Fire up your tastebuds with Real Sambal
KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Last August, Indonesians Soeama Nancy Anggreini and Fenny Setiawan started Real Sambal to introduce their country’s sambals to chilli-loving Malaysians.
Nancy, who has been living in Malaysia for the past five years, runs a home-based catering business. “The first time I did Indonesian food catering, Fenny was one of my customers. She tried my sambal and maybe she missed Indonesia so she said, ‘Wow, your sambal is nice! Why not you make the sambal to sell?” said Nancy.
At that time, Nancy said she was shy and unsure about how to set up a business. Since Fenny is a technology trainer who has been in Malaysia for the past 12 years, the partnership made perfect sense since she also had more business connections.
Fenny focuses on the marketing and branding while Nancy handles all kitchen matters. This works perfectly for the pair who also brainstorm with each other to come up with ideas for their business.
So far, Real Sambal has unveiled a range of sambals that consists of four types of vegetarian sambals and two meat options, chicken and tuna.
Their first product to hit the market was the meat-free Sambal Bawang. This was followed later by Sambal Hijau Padang, Sambal Terasi Jawa and Sambal Pecel Madiun.
According to the duo, these are all authentic Javanese sambals. Two of these sambals also pay homage to Nancy’s roots from Madiun in East Java. For instance the Sambal Pecel Madiun is based on the Indonesian dish pecel, a type of mixed vegetable salad with peanut sauce.
For something more substantial, Real Sambal also came up with Sambal Ayam Suwir that uses chicken and Sambal Hijau Tuna which contains tuna.
“Even though our recipe is Indonesian we use local products like chillies so we get our supplies from local wholesale markets and also halal vendors in Kuala Lumpur,” said Fenny.
Nancy keeps her kitchen pork-free so you can be assured that Real Sambal is serious about their products. No MSG is also used for the sambal nor do they cut any corners with the quality of their ingredients.
Even the traditional method for making sambal is employed as Nancy uses an uleg-uleg, a traditional Indonesian version of a pestle and mortar. She also has many versions of it, from the batu gunung version to the ones made of clay.
Real Sambal also sells their preservative-free Indonesian Jamu Kunyit Asam at the bazaars. As it can only last for six weeks chilled, the jamu can only be sold at the bazaar or by order.
For the health tonic, Nancy extracts the juice from fresh turmeric root. Both of them are still thinking of ways to keep their jamu fresh as well as their Sambal Matah which contains raw ingredients.
For now, all their other sambals can last up to a year because they use a pressure canning process. Previously it only lasted for two months. Through trial and error, they learnt how to prolong the shelf life of their products.
They also sterilise the glass bottles to ensure the sambals maintain their taste. For the Sambal Pecel Madiun, as it is dry, it doesn’t go through the pressure canning process. To consume it, you have to mix it with either hot or warm water until it becomes a paste.
In terms of heat levels, the Sambal Bawang and Sambal Hijau Padang gives a powerful spicy kick hence they are their best-sellers. The Sambal Terasi Jawa comes in third for the level of spiciness and is generally acceptable to most Malaysian palates.
“The Sambal Terasi Jawa is similar to sambal belacan as we are using belacan. So we think that belacan is something that is common but Java-style terasi tends to be sweet but not so overwhelming,” said Fenny.
If you are averse to the burning heat of chillies, try the Sambal Pecel Madiun as the peanut flavour is as mild as our Malaysian satay sauce.
As for the meat sambals, the Sambal Ayam Suwir became popular because some people don’t take tuna. Tuna lovers who have tried Real Sambal’s Sambal Hijau Tuna like it since there is no fishy aftertaste.
“I use a lot of onions, garlic and shallots so it won’t have any fishy smell. We tried using the fresh tuna from the market but as it’s not that fresh, it will give a fishy smell,” said Nancy.
For some time, they discontinued that sambal as they weren’t happy with the quality of the fresh tuna until they found a solution which was to use canned tuna in water.
Fenny advises that it’s also better since there are no preservatives and the fish has been selected carefully. After it was reintroduced to the market, the Sambal Hijau Tuna was a big hit.
The sambals are incredibly versatile; you can use it as a dip or condiment. You can pair your plain toast with the ready-to-eat Sambal Hijau Tuna or Sambal Ayam Suwir.
Otherwise, enjoy your mee bandung or assam laksa with the Sambal Terasi Jawa. Nancy recommends Sambal Hijau Padang to go with your nasi Padang selections like gulai ayam and pucuk ubi.
Even Chinese food items such as siew mai can be eaten with the Sambal Bawang. Western food lovers can easily mix the Sambal Ayam Suwir with pasta for a quick spicy meal.
Currently Real Sambal stocks their products at Rawsome HQ in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, The Red Cherry at POP, Jaya One and Snackfood in Bangsar. “Moving forward, we are looking for a few more stockists. We are talking about how to get into grocers like Ben’s Independent Grocer (BIG) and not supermarket chains.
“We have a few artisan friends who have their goods stocked at BIG because they are very supportive of artisans,” said Fenny. They are also looking to supply lifestyle shops similar to Snackfood.
There have also been requests for their sambal from interested buyers located in Singapore. However as there are strict regulations when it comes to importing food to Singapore, they are both looking for a way to send it over without contravening the laws.
One of their short-term plans is to introduce new products. Currently, Nancy is working on a mushroom sambal. “Another one of our long-term plans is to have a certified industrial kitchen if we want to export our products” said Fenny.
Real Sambal’s Sambal Bawang, Sambal Hijau Padang and Sambal Terasi Jawa are available at RM20 for a 185-grams jar while the Sambal Ayam Suwir and Sambal Hijau Tuna is RM30 for a 250-grams jar.
There are also travel sizes: RM15 for 85-grams, RM8 for 40-grams and RM5 for 20-grams. Their bazaar-exclusive Jamu Kunyit Asam is sold at RM8 per bottle.
Real Sambal also offers delivery services within West Malaysia but it’s best to catch them at a bazaar so you can taste the sambal offerings in person!