by Iyath Adam
For our interview article this time, we sit with Elisha Haleem of Elisha’s Deli – popular home-based business which sells different kimbap and sushi.
Scroll down to read all about making and selling sushi & kimbap here in Male’ City!
Lonumedhu: How did Elisha’s Deli start? What got you into the sushi/kimbap business?
Elisha: I’ve always liked cooking, and it was a big thing in our house. I used to make sushi at home, on and off and for special occasions. Everybody in the family always loved it and would encourage me to start selling it. But I didn’t think that I was ready for it, so I kept putting it off.
One day, after I made a new type of sushi, my husband made a page called ‘Elisha’s Deli’ without telling me. He uploaded some pictures we had taken to the page and the next day, we started getting a lot of orders. So, we just rolled with it. The next couple of days, we bought the needed ingredients and started taking on more orders. And the page kind of went viral from there on and that’s how Elisha’s Deli started.
Lonumedhu: When making sushi at home, how do you ensure that the quality is maintained in your dishes?
Elisha: I always take care to make our orders as fresh as possible. We never keep our orders in the fridge; from the moment it is rolled and cut, we ensure that our customers receive their orders within 15-20 minutes.
Also, the fruits and vegetables which we use are bought on the same day. We don’t bulk buy it, and only the best ingredients are used in the dishes. For example, with avocados and mangoes, if it’s too soft or too hard or if not sweet enough, I don’t use it. We also don’t take more than 30 orders a day because delivery times don’t line up then.
And we can confidently say that more than 90 percent of people who buy our products are really happy with it. Since we’ve started the page, we’ve only gotten complaints a couple of times, not for the taste but because of spiciness levels or delivery issues.
Lonumedhu: What’s the most time-consuming or challenging part of running a home-based food business?
Elisha: The most time-consuming part is probably prepping and cooking all the ingredients. There are a lot of ingredients that go into it and each one has to be prepped differently. Rolling however, doesn’t take a lot of time as I’m really used to doing it now.
When we first started, my husband and I used to deliver the orders ourselves. But now, to deliver the food in the time frame we would like to, we have external deliverers so that’s been some help.
Lonumedhu: Is it difficult to get the kind of ingredients you need here in Male’?
Elisha: It’s not that easy to get quality ingredients here. For instance, I prefer fresh salmon and crabstick, but we can’t really get that in Male’ so I have no choice but to buy it frozen. Tobiko (flying fish roe) is very difficult to get in Male’ too, but we’ve now created a relationship with some resort suppliers so when they bring these products to resorts, they bring a couple of packages for us too, which has been really helpful.
Lonumedhu: You’ve recently introduced volcano rolls and dragon rolls – two completely new products. What’s your recipe making process, especially when introducing new dishes?
Elisha: I like to try kimbap and sushi from different places when we go abroad for holidays. The dragon roll is actually something we tried in Philippines.
If I try something I like, then I’ll come back home and research about it before experimenting with different ingredients. Once I’m happy with what I’ve created, we give it to our family to try and taste before putting it on the menu for our customers.
Lonumedhu: We’ve seen you in quite a few festivals too. How do you maintain the freshness of your products in a stall setting?
Elisha: Our products were a big hit at the last Maldives Food Carnival. I start early in the morning, prepping all the ingredients. I don’t make the rolls too far ahead as that would compromise their quality. So, if the carnival starts at 4pm, I’ll start to roll around 2pm, making 18-20 portions at a time. We then take that to our stall and when the stock is halfway over, I make a new batch again.
In the last food carnival, we brought kimbap and sushi in three batches and every batch sold out in about ten minutes. And we’ll be at the next Maldives Food Carnival next year as well, so please do visit!
Lonumedhu: What’s one piece of advice that you would like to give to aspiring home-based business owners?
Elisha: Maintaining the quality of your food is really important. We’ve noticed that sometimes, after a few months, the portion becomes smaller and the taste changes with some businesses. But if you remain consistent – even if you face some losses – people will really take that to heart and buy your products.
Also, you have to work really hard and be dedicated to your craft. And always try to get the best quality ingredients.
Lonumedhu: Before we wrap up, what’s next for Elisha’s Deli? What’s your vision for the future?
Elisha: My dream is to open an ‘Elisha’s Deli’ sushi bar, where people can see sushi being rolled freshly; not a very big space, but with a few tables where people can come and enjoy, do takeaway or get for delivery as well.
We’re also planning to offer sushi bar as a service for events like weddings and birthday parties, similar to how they have pizza or pasta bars. So, if anyone is interested they can contact us now.
Lonumedhu: Anything else you want to add before we end the interview?
Elisha: I would like to thank all our customers for their loyalty and our family and loved ones for their constant support. This wouldn’t have been possible for us without them!
Lonumedhu: Thank you for your time, Elisha. We’re so excited to see the kimbap bar come to life, and we wish you all the best!