Sambal is a condiment popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as the Netherlands through Indonesian influence, and in Suriname. It is typically made from a variety of peppers, although chili peppers are the most common. Sambal is used as a condiment or as a side dish, and is sometimes substituted for fresh chilis; it can be very hot for the uninitiated. It is available at exotic food markets or gourmet departments in supermarkets in many countries.
Sambal is thicker and richer tasting than Mexican salsa. It ranges in spiciness. There are a number of varieties which are popular in Indonesia, including:
- Sambal Belacan
- A Malay style sambal. Chili is pounded together with toasted Shrimp paste (belacan) in a stone mortar. Tomatoes are optional ingredients. Sometimes, sweet sour mangoes or equivalent local fruits are added. Salt, sugar and lime juice are the last items added. 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.
- Sambal Trassi
- Modern Indonesian is "Terasi"; it is similar to the Malaysian Belacan, but with a stronger flavour since terasi is a more condensed shrimp paste than belacan. Red and green peppers, trassi, 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.
- Sambal Asam
- This is similar to Sambal Trassi with an addition of tamarind (asam) concentrate. 'Asam' means sour in Indonesian
- Sambal Bajak (Badjak)
- Chili (or another kind of red pepper) fried with oil, garlic, trassi, candlenuts and other condiments; this is darker and richer in flavour than Sambal Asam.
- Sambal mangga
- Freshly ground Sambal Trassi with shredded young mango; this is a good accompaniment to seafood.
- Sambal gandaria
- Freshly ground Sambal Trassi with shredded gandaria.
- Sambal daun mangga muda
- Freshly ground Sambal Trassi with very young mango leaves.
- Sambal Balado
- Minangkabau style Sambal. Green chili sauteed with oil, garlic, shallot, green tomato, salt and lemon or lime juice.
- Sambal Tumis
- Chili fried with belacan shrimp paste, onions, garlic, tamarind juice. Tumis means "to fry" till an aroma comes out. It may be mixed with other ingredients to produce dishes such as sambal kangkong, sambal sotong (squid) and sambal telur (egg).
- Sambal Kemiri
- This is similar to Sambal Trassi with an addition of candlenuts.
- Sambal Kecap Manis
- Indonesian sweet soy sauce, chili, shallots and lime it has a chiefly sweet taste, as said by the Indonesian word 'manis' which means 'sweet'.
- Sambal Udang
- Chili fried with oil, garlic and shrimps.
- Sambal Ulek (Oelek)
- Chili (bright red, thin and sharp tasting). 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 prehistoric household kitchenware that is still being used actively in most Indonesian kitchens, particularly in Java. It is a stone pestle (called ulekan) with a mortar (ulek-ulek) made from an old and matured bamboo root, that is used for crushing chilies, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other kinds of ingredients.
- Sambal Jeruk
- Green or red pepper with lemon. (colourless, adds taste). In Malaysia, it is called cili (chili) jeruk. However, vinegar and sugar are substituted for the lime. Used as a condiment with fried rice and noodle based dishes. It is sometimes spelled Sambal Djeroek.
- Sambal Setan
- A very hot sambal with Madame Jeanette peppers (red brownish, very sharp). The name literally means "Devil's Sauce".
- Sambal Pedas Pedas
- Extremely spicy sambal, with the Indonesian word 'pedas' (spicy), being used twice.
- Sambal Taliwang
- 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.