Gloria Allorbi of Gloria’s Shito was born and raised in Ghana, but at 12, her family moved to Glasgow, Scotland, and at 18, New Jersey. Having lived in different parts of the world throughout her formative years, she’s no stranger to appreciating other cultures, getting to know different groups of people, and assimilating into new environments. After a trip back to her motherland, Allorbi launched a condiment business to spread the taste of Ghana to the world.
Before starting your business, what were you doing career-wise?
I still operate my business as a side hustle. My main job is as a cosmetic chemist, developing personal care products. I started working in the cosmetic industry in 2008, initially for Avon in New York, then L’Oreal in New Jersey, and then John Paul Mitchell System in Los Angeles.
How did Gloria’s Shito come about?
Gloria’s Shito was born out of necessity. Growing up outside Ghana, my mom kept the culture through cuisine. The food we would eat at home was Ghanaian cuisine. That was the only time we had access to Ghanaian culture or food. Living in the United States, I didn’t have that access. The only time I would enjoy those traditional foods was when my mom would prepare them. Even then, she would have to sort out specific ingredients that were not accessible. She’d always make do. Returning to the US in January 2020 was the onset of the pandemic. To create accessibility, I decided I would make the Ghanaian condiment shito.
What is shito?
It is equivalent to ketchup. If you go to anyone’s home in Ghana, they will have shito. This condiment is shelf-stable and can last up to two years. It’s preserved, capped, and put away. Shito, in short, means spicy pepper and is a chili oil from preserved caramelized peppers. Traditionally in Ghana we would use a scotch bonnet. In my recipe, I use habanero because it’s more prevalent in the United States. There are also fresh tomatoes. In my recipe, it’s tomato paste. Caramelized tomatoes, caramelized onions, and caramelized fresh ginger with spices which are also caramelized in olive oil to create a darkened chili oil/chili paste. Traditionally, in Ghana, you will find shito is made with dry seafood, so the flavor profile is umami, spicy and sweet.
How did you come up with your proprietary recipe?
Being that California is close to Mexico, habaneros are more prevalent and have a slightly fruitier taste or note. It gives that spiciness that I’m looking for. Then when it came to the seafood option, I had to look to other cuisines similar to Ghanaian that are umami forward. Japanese cuisine was a cultural cuisine that I looked to in sourcing umami ingredients.
How long did it take to come up with the final product?
It took me two years to perfect my recipe, and I’m the only person that works for Gloria’s Shito. I launched the business in January 2021, when I registered it with the state of California.
I read that you envisioned Ghanaian flavors receiving the same adoration as other international cuisines. How does Gloria’s Shito contribute to the globalization of Ghanaian cuisine?
When I look at Ghanaian cuisine, there is a lack of recognition and knowledge of what it is and what [the food] tastes like. People refer to the African continent as one giant place or one giant land, not even knowing that it’s 54 countries with different cultures, languages, music and food. It’s so diverse, and people are not aware of that. When I speak of Ghanaian cuisine or Gloria’s Shito, I proudly want to call out that this is Ghanaian chili oil; its origin is Ghana. I want to use Gloria’s Shito to proudly speak of where I’m from and the type of food we eat.
Sounds like a food business and a passion play.
I had never made shito growing up. My mom would make it maybe twice a year and put it away, or however fast we would go through the batches she would make. My grandmother would wear a headscarf, so whenever I would make shito, I wrap my hair traditionally like my grandmother; it felt like it was channeling her spirit. I wanted to channel that lineage of recipe sharing.
Where can we get our hands on Gloria’s Shito?
Right now, on my website. I do ship nationwide. Then I have retailers. You can also find their information on my website under “Find Us.”
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