Lal’s Sweet Chili Sauce initially tastes sweet and savory followed by an undercurrent of mild spice. The tantalizing sauce contains common ingredients, such as tomato, vinegar, chiles, garlic, sugar, salt and spices, but it tastes quite unlike anything else. Imagine the richness of barbecue sauce, fruit-laden sweetness of chutney and slow-burning kick of chunky, piquant salsa. Picture balanced flavors and texture transformed into a sauce that’s familiar yet offers something extra.
Ryan Grobler’s mother, Lal, is the namesake behind the distinctive sauce. Its origins trace back to Grobler’s great-grandmother in southern Africa. Grobler, a former professional rugby player, grew up in Zimbabwe with his brother, sister and parents. Lal made a homespun version of sweet chile sauce there based on a family recipe.
“My great-grandmother made the sauce once in a while,” Grobler says. “She got the recipe from a gentleman who sold curries. My grandmother and mother each adapted the recipe.”
Lal made and served her version of sweet chili sauce to family, friends and acquaintances. “We always joked about putting the sauce on the market in Africa but never did,” Grobler says.
The Groblers moved to the U.S. a year and a half ago. Lal lives in Denver, while Ryan and his family live in Kansas City, where he runs a business. Ryan, who favors spicy foods, made the sauce for his family and friends. He uses two types of chile peppers but won’t divulge details.
“Everyone loves it,” he says. “I gave a jar of sweet chile sauce to chef Yahia Kamal three years ago. Eight months ago, I decided to put the sauce on the market just to see what would happen. I worked with Kamal to develop additional flavors.”
Along with his beloved smile and outgoing personality, chef Kamal is best known locally for his Yummy’s line of products. He once made and sold hummus, baba ganoush, labneh and other prepared Mediterranean foods in area grocery stores. Although he discontinued the line, he remains a familiar face to food-lovers and grocery shoppers throughout Kansas City.
In collaboration with Grobler, Kamal created three additional flavors to complement the original Lal’s sweet chile sauce. The raspberry sauce pairs well with cheese, while the horseradish version is ideal to eat with shrimp and seafood. Smoky with savory notes, the chipotle sauce adds depth to eggs, country-style pork ribs, pulled pork and sandwiches.
“The quality of the ingredients reflects the outcome of the sauce. It’s well-balanced. There’s no cornstarch or thickening agents in the sauce,” Kamal says.
“The sauces are versatile,” Grobler adds. “I put them on everything.”
A baobab tree, known as the tree of life, appears on the label as a subtle nod to the sauce’s southern African origins.
Kamal also helped determine nutritional information for the product label and establish wholesale relationships with supermarkets. All four varieties of Lal’s Sweet Chili Sauce is sold at Cosentino’s, HyVee, McGonigle’s Market, Pricechopper, and other select stores throughout Kansas City. Orders may also be placed directly through the website.
Lal’s Sweet Chili Sauce, 816.433.3333, lalssweetchili.com