Our Story

Old photo of chilli oil from 2013

The Beginning

The story of the chilli oil really starts in the 1980's, when Yok Chan and her family were living in Leyton, East London. Yok Chan's husband would buy Chinese chilli oil from the local Asian supermarket in Hackney. This was the beginning of the chilli oil fixation, as he would go through a jar every three to four days, eventually buying twelve jars at a time.

This routine went into the mid to late 1990's until one day, when looking to save money, Yok Chan looked at the ingredients and decided to have a go at making it herself. She used similar ingredients to the shop bought version at first, but after a while started substituting ingredients with her own. Combining and utilising her influences from Chinese, Malay and Sri Lankan food, elevating it to her taste.. and thus the first Yok Chan's Chilli Oil was born!

an early jar of chilli oil held up to the light

The Early Stages

Around 1996/97 is when the chilli oil first ventured outside Yok Chan's household. She sold jars to raise money for the local parish charity cake stall, plus gave out jars to colleagues when she was a midwife at Homerton Hospital (the secretary there being the very first paying customer, who still buys jars to this day).

Over time Yok Chan finely tuned and tailored the chilli oil, perfecting it into what it is today. The chilli oil however was only known by a select few until 2013, when the idea to distribute it came about..

Four photos of the early years of the chilli oil

The Eureka Moment

After Christmas 2012, Yok Chan’s son brought back a 500ml jar of the chilli back to his shared house. His housemates tried it and were blown away, using it on everything and brainstorming ideas, pushing for it to become a product. The jar was rinsed in nine days.

It started off being casually sold to friends and Yok Chan’s son’s colleagues. Soon a brand name was created and a label was designed. Eventually more and more people started asking for it, telling their friends about it. It's notoriety took on a life of its own in which we soon realised we had something pretty special in our hands.

With Yok Chan's natural intuition, sheer excitement and enthusiasm from anyone who had tried it, plus A LOT of help and favours, Yok Chan's humble home-made chilli oil was turning into a legitimate and sought-after product.

Yok Chan holding jar in shop

Present Day

We managed to get our product into a few local shops and had a brief and very fun stint on a market stall. We slowed down production for a while but then Covid came along, making it almost impossible to operate and source ingredients. We almost called it a day, but everyone kept asking about the product and encouraged us to keep going.

After a hiatus and with some re-evaluation on production and operations, slowly and steadily we’re now transforming Yok Chan's Chilli Oil from a fun side hustle, into a fully-fledged small business.