Sambal (Fragrant Hot Sauce)

Just like ketchup in the US, or wasabi in Japan, sambal is the choice condiment for many Southeast Asians. There are numerous versions of sambal but it is usually savory, sweet, tangy and salty with a spicy kick.  Sambal is served with nasi lemak (see our recipe here) or alongside curries such as red curry and rendang so each person can customize the spice level of their meal. While you can also purchase Homiah's addictive and convenient crispy sambal, we also wanted to share a recipe for a Malaysian sambal here so you can try making your own.

- Recipe by Deborah Lee

sambal-asian-hot-sauce-paste

Sambal (Asian Hot Sauce Paste)

SERVES TIME
4 30 mins

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 shallots, peeled
  • 1/4-inch (1cm) ginger, peeled a
  • 1 medium red onion, halved
  • 10 dried Thai red chiles, de-seeded and soaked in water for 10 minutes
  • Optional: 3/4 tablespoon shrimp paste, known as "belacan" locally
  • Optional: 1/2 cup (~40g) dried anchovies, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup (180ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp (15g) tamarind, seeds removed and soaked in 3 tbsp (45ml) water, can be substituted with lime juice
  • 1 tbsp (12g) sugar, preferably brown or cane sugar
  • 1 tsp (5g) kosher salt, or more to taste

METHOD

  1. Place shallots, ginger, half of the red onion, red chiles, shrimp paste, dried anchovies, and half of the vegetable oil in a blender, and blend on high until smooth, then set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the other half of the red onion. Then, heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan or wok over medium-high heat, and add in the red onions to stir fry for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add in the blended chile paste, and continue sautéing for another 3-5 minutes, until the paste darkens and the oil starts to ooze out and separate from the paste.
  3. Pour in the tamarind together with its soaking water, sugar, and salt, give it a stir, then simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the sambal has thickened to a spoon-coating consistency.
  4. Finally, give the sambal a taste; you can adjust its flavor according to your preferences by adding more tamarind juice, sugar, and/or salt.
  5. The sambal can be eaten immediately, or kept for several weeks in the fridge.
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