The Indian spice brand moji masala has been making its mark in Chestnut Hill as a family-owned business with a rich background.
The Indian spice brand moji masala has been making its mark in Chestnut Hill over the past year as a family-owned business with a rich background in culture and family connection.
Moji masala, which means “mom’s spice blends” in the Kashmiri language, was founded by JD Walsh and Shireen Qadri about four years ago, shortly before the pandemic. The married couple, whose spice blends are created from Qadri’s mother’s recipes, hope that they can add something new to the kitchens of families across the community: the ability to make unique Indian dishes at home.
“Indian food is nourishing, healthy, digestible, delicious, and this is what we want to introduce the community to,” Qadri said.
Chestnut Hill is the perfect place to do that, she said.
“The idea of Indian food is not just cooking it, it’s about Indian families sitting down to a big dinner with a lot of dishes. It’s a very common experience and it’s really the gathering that is the inspiration for us, and we feel like wow, how did we hit upon this wonderful community where this is appreciated as a value,” Qadri said. “There’s so much community in Chestnut Hill and it kind of blows our mind because it’s an urban setting; I just never experienced an urban setting with so much community.”
Walsh and Qadri discovered Chestnut Hill in January 2022, and decided very quickly to move themselves as well as their business from Brooklyn, N.Y.
“Neighbors of ours from New York City moved here. We saw the neighborhood, we loved it, and we wanted to find a nice neighborhood for [our daughter] to grow up in,” Walsh said. “The pace of Chestnut Hill to run a business like this works very well, and once we were able to get our production up and running, it’s just as good as being anywhere else in the country.”
Their spices are available locally at The Spice Rack on Germantown Avenue, Riverwards Produce in Old City and Fishtown, Weavers Way in Ambler, Herman’s Coffee in South Philadelphia, Martindale’s Natural Market in Swarthmore, and Salt & Vinegar in the Bella Vista neighborhood. They also are sold in Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New York.
Moji masala offers a dozen different flavors of spice packets and the products are listed on their interactive website, mojimasala.com. Video tutorials are available on the website that show how to apply the spices and match dishes with flavor profiles.
“We’re co-CEOs and we’re basically co-everything. We work together on marketing, strategy, business development — everything from A to Z, we see or completely oversee,” Walsh said.
Walsh and Qadri grind and hand make the spices, package them, ship them, monitor the website, and have been hands-on with every business component since the start of moji masala. The spice blends originate from organic spice seeds that they acquire globally, mostly from India.
“A lot of things that are considered everyday spices are not as easy to find organic, so we’re very committed to that. We buy spices that were the most recent crop pulled out of the ground,” Qadri said. “A lot of spices you’ll see in a grocery store in the regular spice aisle could be 5 years old; you can smell and taste the freshness.”
Their collection of spices and meals can appeal to meat and fish lovers, vegetarians, people who like sweets, and people who prefer savory foods. They use 11 different types of spice seeds to bring the recipes alive, each of which are different from one another in flavor and aroma.
“These recipes right now are my mom’s, but really what we want to do is have representation of the whole [India]. It’s a very diverse country with very diverse food,” Qadri said. “We want to represent the whole country through homemade cooking.”
Qadri is a first-generation American with a family background that originates in the Kashmir region of India, and she hopes that she can share her cultural values through culinary expression.
Eventually, she said, she hopes for a storefront.
“We really want our own presence in Chestnut Hill,” Qadri said. “What we envision is our own store that is an extension of what we think our brand is about, which is about community, gathering, teaching, sharing the food, and sharing the breadth of what Indian food is about.”