Auria's Malaysian Kitchen Vegan Sambal Review
Condiments 

Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen Vegan Sambal Review

A fiery vegan condiment that you’ll want to slather on everything from noodles to tofu to grilled veggies and everything in between.

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A fiery vegan condiment that you’ll want to slather on everything from noodles to tofu to grilled veggies and everything in between.

Taste

Spicy! Complex! Umami! This sambal has everything you want when your meal needs a little flaming kick in the pants.

Price

An 8-ounce jar costs $12.99, which is reasonable compared to similar spicy condiments on the market. Auria makes her sambal in small batches with high-quality ingredients, which justifies the price tag.

Texture

The texture of Auria’s vegan sambal is thick and chunky, making it perfect for slathering on sandwiches, but the oily base makes it easy to whisk into sauces, too.

EV’s Take: The Best Vegan Condiment of 2024

Full disclosure: Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen sent me two jars of her vegan sambal to review for free. I’ve tried all of her products and they have never missed, so I knew going into this one that I would probably love it. Regardless of how I receive a product, I still give it an honest review. And honestly, I freaking love this sambal. I can’t stop eating it. For vegan folks or people with shellfish allergies, this is such an amazing secret weapon to keep in your pantry to add oomph to any dish that needs a little fire.

what is sambal

But first, what is sambal? 

The origins of sambal are closely tied to Malaysia and Indonesia. It is a quintessential part of both regions’ cuisine today and has been a part of their culinary traditions for centuries. Each nation has regional variations and styles of preparing it, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact birthplace of sambal.

What we know and love about sambal is its fiery kick and complex flavor profile. At its core, sambal is a spicy chili paste that serves as a versatile condiment, marinade, or cooking base in Malaysian and Indonesian kitchens. Its unique blend of ingredients and preparation sets Malaysian sambal apart from other cooking pastes in Southeast Asia.

What’s the difference between sambal and curry paste?

Many home cooks may be familiar with curry pastes in their local grocery stores, like Thai red or green curry paste. Curry pastes from other Southeast Asian cuisines may incorporate a broader range of spices such as coriander, cumin, turmeric, and galangal. Thai curry pastes, for instance, may include ingredients like lime leaves and Thai basil, giving them a distinct herbal freshness. 

In contrast, Malaysian sambal primarily revolves around chilies–both fresh and dried–as the star ingredient. These chilies are often combined with garlic, shallots, lemongrass, belacan (shrimp paste), tamarind, lime juice, and sometimes palm sugar to balance the heat. Belacan, a pungent shrimp paste, gives Malaysian sambal its distinctive umami depth and is a trademark of its flavor profile.

In addition, curry pastes are often used as the base for curries and soups. On the other hand, Malaysian sambal is used for everything from marinades to soup bases to dipping sauces and, popularly, the finishing touch of a bowl of laksa.

Now, this is a vegan blog, so we ask: is sambal ever vegan?

It depends. Traditional Malaysian sambal almost always includes shrimp paste, which is made from fermented ground shrimp or krill. For Exploring Vegan readers, traditional sambal may not be suitable for your vegan journey right now. However, some modern recipes and commercially available sambal varieties may be labeled vegan-friendly, using substitutes or omitting the shrimp paste entirely.

That’s where Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen enters the picture. I have tried other vegan sambal varieties and give her the highest marks for the complexity and umami that her paste brings to the table. It’s spicy, jammy, deeply savory, and everything you’d ever want in a spicy chili paste.

That said, this isn’t Auria’s first vegan rodeo. She also makes a vegan Lime Leaf Sambal. This sambal is not as similar to hot chili sambal. It’s much more mellow and relies heavily on the flavor of lime leaves. It is also delicious, but if you want to try the classic Malaysian sambal experience without the shrimp paste, her Vegan Hot Chili Sambal is where it’s at. 

What is Auria’s vegan hot chili sambal made from?

The ingredient list is short but mighty. Here’s what you’re getting in every jar:

Fresh Chillies, Dried Chillies, Canola Oil, Garlic, Cane Sugar, Shiitake Mushroom Powder, Kosher Salt, and Vinegar.

what is sambal

Words from Auria

Want an even deeper knowledge of this plant-based sambal? I interviewed Auria about everything from her inspiration to how it differs from her original sambal recipe.

What inspired you to make a vegan sambal? 

“For years, customers have been asking for a vegan version of our OG Hot Chilli Sambal. And for years, I resisted because sambal with fermented shrimp paste (known as Sambal Belacan) is SO traditional in Malaysia. I guess I resisted because I’m somewhat of a purist. I finally decided to create the vegan version after yet another customer explained that he loved our Hot Chilli Sambal but doesn’t cook with it as much as he’d like to because his wife has a shellfish sensitivity. Once I realized my hard-headedness about Sambal Belacan was making life difficult for some homecooks (and it’s my mission to make life tasty and easy!) I realized that it was time to come around.”

How does your vegan sambal compare taste-wise to your original sambal recipe? 

“My method of testing products always revolves around those nearest and dearest to me. My daughter Neena LOVES our OG Hot Chilli Sambal and goes through about a jar a month.  A couple of years ago (she was 13), I brought home a jar of Sambal from the commercial kitchen, flavored with shiitake mushroom powder, and put it in the fridge, unlabeled and unmarked. She used it for a few days with no comment. I was completely surprised because I know she has a very discerning palate and has since she was a baby. After about ten days I asked her if she noticed a difference in the unmarked jar. She said she didn’t know why but it tasted BETTER than the other sambal that was in the fridge (the OG). As a true blue Malaysian, this ALMOST hurt my feelings but it proved to me that it was more than viable and that for those adapting to a plant-based diet or with shellfish allergies, the shiitake mushroom powder  provided ALL the flavor and umami that was needed. I’ve learned that it’s a fallacy that vegan versions of popular food items are “less than” or lacking. In a lot of cases nowadays, vegan versions can be superior to the originals.” 

What’s your favorite way to use your vegan sambal? Any inspiration you can offer Exploring Vegan readers?

“All manner of stir-fries, cold peanut noodles with Vegan Sambal and sesame oil, and my current summertime no-cook silken tofu with minced garlic, scallions, sambal, sesame oil, light soy and heaps of sesame seeds!”

Do you have any other vegan products that you’re thinking about launching?  

“Later this year, we’re launching a Laksa spice blend. It’s not a vegan product per se, but it’s made with dried spices and can be used to make a very, very tasty, complex, layered vegan broth for laksa. Just add veggie stock and coconut milk,  and bring to a low boil, then add noodles and veggie toppings for a delicious bowl of plant-based, planet-friendly eating!”

–Auria Abraham, Founder of Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen

How to use sambal

As I mentioned above, sambal is an extremely versatile ingredient. Slather it on sandwiches, use it as a marinade for grilled tofu or plant-based meat, or use it as a base for soups or sauces. It’s also great as a topping for noodles, Malaysian red curry, laksa, or your favorite fried rice.

How to pronounce sambal

Because of my twangy West Virginia roots, I have tended to want to truncate the word to sound more like “sahmble.” I met someone who spent a lot of time in Malaysia, and they told me the correct pronunciation, so I thought it was worth adding to this post. When saying sambal, you want to enunciate the two parts of the word distinctly so it will sound more like “sahm-baal.” You can view this video for a helpful auditory explanation.

vegan soba recipes

How did Exploring Vegan use Auria’s Vegan Chili Sambal?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve made this recipe so many times because I just can’t stop eating it. I love using Auria’s Vegan Chili Sambal in my soba bowl with veggies and tofu. I use a scoop of it in the sauce, and then I finish the noodles with a few teaspoons on top to give it a final kick. The recipe is below!

Vegan Sambal Soba Recipe

Vegan Sambal Soba

A fiery soba that delivers a kick in the pants thanks to Auria's Vegan Hot Chili Sambal.
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 396kcal

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces soba
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • 5 scallions, minced; white and green parts kept separate
  • 5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, and caps thinly sliced
  • ¾ pound Chinese eggplant, trimmed and medium-diced
  • 1 pound firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ ounce Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped; a few leaves reserved for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce:

Instructions

Cook the soba:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba and cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse and set aside.

Cook the vegetables:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, white parts of the scallions, and mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook, turning occasionally, for 7–8 minutes until the eggplant and mushrooms brown.

Make the sauce:

  • Whisk together all of the sauce ingredients as the vegetables cook. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference.

Cook the tofu:

  • Add tofu and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes.
  • Pour the sauce over the tofu and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and toss gently to coat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and season.

Finish the soba:

  • Add the chopped Thai basil leaves and all but a pinch of the reserved scallion greens to the pot. Add the noodles and toss until evenly coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat.

To serve:

  • Transfer the soba to a serving platter. Sprinkle the remaining pinch of scallion greens on top, scatter a few Thai basil leaves over the noodles, and finish with a teaspoon or two of Auria’s Vegan Hot Chili Sambal on top. Enjoy!

Nutrition

Calories: 396kcal | Carbohydrates: 57g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 1.213mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g

Where can I buy Auria’s Vegan Hot Chili Sambal?

Scoot over to her website and grab yourself a jar!

What did you think?

Have you tried Auria’s Vegan Hot Chili Sambal? What did you think? Love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments!

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