Some Like It Hot
Indonesia’s Sambal Love Affair

Whether squeezed from a tube onto deep-dish pizza or freshly sliced for nasi campur (rice with various sides), sambal (chilli relish) is a national meal-time must.

“Indonesians are crazy about sambal,” says Lisa Virgiano, Kaum’s Brand Director and a food advocate who’s travelled the breadth of Indonesia to taste dishes at local warungs (simple eateries), dine with tribal communities, and rescue dust-covered recipes in the name of culinary authenticity. “From Aceh to Papua, the taste varies, depending on the ingredients available in each region and preparation techniques,” she explains.

 

Slicing, frying and manually grinding using a mortar and pestle made from volcanic stone are three typical methods used to make Indonesia’s 300 plus sambals, a skill she says requires “great craftsmanship.”

Kaum Bali is an ideal place to kick-start an understanding of the archipelago’s favourite condiment with its six distinctive sambals on the menu. Start local with Bali’s ubiquitous sambal matah, a raw mixture of thinly shredded shallots, chillies, lemongrass, lime, coconut oil and torch ginger flower—a great match for grilled fish and meats according to Kaum Bali’s Head Chef Wayan Kresnayasa. Then move on to sambal terasi, a combination of spicy red chillies and fermented shrimp paste—a new addition to the Kaum menu.

 

Or try North Sulawesi’s fiery sambal rica rica, Java’s sambal ikan teri of salted whitebait and red chilli, and Kalimantan’s uniquely flavoured local nut sambal. “Our vegetarian-friendly sambal kluwak has a kind of funky, umami flavour that comes from the fermented black nuts,” he says.

“To make a great sambal terasi, you have to use the best terasi [shrimp paste]. We use terasi from Bangka, and for me, it’s the best. Making it is a long process; they dry their shrimp outside under the sun, unlike industrial, machine-made versions.” — Chef Wayan

Chef Wayan, a native of Bali’s neighbouring Nusa Penida island, grew up on his family’s own special recipe for the classic Javanese sambal. “I come from a family of 12 so my mum used to add tomatoes to her sambal terasi to make the portion bigger.”

 

Decades later, he’s discovered the key to perfecting his own version: “To make a great sambal terasi, you have to use the best terasi [shrimp paste]. We use terasi from Bangka, and for me, it’s the best. Making it is a long process; they dry their shrimp outside under the sun, unlike industrial, machine-made versions.”

In Bali, head upstairs to Kaum, on the second floor of the Beach Club, to try Chef Wayan’s new Journey Through Indonesia tasting menu—or use his recipe below to make sambal matah at home.

 

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SAMBAL MATAH RECIPE
Makes 300 gr

 

INGREDIENTS
60 gr peeled shallots
25 gr large red chillies (seeded)
35 gr small red chillies
38 gr torch ginger flower (fresh or frozen)
40 gr lemongrass
3 gr kaffir lime leaf
3 gr sea salt
120 gr coconut oil (room temperature)
30 gr fresh lime juice
10 gr terasi (grilled shrimp paste)

 

METHOD
Finely slice the shallots
Finely slice the large red chillies, taking the seeds out
Finely slice the small red chillies, leaving the seeds in
Finely slice the torch ginger flower
Finely slice the lemon grass stalks
Remove the stems of the kaffir lime leaves & finely slice them
Crumble the grilled shrimp paste (optional)

 

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

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