Today we made some sambal. Sambal is Indonesian chilli paste basically. There are many varieties, almost as many varieties as there are islands in the Indonesian archepelago. My favourite is manado, from the island of the same name, it is tomato and lemon based I think but it’s as rare as rocking horse shit to get hold of. The variations obviously depends on the ingredients and how they are mixed.
We decided to make sambal trassi, the main ingredient is the trassi, which is concentrated dried shrimp paste – very pungent & smelly. You can use almost any vegetable or fruit. Peteh beans or stinkbonen/stink beans because they stink, are fantastic once cooked and in the sambal.
Okay, here we go. How to cook. I say “I and we” because we did it together, we always do as it can involve a lot of chopping and mixing, heating oil and not putting your fingers anywhere near any of you orifices after touching any of the ingredients unless you’ve washed your hands thoroughly with the metal soap thing and cillit bang (only joking, it’ll take the skin off your hands).
We bought a 300g bag of dried chillies from the Chinese store, I then fine chopped them in the mini food chopper thingy, which I broke so I had to use the old one, then soaked them over two nights. Today we began by slowly heating a cup full of sunflower oil in a wok, stirred in a mixture of 50g of trassi which we mixed with two tablespoons of coarse sea salt in an ulekan (mortar & pestle) and half a jar of liquid palm sugar or palm sugar blocks soaked in warm water. You make it as sweet or salty as you want but remember, it’s not like making tomato soup, you can’t taste it during the making process, it will take the skin off your lips 😀
We then drained the soaked chillies and threw them into the wok. We gradually added some of the water they had soaked in, until it was all used up, brought it to the boil, turned it down and simmered it for two hours until all the water was steamed off and the chillies were dark brown, the mixture had thickened and resting in only the oil.
The stink was incredible. All the house smells of it, who cares, we live in it and eat in it and houses don’t need to smell like chemical air fresheners anyway. That’s where yer increase in kids with asthma has come from anyway.
Anyway, we are leaving it overnight to stew then dare I say it, someone has to taste it…! Well, I dipped a millimetre of the spoon in and tentatively licked the tiny globule of oil off it so I had an idea what needs to be added tomorrow if anything. It could be lemon, garlic, pineapple, orange or apple even, we’ll see tomorrow. Bloody hell. It was searingly hot, slightly sweet and not too salty, we might need to add some oil to it as it has to live in oil in a jar to preserve it so we’ll be putting it in jars tomorrow. Always bear in mind, although the chillies are very hot and kill most things dead in their tracks, fungus is not one of them and it will mold unless covered in oil and refrigerated. And yes it is true, it is as hot coming out, as it is going in! I kid thee not.
It lasts years in oil, except we use it every time we have rice or bami and it soon goes down. The two of us can go through an average sized jam jar of sambal in a month.
Try to make it yourself, just don’t rub your eyes when chopping the chillies and always wash your hands BEFORE you go to the toilet!