EZAY In a compact kitchen at a home in Changangkha, Thimphu, Tshewang Dem, 44, with a colourful apron, rubber gloves and face mask, gets down to business.
In two electric curry cookers with bubbling hot oil, Tshewang dips several bowls of chopped onions and, within seconds, the small room is filled with its aroma.
Nearby, on the floor, two women employees continuously chop onions and tomatoes bought from centenary farmer’s market.
Behind Tshewang, an electric grater works on zhimtse. Once done, zhimtse is mixed with the fried onion, tomatoes, a bowl of chili powder, and salt. The mixture is blended to create zhimtse ezay.
The paste is then packaged in a bottle, with a label reading Tshejor’s Ayzey, and stacked on a shelf, carrying a variety of ezays (chilli paste) like zoedoe (fermented cheese) and thingney (pepper) ezays, ready to be supplied to the local market.
What was a hobby for Tshewang has now become a source of income for her. She was encouraged by her friend to make it on a commercial scale. “I was a corporate employee with limited income and with responsibilities, extending from my family to my needy relatives,” she said. “I thought the idea was worth a try.”
When she started off her range of vegetarian ezays in 2000, it didn’t pick up immediately. “Some said anyone can make ezay at home, and there wouldn’t be many buyers,” she said. “I couldn’t devote much time and, instead of marketing, I was waiting for buyers to come to me.”
She couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was more of a hobby than a creative and innovative business venture.
“But I overcame that feeling and the fears, sought loan and funding from Loden foundation,” she said.
Today, she has three employees and makes a steady income, which helps her family and education of her nieces and nephews as well. “I hope to become a full-fledged industry, employing hundreds and customer base established within and outside the country.”
Her biggest competition has been the non-vegetarian ezays like shakam (dried beef) and sikam (pork) ezays.
By Passang Norbu