooked with the Phad Thai sauce $7.20 for 200ml from Mekhala. This dish was definitely one of the healthier version we have tasted by far. It was not sweet but I wished it had a stronger after taste or flavour. I used 2 packets of mulberry rice paper noodles and the portions was too much for 5 people. Another thing I wished was for the bottle to be bigger! I finished using the 200ml bottle for this dish and wished there was more. All my guests went ga ga over the dressings they had and I was curious if they are planning to launch more products in the coming new year.
10. Any new flavours or products you guys will be launching soon?
We will be introducing a whole new spice range within the next couple of months. We will start off with 5 blends of Asian herbs and spices, including lemongrass, Thai basil and Makhwaen peppercorns, which is a type of prickly ash pepper that is similar to Szechuan peppercorns. These will be great as spice rubs and for sprinkling over foods, such as cooked vegetables, tofu and rice, for flavour. We will also have individual dried herbs and spices, such as ground turmeric, coriander and kaffir lime leaves.
We will also be launching 4-5 new salad dressings, sauces and pastes early next year, and these will have Vietnamese, Japanese and, of course, Thai influences. The feedback on them has been great so far and we can’t wait to have them on our shelves!
Our guests also brought along Brownice latest and BEST ice cream cake we have ever tasted! The coconut yolk mango cake slices were delicious. We are bugging the team at Brownice to remake this cake and we think everyone will love it:)
We want to thank Diana and Daphne from Mekhala for sharing and sponsoring the sauces, dressing and noodles we had for this dinner. If you find heading to Pasar Bella quite a chore, do not worry as they have their sauces on their website and also on Le Bono.
Address: 200 Turf Club Road, Pasarbella, The Grandstand #02-k57 Singapore 287994