Crowned with accolades from top critics, one fiery condiment is making waves in the Kiwi culinary world.
A real heat wave is sizzling in kitchens across the country thanks to one innovative entrepreneur.
Self-confessed “foodpreneur” Suzy Lynch is still basking in the success of her creation, Sambal of the Gods, which won last year’s Healthy Food Guide’s Best Condiment award.
For those who don’t know what sambal is, it’s commonly a hot paste or sauce made up of chilli, herbs and spices originating from South-east Asia. But this isn’t sambal as we know it. As this unsuspecting writer discovered, it was not dissimilar to a pesto, albeit a lot hotter.
As Suzy explains: “You get that kick that dissipates quite quickly, then you’re left with a nice long lingering finish of all the herbs and spices. It’s the taste that keeps on giving.”
Most sambals are cooked, whereas Suzy’s unique take on sambal is completely fresh and raw. “I also use green chillies not red, and importantly, there are no bulk fillers, no artificial additives, colours or preservatives – it’s 100% real food.”
And it seems hordes of spice lovers are answering the call of Sambal Sam (Suzy’s affectionately named Balinese mascot which adorns each jar), including Ray McVinnie of MasterChef fame who calls it a “beautiful, classy product”.
After stumbling on it at the Auckland Food Show, Ray was so impressed he approached Suzy.
“He asked if he could have a few jars to give away and later used it in his cooking demonstrations,” she says.
Despite its new-found fame, Sambal Sam nearly didn’t make it to our shores. His roots began in ancient Bali, known as Island of the Gods, where Suzy had been based for six years after falling in love with the Indonesian island and its cuisine while on holiday.
Then, on a brief visit back to New Zealand, Suzy had a change of mind. “I was initially going back to Bali to launch the product when I got chatting with people. The waves started parting and doors started opening and I just had this moment where ‘the universe is telling me I need to be coming home’.”
However, it was all about timing. “Three to four years ago, New Zealand wouldn’t have been ready but the Kiwi palate has evolved so much and is embracing foods such as these.”
In fact, Sambal of the Gods has quite a following among the health-conscious, with its numerous health properties a hit among the vegan and allergy-prone crowd.
While many may be afraid to venture into unknown culinary realms, it’s Sambal of the Gods’ versatility that truly strikes a chord with the masses.
Not only can it be mixed with cream cheese, sour cream, hummus and crème fraiche as a dip, it can be used in all manner of cooking including soups, curries and pasta just to name a few.
“My mother even has it on her toast in the mornings!” laughs Suzy.
It’s also piqued the interest of other food manufacturers and some wild and whacky collaborations are on the table including a sambal butter, sambal cheese and sambal sausage.
What is for certain, is that demand is picking up for the tantalising concoction with New World rolling out Sambal of the Gods across the North Island and Nosh an early adopter since the middle of last year.
“Apart from all Nosh Food Markets it’s now available at New World supermarkets and I’ve had enquiries from Cromwell and Alexandra in the South Island,” adds Suzy.
And the wildfire is about to spread further with two more sambal varieties launching later this year.
Suzy’s even dropping hints on the flavour profiles.
“We’ll have another green one, with a bit of mint,” she says. “The next one will be a fresh blend of shallots, garlic, lemongrass and some coconut oil.”
While keen to offer ideas on how to use her creations, she remains tight-lipped about her own recipes.
“As I say, it’s Suzy’s closely guarded secret blend of chillies, herbs and spices,” she smiles.
Although still adjusting to the cooler climate, spice-loving Suzy can still get her fix of Asian flavours.
“You’ll regularly find me slurping up spicy beef soup from Hong Yuan. I love a spicy broth; it’s my preferred breakfast.”
And, if not in the Asian food court or cooking up more saucy ideas, then it’s the beach.
“I love the beach,” says Suzy. “I can have a swim and bask in the sun – I just close my eyes and dream of Bali!”
By Natalie Brittan