What is it for…

Now, how do I define sambal? It is not just a dip as there are the various types of sambal that one would use to cook say, Sarawak laksa or masak hitam…and then of course, we have the sambal for frying midin (wild jungle fern) or kangkong and other vegetables…so I guess it would be more accurate to say that sambal comprises all the ingredients pounded or blended together…and there can be so many different combinations when it comes to all the things that go into a sambal.

The other day, for instance, when I cooked Sarawak laksa, I prepared this sambal belacan (dried prawn paste)…

Sambal belacan

This is easy to prepare – just pound chilies, sliced thinly and belacan together. Some people will add a squeeze of calamansi lime to make it less dry and that would also enhance the taste of the dip. How good your sambal belacan is, of course, would depend on the quality of the belacan you use (for us here, the best would be the expensive ones from Bintulu that are worth their weight in gold) and also how spicy hot your chilies are. These days, I get quite fed up with those that I get from the market sometimes – not hot at all, only good for colour and presentation. For the uninitiated, this sambal would go superbly well as a dip for plain boiled pork (just boil, no need to add salt or anything) or stewed/braised pork or pork leg…or roast pork belly. It is so very nice that it will definitely leave you longing for more, I tell you.

Other than the aforementioned, this dip is also good for ulams – you can boil/blanch vegetables like kangkong, long beans, ladies’ fingers, four-angle beans…or steam some cut brinjal…or cut raw cucumber into bite-size chunks to eat with the sambal but if you asked my grandma or my mum and her sisters in the kampung (village) way back when, they would probably tell you that this would be the appropriate sambal for the boiled/blanched/steamed vegetables and they would have something else specially for cucumber…as well as others for other things.

Anyway, the other day, my missus asked me to deep-fry some fish and I thought I could make a special sambal to go with that. I remember I used to eat this fish at the Indonesian nasi padang shops or stalls in Singapore way back in 1973 and they would bury the cooked fish under a blanket of pounded chili or there would be a slit by the side of each fish and they would stuff the sambal in it. I don’t know whether theirs was such plain chili or whether they had their own recipe for it but I had a fairly clear idea how I wanted mine.

I had chilies, lots of those, in mine and also garlic…

Sambal cili 1

…and I pounded them all together. This pounded chili with garlic is also what we would use when we have steamboat in the house or when we make our own popiah (spring rolls) or kuih pai tee (top hats) at home. If it had been for beef, I would have used ginger instead.

Sambal cili 2

Yes, yes, that’s a plastic chair that you can see in the photograph.  I am too fat to get on the floor, you see…and we have a glass-topped kitchen table…and my missus has a whole lot of things lined up on the kitchen counters so if I were to do the pounding there, the vibrations might send them toppling over the edge. So what I usually do would be to sit in one chair and do all the pounding on another chair placed right in front of me. I would say that it works fine for me…except that sometimes, I get little spots and splashes all over the front of my t-shirt. LOL!!!!

I would pound until all the seeds are gone, or most of them, at least…which is something quite impossible if you are using a blender. You can grind as long as you like – the seeds will still be there staring back at you the moment you stop. Once I was happy with the end result, I added some calamansi lime juice to it and some sugar to counter-balance the sour taste and stirred it well…

Sambal cili 3

Now, back to the fish, I am not really sure how they usually go about it but once, long long ago when I was not really into cooking at the time, I tried cutting slits in the fish and stuffing them with the pounded chili. However, in the process of deep-frying, all the chili came out and got burnt in the hot oil so eventually, I ended up with one horrible mess. Tsk! Tsk!

This time around, I tried cutting a slit in one and after deep-frying, I pried it open and put in the sambal

Fish & sambal 2

Hmmmm….it certainly looked good!

Fish & sambal 2

But frankly, I think I would not bother unless it is for some special function as this would probably look better for presentation when served. Otherwise, it would be just as nice to eat the deep-fried fish just like that, adding the sambal generously to it in the process.

So, there you have it – my sambal cili with bawang putih (garlic) – absolutely great as a dip and would certainly whet one’s appetite, that’s for sure.

About these ads

26 thoughts on “What is it for…

  1. so that is what sambal is! it seems like some sort of salsa haha
    on a spicier version, and i think it was perfect with that nicely
    cooked fish too

    Salsa is basically tomatoes, if I’m not mistaken…and does not come anywhere near these chili dips, that’s for sure. I am sure you have such chili dips there – I wonder what you call it in tagalog.

  2. oh Arthur!! How I miss all these local food…. now I have to stuff myself with meat… burgers… coleslaw.. salad… oh gosh… I miss Cintan noodles too!

    And kampua from Sibu! Told you to come here…. What for go over there, so far away? The flying alone is enough to kill anybody, and the food…and the cold, the crazy weather PLUS everything is soooooooo expensive. Just the airfare alone will be MORE than enough for a wonderful holiday here…or at any place in Sarawak…or Sabah…or Malaysia.

  3. Mmmmmm…. Don’t like the smelly stuff but I’d make exception for Laksa.

    And you’re from Bintulu? Ooooo…the best is from there – worth its weight in gold. Got any, people give…and you don’t want…just pass to me! Hehehehehehe!!!!!

  4. This type of sambal must ‘married’ to limau kasturi….. Definitely taste so good until tak nampak telinga. LOL.

    LOL!!!! We’ve got such great taste, haven’t we? Apalah makanan orang putih, orang Jepun dll…mana setanding! ;)

  5. Of course, that sambal must go with calamansi lime juice. Otherwise it won’t be so appetising. I would not take the trouble to slit open and put in it. Use it as a dip and it is that good too. That is deep fried kembong fish. I like it. Have a great weekend, Arthur.

    I guess it is nice for presentation. I would not bother too – just dip and eat. Wouldn’t make a difference, I’m sure. You have a delightful Sunday too!!!

  6. my favourite, sambal belacan.. my mum makes the best one, at least to me. I got to have a scoop of it for every meal i take at home :D..

    Good morning Arthur! Have an awesome weekend, or what’s remaining of it. :)

    Same to you. Hmmmmmm….you’ve yet to try mine! Wink! Wink! LOL!!! :D

  7. Yums! We nyonyas have this dish too but we do it slightly different in terms of ingredients and method.

    Not sure. I think the Malays just stuff pounded fresh chilies. Mine’s my own creation…yunno lah, I never follow recipe one. Hehehehehehe!!!! ;)

  8. I’m sure it tastes as good as it looks. I’m a big fan of sambal flavours too.

    You are? That’s great – most Foochows will steer away from anything spicy…and none of the belacan and cincaluk stuff for them, that’s for sure.

  9. I would say that sambal belacan with plain fried fish and some vegetables and rice – that makes a princely meal for me! Better than going to the expensive restaurants :)

    Definitely. I’d rather go for this kind of stuff anytime…

  10. sambal belacan always brings back a specific memory for me: my maternal grandmother painstakingly making it with her mortar and pestle, and the precious homemade taste of it to accompany our veggies and meat sometimes :D

    Malacca people, no need to say lah… Wah!!! With your peranakan roots, I would be very surprised if you do not like stuff like this.

  11. omg. i haven’t eaten my lunch STP :(

    i want that fish.. and looking at the sambal and lime already made my saliva come out!

    i think i want to start cook too, maybe after i’ve done with my thesis! :)

    Wah!!!! You’re studying? Doing your Masters or getting a permanent head damage? LOL!!!! :D Ask somebody to cook for you lor, sayang sayang bah! ;)

  12. My mother always dish out Cili Garam – fish with lots of chili on it, a Nyonya dish and I love it lots!

    Ahhhh!!! She adds salt? My missus does too…but I think we do not need much of that, and sugar as well. As far as possible, can do without…or use less.

  13. I was salivating as I read this post. Yummy! Yes pounding is the way to do it. I pound it too but have to be rather gentle as I live in an apartment. Don’t want my poor neighbours downstairs to think I have gone mad and am pounding or stomping the floor like a hippo :P

    LOL!!! Poor thing. I put some padded pot handlers underneath – I think that will help cushion the force and it will not be as noisy…but for me, it’s ok. I don’t live in an apartment.

  14. It is my favourite to eat this fried fishes with stuffed sambal and only the Malay stalls are good at this over here. I just bought a small little bottle of fresh ready made sambal for RM4.50. I told my wife that I should learn to pound them myself since I am a chilly addict. I will copy your recipe ok.

    You are damn cute to say that you could not sit on the floor to pound!!! Wakakaka…

    But that is the truth!!! If I get down on the floor, I will not be able to get up again…so no way, whatever J Lo says. LOL!!!!

  15. this look very good. Now i know how to do it, maybe i should try it next time. Can use blender right? Taste not so nice compare to pound?

    Can, can use blender…but the seeds will be forever there. My missus adds a bit of salt when she makes this – but I thought it was good enough like this without it – can always do with a little less salt.

  16. Love those cilli paste fried fish. love the way my grandma used to make hers. But i find it too very tedious and messy esp when everything comes out into my oil while frying them …

    That’s what happened when I did it that way. This time, I stuffed after deep frying. Seemed to work better this way.

  17. oh Cikgu!~!!! This is my FAVOURITE!!! I have been pestering my mum to do it for me, but she say ‘too much work” and that’s it.. I got to wait for her good mood to come..

    What? What? The sambal cili or the fish or both? Come, come to Sibu…I cook for you. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s