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.
Easily obtained at many warung and restaurants – especially those that serve grilled or fried dishes – Sambal Terasi (shrimp paste sambal) consists of red chilli, bird’s eye chilli, shallots, garlic, salt, sugar, and tomatoes, along with fried or grilled shrimp paste.
Originating from Central Java, Sambal Bajak (piquant sambal) features a colour and taste that is similar to Sambal Terasi – although not as spicy. It gives off a slightly sweet-and-savoury flavour that will cater to those who don’t like their sambal to be too hot. It is usually placed in jars and be given as a gift due to its long shelf life.
The main ingredients of Sambal Dabu-Dabu (spicy and sour sambal) include red chilli, shallots, basil, green chilli, tomatoes, lime, salt, and a sprinkle of lime juice to lend a spicy-sour touch to it. Originating from Manado, it features a very refreshing colour and taste, and would usually complement a serving of grilled fish by either being lathered on top of the fish or served on a separate plate.
While most sambals are red in colour, this one is an exception to the rule with its greenish hue. Made from green chilli, salt, and sugar, Sambal Ijo (green sambal) is not as spicy as it looks because it is whipped up by using light green chilli. You could always add some bird’s eye chilli into the mix if it’s not fiery enough though.
Despite its popularity, nobody seems to know how this sambal came into existence. It uses easily sourced ingredients such as sweet soy sauce, bird’s eye chilli, shallots, and tomatoes. Sambal Kecap (soy sauce sambal) would be the perfect company for a portion of grilled fish, along with a fried egg or some fried tofu and tempeh.
The majority of the sambals on this list are either stir-fried prior to serving or have their ingredients cooked first before they are crushed using a mortar and pestle. Sambal Matah (raw shallot and lemongrass sambal) from Bali, however, is prepared using a rather different method. Generally comprising red chilli, green chilli, shallots, green tomatoes, lemongrass, shrimp paste and thin lime leaves, do sprinkle a bit of lime juice on top to make it taste even more refreshing.
A cultural stereotype says that the Javanese people aren’t big on anything spicy. Well, the folks who came up with the generalisation surely have never tried Sambal Korek (garlic and bird’s eye chilli sambal) before. A local speciality from Solo, this sambal is concocted using great quantities of bird’s eye chilli, along with garlic, shallots, and salt. It is then given a few drops of hot oil after the grinding process. The name Sambal Korek stemmed from the small amount of the sambal that would usually be given to a customer because it was just too spicy to get through.