The description of sambal in wikipedia:
Sambal is a chili based sauce which is normally used as a condiment. Sambals are popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as in the Netherlands and in Suriname through Javanese influence. It is typically made from a variety of chili peppers and is sometimes a substitute for fresh chilis. It can be extremely spicy for the uninitiated. Some ready-made sambals are available at exotic food markets or gourmet departments in supermarkets in many countries.
The West has just incorporated sambal in their cooking. The most popular one in the US that is used in Food Network TV and by well known chefs is Sambal Oelek. Oelek means grinding or pounding. According to Wiki: Oelek is a Dutch spelling which in modern Indonesian spelling has become simply ulek; both have the same pronunciation. Ulek is Indonesian special stoneware derived from common village basalt stone kitchenware still ubiquitous in kitchens, particularly in Java.
Traditionally, to make sambal, Javanese use a mortar and pestle like this one to grind or ulek the ingredients.
Sambal Oelek is vegetarian but this is not the most popular kind in Indonesia. The most popular sambal in Java is Sambal Terasi or Sambal Bajak. Those contain terasi/belachan or shrimp paste. If you are a vegetarian and would like to buy a bottle of sambal in an Asian market, please check the label for shrimp paste or anchovies first.
|Sambal Tomat ingredients from left, clockwise: shallots, garlic cloves, tomatoes, New Mexico Chili (reconstituted), dark palm sugar, tamarind pulp, red Thai Chili (Bird's Eye chili), no shrimp paste.|
I love making my own sambal instead of buying a bottle from the Asian market because it tastes better home made. DH also prefers my home made sambal instead of the bottled Sambal Oelek. I also don't have to worry about reading the label to find out if the sambal is vegetarian or not. Also, to be honest, I admit that I cannot eat HOT or EXTREMELY SPICY sambal anymore. The level of heat that I can take has reduced after years living in the US. By making my own sambal, I can control how many chili I can put into the sambal. Therefore, the recipe below is not that hot. I added New Mexico or California Chili to retain the red hot color but they reduce the heat level. It looks red and hot but it is not. It is a little bit on the sweet side also because of the ripe tomatoes, New Mexico chili, and dark palm sugar.
Sambal Tomat (Spicy Javanese Tomato Sambal)
2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes (about 2 to 3 tomatoes)
3 Dry New Mexico or California Chili
5 red Thai Peppers or Bird's Eye Chili (add more to raise the heat level)
6 shallots, peeled
12 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. canola oil
2 Tbsp. palm sugar or dark brown sugar
1/2 inch cube tamarind pulp or juice of 1 small lime
1/8 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. white miso (optional)
Sambal tomat is good to eat accompanying dry meals meaning a combination of fresh raw vegetables such as fresh sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, raw green beans, raw cabbage wedges, lettuce pieces, etc. and steamed rice (nasi) plus some kind of fried food such as fried tempeh, fried tofu, or traditionally fried meat or fish. Eating raw vegetables with sambal and rice is called lalapan or nasi lalapan. Then, fried food is added to it. The idea is to dip the fried food or fresh veggie into the sambal and then eat it with the steamed rice. I served lalapan (with raw fresh veggies) with Nasi Gudeg as a dry meal in the previous blog. DH loves lalapan with my fresh sambal tomat. He is an American born who learned to enjoy Indonesian meals.
|The tamarind block I bought from Asian market. If it is wrapped in plastic tightly and store in a room temperature, it lasts many months. Every time I need it, I just cut a small chunk and soak the pulp in a hot water.|