A Quick Bite with Chef Kevin Lee

“My purpose was to create a sambal paste that would appeal to a broader—maybe even younger—audience.”
Friday 24 September 2021
Executive Sous Chef of One&Only Desaru Coast, Kevin Lee

As an homage to Malaysia, the Executive Sous Chef of One&Only Desaru Coast, Kevin Lee, gave his personal take on sambal, a dish that is familiar to the Malaysian palate. It strikes a new, charming note that fairly shies away from the usual (spicy) taste. 

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For Lee, the sambal is basic. Not in the sense that it lacks flair, but instead, it’s an essential for every table at home. Its versatility brings a wide range of quick recipes to the chef’s mind, he calls it a “master paste”.  

Despite having grown up in Australia and then working at Michelin-starred Le Jardin de Sens and Michel Bras in France, Lee’s roots are deeply Malaysian, and he has put his own stamp on the national icon. After all, sambal is one of the most important components to our unofficial national dish––nasi lemak. 

Nasi Lemak with sambal

Here, Chef Kevin Lee takes us on his flavourful meandering journey of food and as a Malaysian. 

What is your personal take when it comes to Malaysia and food?

Much like its people, Malaysian food is diverse, heartfelt, full of passion and flavour. There are so many elements and influences that come together to form the tapestry of our cuisine and it is an incredible honour to be a part of Malaysia’s culinary landscape.

Can you elaborate on what inspired you to create the sambal recipe?

Malaysians love spice, and sambal is probably the nation’s favourite condiment. However, as someone who has a pretty low tolerance for spicy food, I wanted to create an authentic sambal that can be enjoyed by a broader audience. My aim was to tone down the heat without losing any of the flavours that make sambal so special.

Is there any specific technique you used to combine the fresh ingredients and local flavours without compromising the taste of sambal?

The time-honoured techniques of making sambal have been perfected through generations of practice and the sharing of wisdom; and sometimes, when something is already so good, there isn’t any need to reinvent the wheel. This recipe is respectful of tradition, but what we paid careful attention to was the selection of the chillies. The chillies we use will not burn your mouth, but do not compromise on full-bodied flavour and the deep, beautiful colour that sambal is known for.

Visitors of the resort can enjoy the sambal curated by Chef Kevin Lee at the Mediterranean restaurant Ambara.