Traditional sambals are freshly made using traditional tools, such as stone pestle and mortar. Sambal could be served fresh and raw or cooked and fried, depends on each recipes. The chili pepper, garlic, shallot and tomato are often freshly ground using mortar, while the terasi or belacan (shrimp paste) is fried or burned first to kill its pungent smell as well as to release its aroma. Some households and restaurants often insists on making freshly-prepared sambal — just a few moments prior to consuming — in order to ensure its freshness and flavor; this is known as sambal dadak (lit. "sudden sambal"). However, most of sambal are prepared daily in a bulk and offered as hot and spicy condiment.
Today some brands of prepared, prepacked, instant or ready to use sambal are available in warung, traditional markets, supermarkets and convenience stores. Most are bottled sambal, with a few brands offer plastic or aluminum sachet packaging. Compared to traditional sambal, the bottled instant sambal often have finer texture, homogenous content and gloppy consistency, similar to those of tomato ketchup. This is because of its process using machine to ground the ingredients. Traditionally-made sambals that employ pestle and mortar usually have a coarse texture and consistency.
Varieties of chili
Fresh chilis are the main ingredient for a sambal.
The most common kinds of peppers used in sambal are:
Adyuma, also known as habanero: a very spicy, yellow, and block-shaped pepper.
Madame Jeanette: a yellow–light green, elongated, irregularly-shaped pepper.
Bird's eye chili, also known as cabe rawit in Javanese: a very spicy, green–red, elongated pepper approximately 10 millimetres (0.39 in) wide and 50 millimetres (2.0 in) long.
Chili peppers known as lombok in Javanese: a mild, green–red, elongated pepper. Green chili peppers are milder than red ones.
Cabe taliwang: a pepper spicier than the Bird's eye chili, similar in spiciness to the naga jolokia, its name is supposedly the origin from which Lombok Island, or "the Island of the Chili", derives its name.
A traditional manner of making sambal using a stone mortar
In the Indonesian archipelago, there are as many as 300 varieties of sambal. The intensity ranges from mild to very hot. Some varieties include:
Similar to sambal lado mudo but with the addition of andaliman pepper.
This is similar to sambal terasi with an addition of tamarind concentrate. Asam means tamarind or sour in Indonesian.
Sambal bajak (badjak)
Banten sambal. Chili (or another kind of red pepper) fried with oil, garlic, terasi, candlenuts and other condiments. This is darker and richer in flavor than sambal asam.
Minangkabau style sambal. Chili pepper or green chili is blended together with garlic, shallot, red or green tomato, salt and lemon or lime juice, then sauteed with oil.
(lit: fruit sambal) specialty of Palembang, made from the mixture of chili, shrimp paste, kemang (a type of mango) and pineapple.
a sambal recipe specialty of Cibiuk village, Garut Regency, West Java. It consist of coarsely chopped and ground green bird's eye chili, green raw tomato, shallot, galangal, lemon basil, shrimp paste and salt.
From Ambon, it consists of Indonesian kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), chili, tomatoes bits, shallots and lime it has a chiefly sweet taste. It is suitable for barbecue dishes. Some variations will add butter or vegetable oil to the sambal.
Dabu-dabu comes close to the Mexican salsa sauce, it is of Manado's origin. It consists of coarsely chopped tomatoes, calamansi or known as lemon cui or jeruk kesturi, shallots, chopped bird's eye chili, red chili, basil, poured with hot vegetable oil, salt.
Sambal durian or Sambal tempoyak
It is made from fermented durian called tempoyak. The fermentation process takes 3 to 5 days. The chili and the tempoyak may be readily mixed or served separately, to cater the individual preference in ratio of chili to tempoyak to determine the scale of hotness. This sambal available in two varieties: raw and cooked. In the cooked variety, pounded chilis, shallots and lemongrass are stir-fried with anchovies, tempoyak and turmeric leaf (for aroma). Petai (Parkia speciosa) and tapioca shoots are also frequently added. The sweet-sour-hot sambal can be found in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), especially in Palembang and Bengkulu.
Freshly ground sambal terasi mixed with sliced fried jengkol, a kind of tropical bean with slightly stinky aroma native to Southeast Asia. Sambal jengkol can be found in Sundanese and Cirebon cuisine.
Sometimes also called sambal jawa. Similar to sambal tumis, it is stir fried. It uses a heapful of palm sugar which gives its dark brown color, tomato, spices and chili. The overall flavor is sweet, with mild hints of spices and chili.
A mixture of chilli with garlic, shallot, sugar, salt, crushed fried peanuts, and water. Usually used as condiments for nasi uduk, ketan, or otak-otak. The simple version only employ cabe rawit chilli, crushed fried peanuts and water.
This is similar to sambal terasi with an addition of candlenuts.
Sambal lado mudo/ijo
Lado mudo is Minangkabau for green sambal, it is lso called sambal ijo, a Padang, (West Sumatra) specialty - the sambal is green (not the usual red)- made using green tomatoes, green chili, shallot, and spices. The sambal is stir fried.
Raw shallot & lemongrass sambal of Bali origin. It contains a lot of finely chopped shallots, chopped bird's eye chili, terasi shrimp paste, with a dash of lemon.
Sambal Oelek in jar
Sambal ulek (oelek)
Raw chili paste (bright red, thin and sharp tasting). Can be used as the base for making other sambals or as an ingredient for other cuisines. Some types of this variant call for the addition of salt or lime into the red mixture. 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. The Ulekan is a mortar shaped like a hybrid of a dinner and soup-plate with an old, cured bambooroot or stone pestle (ulek-ulek) employed in an ulek manner: a crushing and twisting motion (like using a screwdriver) for crushing lime leaves, chilies, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other kinds of ingredients.
A mixture of red chilli, garlic, shallot, and petai green stinky bean as the main ingredients.
A sambal from Central Java. Freshly ground sambal terasi with shredded young mango. This is a good accompaniment to seafood. Pencit means young mango in Indonesian.
Originating from Lombok island, the sambal consists of Lombok's chili variety and Lombok's lengkare shrimp paste,tomatoes, salt, and lime juice.
Sambal rica rica
A hot sambal from Manado region, it uses ginger, chili, lemon and spices. Suitable for barbecue meats.
A very hot sambal with Madame Jeanette peppers (red brownish, very sharp). The name literally means "devil's sauce". It is popular in Surabaya
This variant is native to Taliwang, a village near Mataram, Lombok Island, and is made from naga jolokia pepper grown specially in Lombok, garlic and Lombok shrimp paste. A kilogram of naga jolokia pepper is extracted, ground and pressed. This is mixed with ground garlic and shrimp paste, then cooked with vegetable oil.
A Sulawesi sambal, contains the Chinese tauco, lime juice, chili, brown sugar, and salt.
A common Indonesian style of sambal. Similar to the Malaysian belacan, but with a stronger flavor since terasi, is more tangy and fermented. Red and green peppers, terasi, sugar, salt, lemon or lime juice (tangy, strong). One version omits the lime juice and has the sambal fried with pounded tomatoes. Popularly eaten raw. Alternate spelling in the Netherlands: trassi or trassie.
Sambal teri lado
a Padang, (West Sumatra) speciality, sambal is made using chili pepper, tomato, shallot, spices, and mixed with salted ikan teri (anchovy). The sambal is stir fried and similar to Malay "sambal ikan".
Similar to sambal tumis but with the addition of crushed tomato and sugar. The tomato is stir fried along with the other ingredients until a paste like consistency. The overall taste is hot and sweet, it is a good mix with lalapan.
Chili fried with belacan shrimp paste, onions, garlic, tamarind juice. Tumis means "stir fry". Often the cooking oil is re-mixed with the sambal. It may be mixed with other ingredients to produce dishes such as sambal kangkong, sambal cumi (squid) and sambal telur (egg).
Sambal udang bawang
a specialty sambal from Surabaya. It is one of Indonesia's top of the list "super hot" taste sambal. Although it has only simple ingredients, such as chili pepper, shallot, garlic, asam jawa and coconut oil, but don't let it fool you. People of Surabaya often called it Njaluk Sambal, as they eat it with fragrant steamed white rice.
A Malay style sambal. Fresh chilis are pounded together with toasted shrimp paste (belacan) in a stone mortar to which sugar and lime juice are added. Originally, limau kesturi or calamansi lime, is used but since this is scarce outside of Southeast Asia, normal lime is used as a replacement. Tomatoes are optional ingredients. Sometimes, sweet sour mangoes or equivalent local fruits are also used. It can be eaten with cucumbers or ulam (leafy herbs) in a meal of rice and other dishes. A Malaysian-Chinese version is to fry belacan with chili.
Green or red pepper with kaffir lime. In Malaysia, it is called cili (chili) jeruk (pickle). Sometimes vinegar and sugar are substituted for the lime. Used as a condiment with fried rice and noodle based dishes.
Raw Sambal tempoyak on the left and the cooked one on the right
This sambal exists in two varieties: raw and cooked. Raw sambal tempoyak is prepared from fresh chilis pounded together with dried anchovies and served with fermented durian (tempoyak). The sambal and the tempoyak may be readily mixed or served separately, so that the person eating can determine the ratio of sambal to tempoyak that they want (tempoyak has a sweet-sour taste that offsets the hotness of the chili). In the cooked variety, pounded chilis, shallots and lemongrass are stir-fried with anchovies, tempoyak and turmeric leaf (for aroma). Petai (Parkia speciosa) and tapioca shoots are also frequently added.
Sri Lankan sambal
This is a sambal of the Sri Lankan cuisine that includes onion, crumbled maldive fish and spices as its main ingredients. Its name "Sini Sambal", also spelt as "Sini Sambol", and "Seeni Sambal", is derived from the local word for "sugar".
This is a sambal made of scraped coconut (pol means coconut in the local language), onion, green chili, red chili powder, and lime juice as its main ingredients. Sometimes, crumbled Maldive fish is also added, and tomatoes can be used instead of lime juice for flavor.
The name "lunu miris" can be literally translated as "salt chili" and is a paste of red chili pounded with sea salt. A widespread derivative is katta sambal which adds onions, crumbled Maldive fish, salt, and lime juice to the chilli and salt mixture.
a traditional dish from Sarawak, it is an omelette mixed with fried belacan and anchovies.
a Malay-style dish prepared from fish and spices and cooked until the fish loses its shape. Available in varieties, some are in the shape of dry fish floss known as serunding ikan, and some are moist such as sambal ikan bilis (anchovies) or sambal ikan tongkol (skipjack tuna).
Sambal daging/serunding daging
A Malay style sambal prepared from meat and spices and cooked for more than 4 hours until the meat loses its shape, similar to meat floss.