If burning your tongue with searing hot spiciness is your daily holy grail, then MOFO CHILI is one contender that you should not ignore. Move away Tabasco, sambal chilli and chilli padi. This hot, hot, HOT vegetarian concoction of fresh yet simple ingredients is sure to turn the heads of any chilli worshipper.
I sat opposite Monica Josephine, one of the co-founders of MOFO CHILI. It was started by her and her sister, Steffi Elvira (a.k.a Foi, from which the first 2 letters of their names make up the name, MOFO). As she cheerfully invited me to try their hottest product in their range – Final Destination, I dived my fork into the bottle for a pinch of this fierily intense-smelling red brown mush and neatly placed it onto my smoked salmon and cheese bruschetta. One bite and I was quickly racing to my ice cold lemon tea.
Giggling at my demise, Monica made no secret of MOFO CHILI’s ambitious aim to be the hottest condiment in the market. I nodded in agreement between sips. Despite the unforgiving heat, I can’t deny that the sauce actually tasted appetizingly good with a slight onion-y after-taste, followed by a tingling sensation that lingered mercilessly under the roof of my mouth. So I swept up another pinch onto my bruschetta before ending up with lips so red that a lipstick was no longer needed.
Formerly having worked in sales, martial arts and restaurant managing, Monica’s expansive insight has put MOFO CHILI a step further into the local food scene, and she was more than delightful to share why:
Describe your chilli condiments in 5 words to a first time taster.
Spicy, tasty, vegetarian, versatile and FUN!
How did MOFO CHILI start in the first place?
My whole family eats really spicy food. Back when I was at uni in UK, I would bring bottles of [our home made] chilli sauces. Whenever I ate with my friends there who come from around the world, they would try our chilli sauces and say things like, “My goodness, this is so interesting, I’ve never tried something like this before!” One of my Singaporean friends in UK who is a supporter missed the taste [of our chilli] when she came back here [in Singapore] and could not find this kind of taste [outside], so she asked for a few more bottles. What started with just me and my friends, jumpstarted to trying to sell [the chilli] to the mass market. Our first event was at Pasar Bella Farmer’s Market at Bukit Timah during Christmas in 2013. The response was amazing. We also let F&B owners try our recipes to get their feedback – they were helpful and open to provide us with advice.
Who created the recipe?
My sister [Foi] did and she loves cooking. We experimented with local chillies, our home town chillies, ghost peppers, and tried mixing them together. We did a few rounds of blind tastings with our friends and families, and they all liked the chilli sauces. The [fresh] chillies that we get from home is still the best choice.
What are the challenges you face when pursuing this business?
High costs in Singapore, be it human labour (staff) or rental of space.
Is there anything you could have done differently while doing this business?
Which other places can we find your chilli sauces at the moment?
We are currently retailing online at Crateful, Go Gluten Free and Naiise. We also partner up with some restaurants that cook with our chilli condiments and sell our bottles to their customers too. Best way to check the closest location to you is to check on our website: www.mofochili.com
Compared to our local classics like chilli padi, how is yours different?
Our chillies are tasty and fragrant. Your mouth waters by just smelling it. The chilli padi we get in the market tastes raw, which is why we are used to adding soya sauce to it. MOFO CHILI is created with this in mind. All you need to do is dip it with anything and everything you’re eating and be blown away.
In that case, would you consider producing it elsewhere?
It is proudly founded and made in Singapore. At the moment, both of us are still producing it ourselves so it’s still manageable.
The ingredients used are quite simple. Is this part of integrating with the growing health-consciousness that people are adopting nowadays?
We really want to keep our sauces fresh. There are no preservatives, stabilisers or additives inside our chillies. What you get is purely a mix of chillies, onion, oil and salt.
Which is the most popular chilli sauces in your range right now?
It’s a split between Dodge The Bullet and Final Destination.
What are the flavours you have at the moment?
We presently have Dodge the Bullet, which is our level 5 chilli condiment. Level 10 is our Final Destination, which is the spiciest. The quality [in our chilli] is really there. Gun Powder, which is the chilli powder in our range, was made as an alternative choice for those who are constantly on the go/travelling.
What other flavours are you planning to expand into?
We are planning to expand to a level 15 and a level 30 chilli condiments.
Level 30! Do you think there will be people daring enough to try that?
We’ll see (smiles). We want to be the spiciest in the market and hopefully we can be the next Tabasco replacement (laughs).
Does it scare you to go further and further up the spiciness thermometer?
Nope (laughs). We love eating spicy stuff anyway.
Recommend us what we can eat your chilli condiments with.
You can eat them with anything as they do not change the taste of your food. They simply add that extra heat.
What are the reactions of non-locals trying your chilli condiments?
What are the reactions of non-locals trying your chilli condiments? You’ll be surprised. We have a lot of international friends who are based here who like our chilli range and other restaurant owners. We have recipes online that will show you how to eat with our chilli condiments.
Any misconceptions people have about your chilli condiments that you’d like to be clear about?
That MOFO CHILI is only good for Asian cooking. Our chili condiments have been created to suit different cuisines and they are incredibly versatile condiments.
Do you see you and your sister expanding to other ideas apart from this chilli business?
We hope to open our own restaurant that is really catered to this kind of [spicy] palate. We also would like to export our chillies overseas and increase our local distribution network.
How has business been since?
We are currently producing a few hundreds of bottles per month and would aim to increase that to thousands in future.
Must be tough working with grease, heat and sweat in the kitchen everyday?
No lah! (laughs) I don’t know why people think it’s that bad. It really isn’t. We have machines that help us do the chopping and other mass procedures, though cooking is still done by hand. Currently it’s only 2 of us, but we hope to hire staff once we expand.
Dare to enter the fiery furnace? Visit http://www.mofochili.com/ to meet the challenge.
Images courtesy of MOFO CHILI.