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Amidst pandemic and uncertainties, Malaysians turn to savouring Sabah’s ‘secret sauce’ Sabasco
Published:  Aug 3, 2021 2:23 PM
Updated: 6:23 AM

When the Borneo Oil Berhad (BornOil)-Sugarbun Borneo Asian Food group launched the Sabasco ‘secret sauce’ in late July 2021, the intent was to bring a unique taste of Sabah for the whole of Malaysia – and the world eventually – to enjoy.

YB Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Jeffrey Gapari Kitingan, the Deputy Chief Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Sabah, had launched Sabasco at the virtual event. He had also expressed his hope that the product would eventually become a ‘worldwide sensation’ as it is in line with the Sabah Maju Jaya Development plan to expand local agriculture globally.

Now more than two months later, Sabasco has certainly made its impact throughout Malaysia. The ‘secret ingredient’ of Sabasco is the ‘Momporok’ chilli unique to Sabah.

Late last week, Former Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development and Member of Parliament for Segambut YB Hannah Yeoh posted about Sabasco on Facebook, describing the taste as ‘sedap but pedas’.

YB Hannah Yeoh added that she was adding Sabasco to fish nuggets and that she preferred the sweet and spicy version better. (Note that there’s no arrangement between the Sabasco team and YB Hannah Yeoh. The above Facebook post reproduced in good faith.)

From the Facebook post, it seems that Sabasco – and certainly YB Hannah Yeoh – certainly have their loyal followings. (extract of comments below.)

A few weeks back, Malaysian professional golfer Kelly Tan, who competes on the LPGA Tour, was also pictured happily with the two versions (original and sweet and spicy) of Sabasco sauce bottles in hand.

Kelly’s first professional win came at the 2019 Florida's Natural Charity Classic on the Symetra Tour.

So what is it about Sabasco that makes the sauce so special?

For one, the Momporok chilli is so-called because, in the Dusun language, it means the ‘bulbul’ bird’s chilli.

According to the Dusun tribe, the spread of these chillies was assisted by bulbul birds, which are attracted to the chillies when they’re ripe-red. They eat them and disperse the seeds all over their region of residence, and over time, the chillies in the area develop a singular set of characteristics, aroma and taste.

BornOil Executive Director Joseph Ambrose Lee said that, in Sabah, the Momporok chilli sauce is always placed at the centre of the table in every coffee shop.

“What’s special about the Sabasco version of Sabah’s beloved Momporok chilli sauce, however, is its origins,” he said.

A town on the East Coast of Sabah, Kunak, has a geographical makeup of volcanic soils rich in nutrients and the resident ‘bulbul’ birds.

The chilli thrives in Kunak, and its aroma and spice are intensely concentrated and distinctive. Over the decades, this breed of Momporok chilli in Kunak has been cultivated by local micro-farmers who stick to growing only this breed.

“In Kunak, the (chilli) fruits are allowed more time to mature with minimal intervention to spread their growth. Due to this, the result is a much more concentrated fruit. Tiny, red and upright; it is powerful in its spice and fragrance. Its uniqueness surpasses mass-planted chillies in adjacent regions. Each chilli fruit is hand-selected to ensure freshness and quality,” Datuk Ambrose explained.

He added that, through the production of Sabasco, SugarBun hopes to share the Momporok chilli’s story, support the Kunak farming industry, create local jobs, and bring ‘growing’ back closer to nature.

“Sabasco is grown, nurtured, harvested, prepared, and bottled locally,” said Datuk Ambrose.

“This is a chilli sauce close to our hearts. This is the chilli we grew up eating. This is the chilli for our homes, our friends, and family. And now, we’re bringing it to the rest of Malaysia – and the world.”

East Malaysians will find Sugarbun a familiar name. The chain established itself in Kuching, Sarawak back in the early 80s as a bakery and ice creamery. It had also branched out to selling burgers, broasted chicken and popcorn, establishing itself as a cinema concessionaire.

Today, other than its signature broasted chicken and fish burgers, Sugarbun’s outlets also offer Sarawak laksa, Sabah giant garoupa fish meehoon soup, various other claypot dishes, pizza, and of course, to top them all off, Sabasco chilli sauce.

Sabasco Chilli Sauce comes in both ‘original’ and ‘sweet and spicy’ flavours, and can be bought online from or from Shopee, and is available at all Sugarbun, Borneo Asian Food, and Broasted outlets nationwide, as well as Pezzo outlets in East Malaysia.

Wholesalers are welcome to make enquiries by calling +6016-830-0016 or emailing [email protected].

Source: Borneo Oil Berhad - Sugarbun Borneo Asian Food

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