Most of us are familiar with the American-made Tabasco sauce. I for one have not tried it, but based on my friends’ comments, the hot sauce adds a spicy, tangy punch to cuisines without dominating the flavours of dishes.
Joining the hot chilli sauce market is Sabasco, or Sabahan Tabasco. Launched in May 2021, the team told us that it was intentionally named that way because Tabasco is very popular in Sabah, and present in many home pantries.
Not to mention, Sabahan chilli sauce in the 1950s-1980s also had a similar texture and consistency to Tabasco, according to the Sabasco team.
Sabasco is a brand under the East Malaysian fast food chain, SugarBun, which is under the parent company, Borneo Oil.
SugarBun’s Executive Director, Datuk Joseph Ambrose Lee constantly reminisced of the days when chilli sauce was easily found all over Sabah.
Over time, he noticed the taste of chilli gradually dissipating into a more generic sauce. He believes it was due to hybrid chillies growing faster and being produced in massive volumes.
Thus, the decision to create Sabasco under a separate brand from SugarBun is to penetrate the FMCG market and give it an individual standpoint.
As Datuk Joseph mentions in Sabasco’s introduction video, Momporok is the “gist” of the chilli sauce brand.
If you’re wondering, Momporok is the Dusun word for the chilli that comes from the digestive system of the Bulbul bird, a bird with a little mohawk.
Finding the actual Momporok chilli breed proved to be the most significant and challenging part of the process of creating Sabasco.
This is because Sabah has many different types of chillies due to its complex geology, so every district has its own unique taste, spiciness, and aroma.
“It took years of sourcing, trials, testing, and ensuring the sauce had an adequate shelf life for sales in the FMCG product line,” added Sabasco’s representative.
Through the valleys and hills, the team finally discovered that the chillies could only grow from the soils of Kunak, a town on the Southeast coast of Sabah.
Upon finding the right breed of chilli, the second challenge became ensuring a consistent supply.
The farming method for this type of chilli requires minimal intervention so each fruit grows for longer periods, yielding a more powerful concentration of taste, spice, and aroma.
And that’s the whole objective of launching Sabasco, to showcase the Momporok chilli, an ingredient unique to Borneo.
As of now, Sabasco has three chilli sauce flavours to choose from, Hijau Green, Sweet & Spicy, and Original.
Following that, the brand will release a new flavour they’re calling “A1 Tok Sai Sauce” in October 2022. The team will be hosting a roadshow around Sabah and Sarawak for the launch of their new offering.
A two-way street
Naturally, to plant chillies, you need farmers. Sabasco sourced a few farmers from Kunak and encouraged them to plant Momporok chillies by securing long-term farm and supply deals.
As a token of appreciation, farmers are guaranteed the purchase of harvest from Sabasco, a steady flow of income, and the opportunity to create a market for Momporok chillies.
“At the same time, this collaboration also seeks to create job opportunities for rural communities with the aim of elevating living standards and eradicating poverty throughout the state,” said Sabasco’s representative.
“We also support them by providing regenerative farming methods, like natural soil invigorators such as enriched biochar which is sourced from our associate, American company Verde Resources Inc.”
By employing regenerative carbon farming methods, which take large amounts of CO2 out of the atmosphere and channel it back into the earth, the chilli sauce brand is playing a part in ensuring sustainability in Sabah.
Interestingly, Sabasco has plans to market its chilli sauce to local taste buds only. However, the team has teased that they are developing another brand for international consumers.
Currently, Sabasco’s chilli sauces can be purchased online on Sabasco’s Shopee store for RM10.80 per bottle.
They are also stocked in major retail outlets all over Sabah and Sarawak, as well as in a few locations in West Malaysia already (including the SugarBun outlets in KL).
The brand has plans to make more moves in West Malaysia though, with the goal of increasing their stock here after November 2022, the team told us.
By then, getting your hands on your very own bottle of Sabasco will be much easier.
Featured Image Credit: Sabasco