You can already do your weekly shop at Kirkgate Market, with a huge selection of meat, fish and veg for you to choose from, but now Rafi’s Spicebox has joined the ranks to show you how to turn it into an Indian feast.
Rafi’s Spicebox is a little different to the other stalls in Leeds Kirkgate Market. You see, it’s less about the ingredients themselves and more about the end result. Step inside and you’ll be invited to create your own curry, using one of their old world recipes as a starting point, and adapting it so it meets your personal tastes. That’s right, you can get the flavour without the heat, or you can turn it up a notch if you like your curry hotter than hell itself.
“We’re a family run business with a passion for food. Since opening the first Rafi’s Spicebox in 1989, the ethos has remained the same. We want everyone who visits us to feel confident that they can go home and cook delicious food to feed their families and friends, whether you leave with a bag full of goodies or simply a couple of pinches of spice and a recipe idea,” Kevin Fernandez, Co-owner and Director of Rafi’s Spicebox told us.
It all started with Kevin’s mother, Rafi Fernandez – and her story is as intriguing as the shop itself. She was born in India, but moved to England in 1965 when she was just 21 years old. But while she may have made a home for herself here, she never forgot her homeland, and after marrying a man of Malaysian descent she found herself in a unique position.
She had the time and the opportunity to embrace her love of cooking, playing with recipes that had been passed down through the generations, both from her family and her husband’s. The result was a fusion of Indian and Malaysian cooking, with a few ideas and recipes taken from her travels around the world.
She loved cooking for her family, but it became much more than that, and she went on to write a number of successful cookery books, as well as teaching classes in the community. Eventually, even that couldn’t sate her ambition, and she decided to open her own Asian delicatessen in the small market town of Sudbury in Surrey. It was a roaring success – and it became the store we now know as Rafi’s Spicebox.
Sadly, Rafi passed away in 2013, but her memory lives on in the store, which is now run by her two sons, Kevin and Lee. It’s the same today as it’s always been, you walk in, take a look around and when you’re ready to whip up something tasty, they’ll be on hand to help.
You can either pick up a ready-made box or they’ll make up a bag of spices especially for you, each one filled with the ingredients you need to make one of their recipes. They’ll help you pick the best one for you and your tastes, whether you’re after something sweet, sour, hot or mild – and they can even tailor it more to your tastes as you wish.
It’s not just spices either. They have everything else you’ll need to cook an Indian feast, with Rafi’s famous cookbooks, alongside rice, naan breads, parathas, pickles and chutneys.
But why Leeds and why now? “We all love Leeds. Since opening in York in 2004 and making it our hub, the business has continued to steadily grow. After adding Harrogate and Newcastle in the last few years, we are fortunately in a position where we can continue to grow and the unique option of joining some of Yorkshire’s best food producers in Kirkgate Market was a no brainer.
“I went to university in the city, and the way it’s grown and developed over the last few years made it a really exciting proposition. The market is genuine, diverse and honest and has provided us with the perfect platform to expand our business into Yorkshire’s biggest city,” Kevin told us. “In addition to this, you can get everything under one roof. Our packs ask for a couple of simple ingredients (meat, fish, veg), which can all be picked up either next door or a few doors down from our shop on Fishmonger Row.”
Rafi’s Spicebox is a unique little concept and a fantastic addition to Leeds – check it out next time you’re shopping in Leeds.
Rafi’s Spicebox, Leeds Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HY.