” Making money out of something I love is the biggest joy,” she says. “I get happiness every time I make a batch of spices.”

– Neda Khan

When Neda Khan talks about food, it presents a challenge for your tastebuds. Because she describes it so passionately, drawing on engrained memories of tastes, sounds and scenes, that you can’t help but wish to be right by her side, indulging in a North Indian meal. 

“I have such fond memories growing up of my mum using her mortar and pestle every day,” Neda says. “I remember her grinding spices every morning. The aroma of the flavours in our home every evening. That’s just how I grew up.” 

The eldest of six children, Neda grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), forming a particularly close relationship with her mother after her father sadly passed away when Neda was 12. “Money was limited and there were hard days,” Neda says. “We might not have had expensive stuff, but my mum always made sure we had nutritious, homemade food. That was her priority.” 

That food? Hot dahl, steaming rice, vegetable curries … You name it. “This was a time when processed foods were becoming more popular,” Neda says. “But my mum was very strict and always said no! It would have been so much easier for her to send us off to school with processed food in our lunchboxes, but every day we were fed with fresh food for each meal.” 

Those North Indian meals were also peppered with influences from nearby Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Turkey. “We used a lot of dried fruits in our cooking,” says Neda. “My mum would also use poppy seeds instead of cashews to add creaminess to our curries. Our house would be full of big jars full of rice and dried fruits. I can taste and smell them all now like it was yesterday.” 

With this fast culinary history, it should come as no surprise then that when Neda arrived in Australia in 2009, the food was somewhat underwhelming. “I loved the multicultural food, but the Indian food was nothing like it was at home and it made me miss it so much.” 

Having moved to Australia due to an arranged marriage at age 25, Neda says, “We had a long distance relationship for 13 months before our wedding, but I saw my husband for the first time on our wedding day.” 

Having a tough start in Australia thanks to the global financial crisis, Neda and her husband needed to start from scratch. Working for a bank in a 9-5 role and building a family with young children, Neda says it took her ten years to come out of my shell. “I didn’t have time to think about what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “But I did know that I really missed Indian food. My mum would tell me every day, ‘You need to start grinding your own spices!’”

Gradually, Neda realised her mother might have been on to something. But it wasn’t an overnight business story. Neda was so used to sharing food, but hadn’t been met with a resounding reception. “I knew I had an idea, but I was always looking for validation from people. I would take food to neighbours, hoping to start a conversation,” she says. “But that definitely didn’t happen every time. So it really took a lot of time and a lot of belief for me to think that I should start my own business.”  

It turned out to be time, belief and a little bit of serendipitous timing that would kick start Bombay Spices. Following an injury that meant Neda had to abruptly stop working, her mother came to Australia to visit and said, “I’ll help you. Let’s just do it.”

And the rest, as they say, is history. Starting with a market stall selling roasted cumin, roasted coriander and her own garam masala, Neda received great feedback. “I realised I could do this,” she says. 

Doing it, she is. Now on Made By Many Hands, Neda has an array of spice mixes ready to bring flavoursome, authentic Indian flavours into Australian homes in an easy, hassle-free way. From dahl lentil spice mixes to vindaloos and everything in between, Neda has found her thing. She wants to carry her mum’s way of making spices where she makes each blend, roasts and then grinds to give unique flavours to every dish.” Making money out of something I love is the biggest joy,” she says. “I get happiness every time I make a batch of spices.”

Published by Amy Malpass-Hahn, Freelance writer