In Malaysia, it’s a common practice to enjoy the plethora of food choices with condiments, sauces and occasionally pickles. However, most are derived from vegetables and fruits.
How many times have we come across seafood-based pickles? Let’s find out more with our trail to Mister Pickle and its founder, Dr N. Shiamala Devi!
Born and bred in Ipoh, Shiamala started out as a dentist, working as one till date, but her passion lies in cooking, baking and writing books as well. Mister Pickle started out as a homemade condiment to elevate the flavours of dishes during late March, when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was first enforced to contain the outbreak of COVID-19.
“I’ve been practicing dentistry for 30 years now and I’ve also obtained a certificate in cake decoration. But since our country was struck with the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting MCO, I started making pickles for my own family’s consumption.
“It was such a hassle going to the market back then for fear of contracting the virus. So I thought of making something that lasts long, yet is flavourful. Then I was reminded of all the recipes passed along the generations of my family, some of which includes pickles.
“I didn’t plan on my pickles becoming a business initially, because they are homemade. I made a bit more to share with other relatives and friends at their requests. Little did I know, I received unexpected positive responses from all of them,” she noted.
There are three variants of Mister Pickle, which are fish, prawn and salted fish. It takes a total of 3 days to complete the process from buying the raw ingredients to bottling the finished product.
“I use tenggiri (Spanish mackerels) for the fish variant, while the prawn variant uses sea prawns and the salted fish variant is derived from ikan kurau (fourfinger threadfin fish).
“I usually make the pickles during weekends. When Saturday comes, I dry and bake the seafood until all moisture is completely removed. Next, I cook them with spices, in which the main four are chilli powder, turmeric, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. After I’m done, I leave them to cool for the night. I bottle them on Sunday,” Shiamala described.
All variants of Mister Pickle are priced at a flat rate of RM13.50 per bottle.
“Also, no preservatives are included in the process of making the pickles. They’re au-naturelle. The spices and herbs do the work of preserving as well as elevating the flavours.
“I decided to go with standard pricing for all variants to maintain consistency across the brand,” Shiamala expressed.
“All variants of Mister Pickle can be kept out of the fridge, at room temperature. The secret in it is that no water was used during the preparation, which is why they can last long. Although, I do suggest that you make sure that the spoon you use to scoop is dry,” she reminded.
“I personally love the fish variant. It’s the original flavour I learned to make, but to add more choices, I thought of prawns and salted fish. Thankfully, all of them received equal amounts of encouraging feedback,” Shiamala told us.
She also conveyed gratitude to her sister and son who made the inception of Mister Pickle possible.
“If it wasn’t for my sister, N. Geetha and her accurate taste buds, I wouldn’t have gotten the exact recipe of the pickles right. I also have my son, R. Lavanethaan to thank because he designed the brand label, logo and motto. Everything fell into place after that.
“A close friend of mine, Dr Sunitha Putham, was the first to try my pickles and she had nothing but praise for it. She was also one of the first few to suggest that I make this a business.
“I would also like to thank my family, friends and relatives who supported Mister Pickle all the way. We could never have achieved anything on our own without them,” Shiamala mentioned.
“Also, Mister Pickle is a good takeaway for family and friends,” she enthused. “Plus, with Deepavali around the corner, have some Mister Pickle to enhance your taste buds from the feasts to be had.”
Indeed it is. This scribe, who personally favours the prawn variant the most, found it very appetite-inducing, yet not overly spicy for those who have low tolerance of it.
Here are some feedback from those who’ve purchased and tried Mister Pickle:
“I like it because it comes quite close to the taste of pickles from Kerala. It enhances dishes made with Indian spices like having a bit of the ocean in a bottle,” Sunitha said.
“I’ve no words to describe how delectable the pickles tasted. Shiamala did an excellent job,” opined Dato’ Naran Singh, a prominent lawyer from Ipoh.
“The pickles are a comfort food which took me back to the good old times where even the simplest of cuisines are able to bring about happiness. The hint of tanginess, combined with moderate spiciness, suits various palettes,” stated Prof. Dr Vinitha Guptan, vice chancellor for Saito University College.
Of course, our very own Ipoh Food Diva, SeeFoon said, “Seafood pickles, now that’s a welcome diversion. And having the reassurance of ‘no MSG and preservatives’, I can really go to town with this, I thought to myself the evening the bottles arrived.
“So instead of the usual white rice, I decided to make three small bowls of noodles and used one variety of pickles on each. What a treat that was. Like a ‘kon lo meen’ or dry tossed noodle dish you can get at most noodle stalls, each bowl had its distinctive flavors. My favourites were the prawn and fish, finding the salted fish bits a tad hard, nevertheless fragrant and earthy. You can actually find chunks of prawn and fish! Each variety had its own distinctive flavor, the aromatics heady and complex, neither overly spicy nor sweet, the tangy mouthfeel a brilliant addition to any meal.
“Well worth stocking up! Bravo!”
Mister Pickle is available for orders via WhatsApp at 011 7002 5062. Courier service is provided for deliveries out of Ipoh. For more information, go to their Facebook page.
UPDATE: Mr Pickle is now available in more variants, the Highland Fruits and Bitter Gourd & Apricots which are vegetarian and the Dry Masala Fish which is non-vegetarian.
Pictures and video by Gisele Soo