Demystifying the Sambal : Indonesia’s Favourite Chilli Relish

Sambal has been a part of Indonesia’s culinary world since time immemorial. Any dish in the local food lexicon can taste a hundred times better with a dollop of sambal, be they fried or soupy. We’re also blessed with a number of different sambals with several levels of spiciness, ranging from the sweet-and-spicy sort to the so-hot-you-won’t-be-able-to-breath variety. Here are seven types of delicious sambals that we believe will refine your dining experience.

It’s a condiment that an Indonesian meal cannot go without. Sambal is chilli relish and anyone who’s eaten at an Indonesian restaurant will notice is bright red colour on the plate, simultaneously warning you and luring you in for another addictive spicy bite. 

Now, there are countless types of sambal in Indonesia, testament to the country’s vast archipelago where different regions make their own version and add their own little twist.

Sambal has been a part of Indonesia’s culinary world since time immemorial. Any dish in the local food lexicon can taste a hundred times better with a dollop of sambal, be they fried or soupy. We’re also blessed with a number of different sambals with several levels of spiciness, ranging from the sweet-and-spicy sort to the so-hot-you-won’t-be-able-to-breath variety. Here are several types of delicious sambals that we believe will refine your dining experience.

Sambal cabe ijo

Sambal cabe ijo (green chili sambal) is a beloved fixture in Padang cuisine. Padang dishes like rendang or gulai are already a bit spicy, but adding a spoonful of sambal cabe ijo is still a must to make the taste complete. Thankfully, this sambal is usually only mildly spicy since the dishes are already very zesty.

Sambal terasi

The game-changing ingredient to this sambal is terasi, or shrimp paste. Terasi is characterised by a strong fishy aroma matched only by a well-seasoned taste. The other ingredients are chilli, shallots and tomato. The level of spiciness can be arranged by the ratio of chilli versus tomato, but most ready-made sambal terasi range from fairly to very spicy.

Sambal mangga

This sambal owes its unique taste and freshness to a tropical secret ingredient: mango! The distinct flavour is a combination of young mango’s sour taste and chilli’s hotness, combined with salt, palm sugar and sometimes shrimp paste. The vivid yellow and red colour is in itself an appetising sight.

Sambal matah

Originally from Bali, sambal matah is now a popular companion to grilled seafood across the archipelago. The defining characteristic of this semi-raw sambal is its spiciness and freshness. Lime leaves, lime juice and lemongrass give the recipe its vivifying taste, drenched in cooking oil as the sambal juice results in a pleasant and delicate texture to excite the tastebuds.

Sambal petai

Despite its notorious smell, Parkia speciosa or the stink bean is still a much-loved food in Indonesia. For those who love it (or dare to try it), stink bean is actually an excellent ingredient for a piquant sambal recipe. Chillis and other spices are ground before they’re stir-fried with the bean, giving the sambal a unique spiciness and enticing crispy texture.

It’s very easy to make but will make any Indonesian (or Asian) dishes so much better. Great as a dip too, alongside raw vegetables, fried tempe and tofu, or prawn crackers (krupuk).

If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, you can use a blender but be sure not to over do it, blend lightly only. Another creative alternative is putting the ingredients into a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin.

Mix it up! You can add lime juice, shrimp paste (or finely chopped anchovies), to give it a different flavour. There’s no rules for sambal, so get creative. 

Source: here
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