Spreading Afghan cuisine one spice pouch at a time
By Ilana Gensler, MA’19
Madena Mohamadi, SSH’13 got the idea to start JAHAN—an Afghan spice blend company—over the COVID-19 pandemic. “A beautiful part of my culture is food, “says Mohamadi, “and there is such a need for Afghan food in the market.” Mohamadi grew up outside of DC in a big Afghan community, which she hasn’t been able to find at Northeastern. Thanks to FaceTime sessions with her mom, Mohamadi has mastered recipes that have been passed down over generations, like Chapli Kebab, a traditional Pashtun dish full of tangy, nutty, and earthy flavors.
When you read about Afghanistan in the news it’s often negative, according to Mohamadi, who wanted to re-frame Afghanistan and allow others to enjoy aspects of its culture. After figuring out how to recreate test kits of the recipes in smaller batches, Mohamadi started sharing them with friends who were unfamiliar with the cuisine. “When I first started cooking for my friends, I felt a sense of pride and longing for home,” says Mohamadi, “and people’s appreciation of the flavors was heartwarming.”
When it came to the formulations and portions of her spice pouches, Mohamadi’s process involved trial and error. Next, Mohamadi tackled the branding. “I am fascinated by products with labels that include funky aesthetics, like Brightland olive oil,” says Mohamadi. Getting to that point in Mohamadi’s bootstrapped and self-funded business had taken several months, as she also works full time.
Mohamadi’s inspiration to create something to make a difference in the world traces back to Northeastern’s social entrepreneurship program. “There is a humanitarian component to JAHAN,” says Mohamadi, “with 5% of every purchase being donated to the nonprofit, Women for Women International’s emergency response to the dire situation in Afghanistan.” The mission behind Mohamadi’s business has been two-fold. “I want to support Women for Women International and share Afghan cuisine with today’s busy home chefs, one delicious meal at a time.”
March 7, 2022
“When I first started cooking for my friends, I felt a sense of pride and longing for home. And people’s appreciation of the flavors was heartwarming.”-Madena Mohamadi, SSH’13