Food Startups / Indian / Local Food Producers

New Food Startup Introduces Tomato Lonsa to Philadelphia and South Jersey

I recently stumbled upon Aaji’s Foods at Haddonfield Farmers Market and met Rajus, who introduced himself and his family (wife Poorva, father Arvind, and mother, Vijoo). They told me about their food product, tomato lonsa, a flavorful tomato-based condiment often used as a dip, sauce, or complement to other foods. I’m always open to hearing about new foods, so I listened as they showed me the products and shared their story, the ingredients, and the process.

Native to the Indian state of Maharashtra, on the Midwest coast, lonsa consists of fresh tomatoes that are slow- simmered with chili peppers, canola oil, vinegar, salt, black mustard seeds, curry leaf, turmeric, fenugreek, asafoetida, and jaggery (cane sugar).

After having their second child during the pandemic in March 2020, Rajus explained that his mother and father, living in Michigan at the time, had been sending him and his wife food to support them.

“We felt loved and warmed through their food even though we couldn’t be together,” Rajus stated fondly.

They made mass quantities of the tomato lonsa, a favorite family recipe, and would often share with other family members and friends to much appreciation and raves. Rajus realized that this likely had potential wide appeal, and they should probably sell it.

With that, Aaji’s Foods was born. Aaji is the Indian word for grandmother, so the name is a nod to his mother (grandmother to his children).

So, in November 2020, his parents moved to Philadelphia, and he left his corporate job in December 2020 to focus on Aaji’s Foods full-time.

“We feel tomato lonsa was a good starting place because it has elevated so many of our meals through the years,” Rajus said. 

The meal accompaniment imparts a sweet, tart, spicy, and savory taste, enhancing many foods, including breakfast egg dishes, avocado toasts, fish and chicken, charcuterie boards, veggies, sandwiches, and more. 

The family plans on introducing more products featuring family recipes over time but currently offers three versions of the lonsa—classic, garlic, and spicy.

They started vending at Fairmount Farmers Market on Thursdays in July and most recently at the Haddonfield Farmers Market on Saturdays.

An 8 oz. container costs $10.

I bought the classic version and used it with some sauteed eggplant and zucchini and topped it with a fried egg and sprinkled feta for my take on an Indian-style shakshuka. I forgot to take a photo, but it was very tasty! I recommend trying it if you find yourself at the Fairmount or Haddonfield markets and into trying new things.

I wish the family all good luck as they pursue this food business venture.

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