Malaysian Woman Wins Awards in New York Food Show, Gets A Break With Leading US Franchise

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By Manik Mehta

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NEW YORK, July 10 (Bernama) – A young Malaysia-born woman who is a chef and producer of artisanal food products has succeeded in breaking into the US mainstream Foodtown supermarket franchise which launched her products this weekend.

Foodtown supermarket outlets in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will for the first time sell these products.  Other mainstream specialty stores such as Dean & Deluca, Greene Grape, Kalustyan, etc. will also sell her products.

While Malaysian foods, condiments and sauces are visible on the shelves of some local ethnic markets, mainly Chinese-owned, Malaysian products in the mainstream US supermarkets have been a rarity so far – until Sunday when this young woman broke the tradition.

Auria Abraham, who was born and raised in Seremban in Malaysia's state of Negeri Sembilan and arrived in the US in the early 1990s, grew up in the midst of flavours and foods of her hometown, drawing inspiration from Malaysia’s diverse culinary and multi-ethnic makeup of Malaysia.  

Before the Foodtown induction of her products, which are marketed under the brand “Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen” – that is also the name of her company - she had already won the 2018 ‘sofi’ bronze and silver prizes at the prestigious New York Fancy Food Show (NYFFS) 2018 held a few days back from June 30 to July 2. 

Her company, which is based in Brooklyn, New York, presented two entries for the ‘sofi’ competition – the lime leaf sambal won the bronze prize in the cooking sauce (marinade) category while the pandan kaya (coconut jam) garnered the silver prize in the jam preserves category.

The products, two out of 150 winners, were judged by a national panel of specialty food experts; the products were judged on taste, including flavour, appearance, texture and aroma, ingredient quality and innovation.

In an interview with Bernama at the New York Fancy Food Show (NYFFS) 2018, Abraham said that the “Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen” is the only Malaysian food brand manufactured in the US today.

“We are trying to bring Malaysian foods that I remember from my childhood to the US market. Since our products are relatively unknown to most Americans, this honour is a much-appreciated confirmation that our products are well-liked and have great potential here. 

“Our lime leaf sambal is a green chilly paste flavoured with makrut lime leaves that can be used as a cooking sauce, marinade or straight out of the jar as a condiment.  Our pandan kaya Is a popular Malaysian breakfast spread that can be used on toast, pancakes, waffles, etc.,” Abraham remarked, adding that her green sambal appears similar as green curry to US consumers who have tasted the latter, for example, in Thai restaurants.

She said that she was going to expand her operations; she already has a distributor for each geographical region in the US. But she also emphasized the need to further promote Malaysian cuisine which, except for a few big cities, is not known in much in the country.

Her company also organises food samplings in supermarkets where she has received an “overwhelmingly positive response” manifested in people’s reactions. 

Abraham fondly remembered her growing years in Seremban and said that she would watch how her mother cooked in her kitchen at home. “I offer my products the way my mother would prepare food for the family… without using chemicals or flavourings,” she said.

“The exposure to the local Malaysian cooking inspired me to master the use of the plethora of Southeast Asian spices and herbs, using fenugreek and brown mustard in seafood and vegetable dishes, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves in meat dishes, galangal, fresh turmeric, etc. to flavour sauces and marinades,” she said, adding that “business expansion is very much on the cards and we are going to concentrate on tapping the business potential in the market”.

-- BERNAMA