Hong Kong’s SpiceBox Organics Is A Small Business Making A Big Impact
In partnership with Food Made Good

Hong Kong’s SpiceBox Organics Is A Small Business Making A Big Impact

Winner of Food Made Good’s ‘Business of the Year’ Award, the store and café is a sustainable business through and through; what’s most inspiring however, is their grounded and personal approach.

The minute I entered SpiceBox Organics store and café, I felt an immediate sense of home.  Maybe it was because founder Punam Chopra is Canadian, like myself, maybe it was the inviting feng shui of the store, or the anticipation of a tasty and nourishing lunch ahead; whatever it was, I instantly had a smile on my face.

Interior of SpiceBox Organics. Photo: SpiceBox Organics 

Punam and Nic, (her right hand man and marketing director) greeted me with an enveloping enthusiasm and warmth, and before I knew it, we were sitting down to a flavorful, homey, vegan lunch deep in conversation about recipes, our love of spices, our time in New York, health journeys, their lives, my life, - in hindsight, it made complete sense that our interview flowed as easily and naturally as it did; Punam runs SpiceBox as though it is an extension of herself, and while it “ticks all the boxes” of a green business: vegan, USDA certified, gluten free, eco-friendly – it comes across as the opposite of calculated, it feels, well, organic. 

Punam grew up in a small town in India, where it was the norm to eat organic produce and home cooked food every day; it wasn’t until she moved to North America that she was exposed to packaged food, and naturally suspicious, she began to regularly read labels. It was around that time that Punam was teaching yoga and earning her degree in nutrition, which she says, “put everything in perspective”. Armed with her degree, and having built a career as a health coach, Punam founded SpiceBox Organics in Hong Kong in 2012. 

Related: Six Tips to Kickstart Your Sustainable Lifestyle

Organic cacao ladoos. Photo: Debbie Wong

SpiceBox’s tagline is “The conscious choice” – which says everything about Punam’s 360-degree approach to running her business when it comes to health and sustainability

The kitchen has adopted zero-waste practices with their ingredients, the café uses compostable, plant-based containers for their catering, and the store is a carefully sourced selection of traceable, sustainable products that prioritize Hong Kong brands, such as Taboocha kombucha and PÜRA VÏDA granola. To this day, SpiceBox Organics is one of the few stores in Hong Kong that is certified by the USDA National Organic Program. 

Related: Food Made Good HK Awards Shines A Spotlight On Sustainability

Dine-in area. Photo: SpiceBox Organics 

The café was added to the store in 2015, and only adds to its innate warmth and has become a way for Punam and Nic to further connect with their customers. Their Caine Road location (where I had lunch) is pet friendly and features a sunny lounge area near the front where visitors can enjoy a coffee or chai and a cozy dine-in area for a delicious and energizing lunch. Additionally, they have an extensive (and popular) catering and delivery menu. 

The café features only freshly made, gluten free, vegan and organic selections, and recipes are exclusively developed by Punam herself.

Related: How to Cook, Eat and Order Climate-Friendly Meals

Daily soups. Photo: SpiceBox Organics

We started with a full-flavored and homey lentil and cauliflower soup; the soup changes all the time, depending on what needs to be used up, and is often the perfect vehicle for their commitment to zero waste.

Related: Don't Bin It: How to Turn Food 'Waste' into Something Delicious

Smoky Eggplant Quiche with sprout and vegetable salad  Photo: Debbie Wong 

A standout was their cheesy, yet cheeseless eggplant quiche which happened to be inspired by my favorite Indian dish – baingan bharta. If you’ve ever had this dish, you’ll be able to imagine just how flavorful the quiche was!

Grilled Tandoori Cauliflower Roti Roll. Photo: Debbie Wong

Another favorite was the tandoori cauliflower roti roll: it wasn’t shy on the spice, and the punchy mint and coriander chutney had me going in for more.

Sesame crackers. Photo: Debbie Wong

The café also has a grab and go section, from which Punam sent me home with a delicious selection: I took home the black chickpea hummus, a container of fresh sprouts sprouted in-house, house-made black sesame crackers, and a gorgeously creamy and spicy cashew and chipotle sauce. That very night, I made a big salad topped with the sprouts, and used the cashew sauce with a squeeze of lemon as a dressing. Absolutely delicious. 

Related: How to Cook, Eat and Order Climate-Friendly Meals

Raw desserts. From left: blueberry cheesecake, chocolate brownie, carrot cake. Photo: SpiceBox Organics

Punam describes herself as an “ingredient chef” and I know exactly what she means, in fact, I cook the same way. She’s inspired not by techniques or recipes, or even cuisines; she’s motivated by ingredients, and what they innately have to offer – creaminess, sourness, complexity, spice, crunch… She has a naturally discerning palate and is an instinctual cook, and her food is seasoned with confidence and care - maybe that’s why I enjoyed her food so much, I felt like I understood it. 

SpiceBox Organics are well-deserved winners of Food Made Good’s Business of the Year Award. Punam’s approach to running her business doesn’t come from a place of being didactic, or commercial; instead, what she demonstrates simply by example is that health, wellness and caring for the environment is not just the ‘conscious choice’ but the natural one, - and however big or small those choices are, we only stand to benefit, and consequently, so will the Earth. 

 

Debbie Wong is a professional cook, writer and classically trained actor based in Hong Kong. She is the host of Food Wars Asia, Kitchen Quickies, and her ongoing international culinary series on YouTube - Debbie Wong’s Wok and Gong. Follow her on all socials @ms.debbiewong.

This article was created in partnership with Food Made Good HK.

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