Outside Mallies Spice Works

Mallies Spice Works: The Place to Buy Spices in Joburg

Sometimes I buy spices, thinking the fragrant, colorful little packets might motivate me to cook something. Unfortunately that rarely happens and the spices get old and sticky and I wind up throwing them away unused. For this reason I rarely shop for spices anymore, even though South Africa — with its cacophonous mix of eastern and western cultures and cuisines — is a great place to do so.

But if I did shop for spices, I would do so at Mallies Spice Works.

Outside Mallies Spice WorksOutside Mallies Spice Works on Carr Street in Newtown.

I went to Mallies with Marie-Lais to take photos for a column in the Citizen newspaper. I’d heard there was a famous spice factory in Newtown but I never would have found it without Google Maps; Mallies is in an unassuming location, close to the highway and a notorious squatter camp. As we parked outside, I felt suspicious that we were in the right place. But as often happens in Joburg, we walked inside and discovered an alternate universe.

Inside Mallies Spice in Newtown, JohannesburgMallies’ crazy interior.

Spices Galore at Mallies

We went to Mallies in the middle of the day on a Tuesday and it was packed with both customers and employees. Everyone shops here: restauranteurs, street vendors, home cooks…anyone who uses spices. Every spice and seasoning imaginable is on offer, along with flours, beans, hair products, textile dyes, herbal remedies, and love potions. Most of the spices sold at Mallies are organically cultivated.

Staff members at MalliesEmployees packing spices at Mallies.

Premul Jhina shows us around MalliesPremul Jhina, the accountant at Mallies Spice Works, shows us around. Mallies is a family-run business.

Indian liquorice bits Those pretty liquorice bits that get delivered with your bill at Indian restaurants.

Hot Spot spiceHot Spot.

Premul reluctantly allowed us to walk around the huge factory behind the shop, where workers were loading boxes and milling flour and packing mountains of bright red atchar spice into plastic packets. It smelled delicious.

Employees packing atchar spiceAtchar spice.

Thai tamarindOne of hundreds of boxes of tamarind paste.

On the way out I spoke to a guy named Shalav, who was sitting on a chair in the retail area surrounded by bags of spices on the floor. Shalav lives in Bela-Bela, a couple of hours from Joburg, but treks into town regularly to buy his spices from Mallies. Shalav is a vegan and quite particular about what he eats.

Shalav, a customer at Mallies Spice WorksShalav, who matches the Mallies Spice interior perfectly.

I’m sure I’ll go back to Mallies sometime, if only to buy pretty spices that I’ll probably never cook.

Mallies Spice Works is at 111 Carr Street, Newtown. Call +27-11-836-9517.

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6 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough October 14, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Those licorice bits are deceptive. They look like sprinkles. Found out they weren’t sprinkles the hard way once. (I am not a fan of licorice.)

    • Reply 2summers October 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      I too have never understood the taste of licorice. Yet sometimes I still eat the sprinkles. It’s like I’m hoping every time they will taste like something else.

      • Reply autumnashbough October 14, 2018 at 6:12 pm

        Yes! How can they look so pretty and sweet and taste like darkness and evil?

  • Reply Lani October 19, 2018 at 9:59 am

    Spicy! Hey, that building front is none too inviting. Hahahaha. Maybe they could put a plant out there or something 😛

    • Reply 2summers October 19, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Hahahaaaa. Yep that’s Joburg for you. Aesthetics aren’t always top of mind 😂

      • Reply Lani October 19, 2018 at 10:01 am

        It’s like the opposite of hotels in Thailand. The lobby will look smashing and the rooms – eh.

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