Faces Behind the Business: Going Back 30 Years in Time and Flavour (Mister Pickle)

Faces Behind the Business: Going Back 30 Years in Time and Flavour (Mister Pickle)

Faces Behind the Business: Going Back 30 Years in Time and Flavour

Dr. Shiamala Devi is a full time practising dentist who runs a pickle making business as a side hustle. 


She mentioned that she found it particularly difficult to go to the wet market to stock up on fresh groceries, during the lockdowns and restrictions. Thus, she decided to try her hand at making pickles, specifically, one that she had tasted in India nearly 30 years ago. This meant that she would be experimenting solely based on her sensory memory. She reminisced about her good ol’ days in Chennai, where she pursued her higher education. During one of her weekend outings with her friends, she came across prawn and fish pickles from the brand Spencers. These pickles are the ones she started to recreate.


Perfecting the taste of the non-vegetarian pickles from memory, took Dr.Shiamala 3 to 4 gruelling tries, but the lockdown presented as a great opportunity for her to do this. Her pickles quickly became a favourite when shared among relatives.


Dr.Shiamala certainly did not foresee her little experiment becoming a pickle making business! Yet, the volume of orders she received, inspired this side hustle to develop and grow. Being a full-time dentist, Dr.Shiamala’s weekends are spent on the tedious preparations that go into making the pickles. She shared that the secret to making good non-vegetarian pickles, is to use fresh seafood. Dr.Shiamala loves her trips to the wet market and enjoys buying all the fresh supplies to produce her pickles. Of course, her secret ingredient is an abundance of love, packed into the small jars with the pickles. 


She highlighted that the seafood must be thoroughly cleaned, and oven baked to ensure no water is retained. The pickle is then cooked for over 2 hours with homemade curry powders and is left to cool overnight, before being packed in sterilised bottle jars. Sterilising the jars is another important step in ensuring top quality pickles. Every step in making these pickles is labour intensive, thus, she often gets help from her husband and helper.



For the time being Dr.Shiamala sells both non-vegetarian and vegetarian pickle varieties. The options for the non-vegetarian pickles include: prawn, salted fish, fish, dry masala fish, and anchovies pickles. The vegetarian pickles on the other hand, carry rather unique options comprising highland fruits such as: strawberries, kiwi, figs, apricots, and dates. Dr.Shiamala created unique vegetarian options, straying away from the common lime and mango combination. 


The sales of her pickles were boosted when a local newsletter Ipohecho featured Dr.Shiamala and her seafood pickles. It is common for Indian households to have pickles with rice and curry. However, following the feature in the newsletter, many Chinese locals have purchased the pickles and have also shared how they incorporate them into their meals: in noodles, vegetable stir fry, and some even added pickles to their savoury oats. The uniqueness of the pickles have surely made its mark! 



A1 Cash and Carry is one of the busiest convenience stores in Ipoh town, and is now carrying Dr.Shiamala’s pickles amongst other famous brands. She mentioned that at this rate, she may need another helper if the number of bottles reach 200 per month. Currently, Dr.Shiamala sells around 70 bottles per month - a mixture of both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.


To anyone aspiring to start a business, Dr.Shiamala has something to share: 


“When starting any business, make sure you’re genuine about it. Don't think about the money yet, look at maintaining the quality, just like you would for your family. Never bring in cheap ingredients, as this is not fair to the people. Be genuine, and it will work out. Do not expect sales to be great immediately.”


Dr.Shiamala urges everyone to try her pickles, especially international students who may purchase this to remind them of home when they are feeling homesick - just like how she is always reminded of her days in India. She ensures no pretence regarding the shelf life; they last about 6-8 months, as they were cooked with no water and no preservatives. Try them out, you won’t regret it!  


Visit Mister Pickles at:




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