IN the Indonesian food culture, sambal is considered a staple in every table. It is paste made out of onion, garlic, chili, tomatoes, and calamansi served as a sauce or a condiment. The way the spice-loving Indonesians treat sambal is similar to the way we consume alamang or bagoong (shrimp paste), but only on a hardcore level.
“Yung pag kumain ka at wala kang sambal, hindi talaga siya kumpleto. Yan yung condiment na always present (Your food is not complete without sambal. This condiment is always present),” Antoinette Renata Cabading, who is an Indonesian, said.
“Indonesians are known din na mahilig sa maanghang so perfect sawsawan na siya sa kahit anong pagkain. Pwede mo ilagay sa sabaw, or dip ng fried chicken or barbecue (Indonesians are known to be fond of hot and spicy food, so they put it in almost all kinds of food either as a condiment, soup flavoring, dip for fried chicken or barbecues)," she said.
She said food in Indonesian restaurants are always served with sambal on the side.
Being an Indonesian, Cabading said she has been making sambal for her family. She brought along this food culture when they migrated from Jakarta to General Santos City in 2001.
She graduated in college with an Electrical Engineering degree and took up a master’s degree in Business Administration in Davao City. After that, she returned to Indonesia to work in a food production company but in 2017, she came to Davao where she got married to an Ilokano and eventually stayed for good.
After noticing the reception of the Filipinos to foreign cuisines like Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese, she decided to introduce Indonesian food in the market and launched sambal in the city under the brand Pedas Gila in that same year.
Her initial market was those who are familiar with the Indonesian condiment.
“Sa start, target market ko lang talaga yung kung sino nakakaalam what sambal is at yung nakapunta na ng Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore. Slowly, nakikilala na ng mga Filipinos kasi marami naming pumupunta ng Bali so they [got to] know sambal [and] mga Indonesian food (My initial target market were those who are familiar with sambal and have gone to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore. Slowly, other Filipinos got to know sambal and other Indonesian food),” she said.
She expanded her product line with Pedas Gila sambal oil.
“Sambal oil is pwede siyang on-the-go. Maliit lang ang bottle niya tapos oil lang so kahit hindi mo siya i-ref, hindi siya masira (Sambal oil is for on-the-go. It is put in a small bottle and does not easily spoil),” she said adding it has been the custom of some Indonesians to bring sambal during their travels.
Her business Luxfindoe Food Products and Processing further carried other Indonesian spices such as the Fried Shallots, Beef Floss, Flavored Salted Egg, and the Mushroom Seasoning which can be used to flavor baby’s food. She also established the Findoe brand, a line of flavored cassava chips.
Cabading said apart from the sambal, Flavored Salted Eggs are also her best-seller, but it is also her most challenging product to produce.
“Isa sa pinakachallenging is the salted egg kasi ginagamit ko talaga is yung organic na duck egg. Yan yung pinakamahirap hanapin kay minsan I get it from Carmen, Panabo, and Cotabato. meron pang time na from Isulan pa galing ang eggs (I really used the organic duck egg and I still get it from Carmen, Panabo, Cotabato, and sometimes from Isulan),” she said.
She said she has regular suppliers in these areas but sometimes the production of duck eggs becomes scarce due to the changing weather and calamities like earthquakes. It is also an expensive raw material that costs nine to 10 pesos per egg.
For her other products like sambal, the differing prices of the ingredients affect her production.
“As much as possible ginatake advantage ko if nagababa yung presyo ng ingredients so nagabulk production talaga,” she said. Sometimes, when the prices are too high, she stops her production to prevent bankruptcy.
On average, she can produce around 40 to 50 pieces of each product in a day. For duck eggs, she can process around 300 to 400 eggs.
Despite the challenges, Cabading said she will always continue her business because apart from promoting the Indonesian food culture, helping farmers and small vendors to earn are the most fulfilling part of her doing her business.
“Nagtatanong sila bakit hindi ako kumukuha ng mga ingredients ko like mga chilis sa Indonesia para authentic daw talaga. (They are asking me why I am not sourcing my ingredients from Indonesia to make my products authentic). Sabi ko, I also want to help the local [businesses] and farmers,” she said adding she buys her ingredients from vendors in Bangkerohan Public Market.
“Pagod pero happy. Maganda rin siya na purpose in life (It is exhausting but I am happy. (It is a beautiful purpose in life),” she said.