Sambal – The origins, history and make your own

As we continue to celebrate our #justMalaysian campaign we have to teach you a little bit more about the Malaysian staple, Sambal! Lot’s of you may not know but our chilli pastes are actually variants of sambal. Our signature paste is the closest to the traditional sambal that you will see in almost every household across Malaysia. When it comes to essential staples in the UK kitchen I guess you could say it’s like tomato Ketchup, just Malaysian!

Mak Tok signature chilli paste Sambal

You may not have heard much about it on this side of the pond, but Sambal is one of the most popular foods in Malaysia, from the flora-heavy east to the urban west and it has a huge cultural history. Like a lot of the food available in the country, the history of Sambal is a maritime one: fishermen would make a spicy paste from Cabya (actual, sciency name: Piper Retrofractrum) which mostly grew in Bali, but these days Sambal is normally made from capsicum which comes from the baking-hot Americas.

(Fun fact: when our founder, Will, was younger, his family would often use Sambal as a supper dish on the weekends, usually paired with some fresh anchovies, shrimp, or just with bread. This isn’t how it’s traditionally served, but we won’t tell if you don’t!)

But if fishy flavours aren't your bag, Sambal goes with a lot of Malaysian dishes. Usually, it's made with garlic, ginger, shallots, and lime juice, and is more of a sauce than a main dish - just whack it in a ramekin, and put it on a plate alongside grilled peppers, eggplant, and fresh fried chicken or beef. Sambal can even be paired with some kinds of soup - tasty! Don't believe us about Sambal's popularity? Check out this staggering statistic: right now, there are around *210* different varieties of the paste, and all of them are used across Malaysia to this day.

Never heard of Sambal paste? You might be wondering what the difference between this one and all other chilli pastes available, and the answer is its versatility. Having breakfast? Sambal paste will sort you out. Having dinner, supper, or even brunch? Sambal paste is the ideal condiment. (The only meal we can’t seem to use it for is dessert, but if we find a way, we’ll let you know!)

Keep your eyes peeled for a recipe of a simple easy to make sambal (I can't reveal my secret family recipe though) :D

will chew and family