January 27, 2010

The spice of life, Sambals

Sambals are enough of a good thing on their own to bring excitement to any food. A plate of plain steamed rice with some sambal on the side and maybe a few slices of deep-fried shallots on top is both satisfying and delicious, something to look forward to. Because there are so many sambals to choose from and to make depending the mood one is in, it would be difficult to have a boring meal when they are present. The fact that they are easy, quick and fun to make is just an added bonus.

When the mood strikes for grilled fish, two sambals come to mind; Sambal Matah and Sambal Tomat, they are very different, one is raw, sharp and clean flavored, the other is cooked, spicy sweet and mellow and, like many things in life which are very different, they complement each other and go very well served together with the fish of your choice and steamed rice.

Sambal Matah is the natural choice when you want to add a zingy fresh sparkle to any fish from mackerel and tuna to red snapper and sea bass. It will bring a new twist on a sashimi salad and is equally delicious mixed with a medley of avocado, red grapefruit and crab. Mussels steamed in a coconut/ginger broth will be elevated to something truly special if, at the end of cooking, the sambal and a generous pat of butter are added to the pan of mussels and heated gently for 2 minutes to melt and emulsify the butter.

Sambal Matah: Fresh Shallots and Lemongrass Sambal

10 shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove very finely sliced
4 fragrant lime leaves or kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced
5 bird's eye chilies, very finely sliced (or to taste)
2 long red chilies, finely sliced
3 stalks of lemongrass, tender part only, very finely sliced or chopped
1/2tsp dried shrimp paste, roasted
1tsp fleur de sel or dry coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4Tbs of  fragrant coconut oil or mild oil if unavailable (but the taste of the sambal will be different)
Juice of 1 Kalamansi lime or regular lime

Crumble the shrimp paste with the salt and pepper and mix with the shallots, garlic, chilies and lemongrass. Add the oil and lime juice. Serve.

Once in a while, we meet this rare individual who quietly follows his own drum beat. Made Suarta (also known as Made Pintar, smart Made) is certainly one of those. Happy go lucky, funny, gentle, loud and highly creative, Made can do anything and everything while at the same time joking and singing, he has an answer to every problem and everything he touches becomes beautiful. He is a great gardener, builder, painter and fixer of anything in need. And Made does not like Sambal Matah, instead this is what he loves having with his grilled fish, definitely an acquired taste but worth trying. Here's to you and your contagious joie de vivre Made, your favorite sambal!

Sambal Bebek: Raw Chilies Sambal

6 bird's eye chilies
1/4tsp roasted dried shrimp paste
1/4tsp fleur de sel or dry sea salt
1tsp coconut oil
juice of 1/2 Kalamansi lime or regular lime

Crumble the salt with the dried shrimp paste in a mortar, add the chilies and pound to a smooth paste, add the lime juice and coconut oil. Serve. (Warning: this is very spicy as it should be and for chilies lovers only! In this one, the coconut oil is mandatory!)

Sambal Tomat: Tomato Sambal

1 1/2Tbsp of coconut oil or mild oil
15 shallots, sliced
7 garlic cloves, sliced
7 long red chilies, chopped
6 bird's eye chilies, chopped
1/2tsp of dried shrimp paste, crumbled
1Tbsp of palm sugar, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
dry sea salt to taste
1 or 2 bird's eye chilies, sliced
juice of 1 Kalamansi lime or of 1/2 regular lime

In a pan, heat the oil and fry the shallots and garlic until fragrant, add the chilies and cook 5 minutes longer, add  the shrimp paste  and palm sugar until it caramelizes. Add the tomatoes and salt, cook 5 minutes more until the tomatoes are soft. Taste and adjust seasonings, leave to cool. When cool, put the sambal in a mortar and mix until a rough texture is achieved. Add the lime juice, taste and, if needed, add the last raw chili to the sambal. Serve.
This sambal is very good with fried fish as well.

Sambal Goreng: Fried Sambal

Sambal goreng, the first thing prepared every morning with the rice, is like an old friend; you can feel comfortable with it. Maybe a little bit more sugar or terasi, maybe less salt, it depends of what is being prepared and the mood of the day! Always the same, always different! But like a good friend, it's always good, comforting and sure to be there when you need it, which is every day at our house!

15 shallots, finely sliced
10 garlic cloves, finely sliced
4 long red chilies, finely sliced
5 bird's eye chilies, finely sliced
3 stalks of lemongrass very finely chopped
2 candlenuts (omit if you cannot find them)
1/4tsp dried shrim paste
1/2tsp coarse dried sea salt
1/2tsp palm sugar chopped
2Tbsp coconut oil or mild oil

In a mortar, pound together with a pestle the salt, shrimp paste and candlenuts. Heat the oil in a pan, add all the ingredients and cook until fragrant and softened, about 5 minutes. Serve.

Sambal Pelalah

The first time I had this sambal was after climbing the mountain to go to a ceremony in Gumang with Komang. Gumang is one of the guardian Temples of Bali, facing the ocean at the top of a mountain in Karangasem. There, the view is breathtaking and so is the climb! For 45 minutes, steep paths and crumbling stone stairs lead to the top but in the end, it's all worth it because this sacred place is so enchanting and if lucky enough, after the offerings have been blessed and are allowed to be eaten by us mere mortals, there is amongst them grilled tamarind chicken with sambal pelalah, one of my mother-in-law's, Ibu Bony, specialties.

6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 inch piece of lesser galangal, roughly chopped
4 long red chilies, chopped
6 bird's eye chilies, chopped
2 candle nuts
1/2tsp dried shrimp paste
1/2tsp dried sea salt
1tsp palm sugar,chopped
3Tbs coconut oil or mild oil

Put all the ingredients (except the oil) in a mortar and with a pestle pount until smooth or in a blender.
Heat the oil in a pan and add the paste and gently fry for 5 minutes until fragrant. Filter the oil and place in a bowl, cool, serve.

Sambal Tuwung (Raw Eggplant Sambal)

Sambal Kecicang (Sambal with Torch Ginger)

The scent of torch ginger is intoxicating, heady, musky and floral with citrus undertones. It goes wonderfully well with grilled chicken and makes rice sing in your mouth. If you cannot locate this glorious plant, do not bother with this sambal and make sambal goreng instead, which uses lemongrass in place of torch ginger. But it won't be the same and if it was not for the FDA, I wish I could send some to you ( with lesser galangal and fresh turmeric too), really! Who knows, maybe one day?

10 shallots, finely sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely sliced
5 bird's eye chilies, finely sliced
2 long red chilies, finely sliced
3 torch ginger flowers, finely sliced
1/4tsp dried shrim paste
1/4tsp dried sea salt
2Tsp coconut oil or mild oil
1tsp Calamondin lime juice

Crumble the dried shrim paste with the salt. Heat the oil and add the other ingredients, cook until soft and fragrant, add the lime juice. Serve when cool.

Life is inspiring

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