Sambal is a spicy chili paste or sauce believed to have originated in Indonesia but is enjoyed across Southeast Asia and beyond. There are endless variations of sambal, each with its own unique taste and purpose. Some of the popular ones are Sambal Oelek, Sambal Terasi, Sambal Bajak and Sambal Matah.
Sambal is such a popular ingredient, ingrained into the history of Indonesia that it was once used as a form of currency - villagers would trade it for basic necessities like rice and oil, highlighting its importance in their daily lives.
Sambal can be used in many ways: as a condiment, as a curry/stew ingredient or as a base for sauces and dips.
Sambal can be found in most Asian stores but when talking about storage, it would depend on the type of sambal.
Although sambal in general should be kept in an airtight container in a dark and cool place, once opened, it should be refrigerated. Sambal Oelek can last for up to 6 months, Sambal Terasi for up to 3 months and Sambal Matah for up to 1 week.
If you find sambal to be too thick after refrigeration, just add a bit of water to thin it out.
Using sambal chili paste as a condiment or in stir-fries is very common, but have you thought about adding a teaspoon of it to your next cocktail for some extra fiery kick or incorporating it into your cookie batch for a surprisingly sweet-spicy explosion in every bite?
Did you know that some Southeast Asian cultures believed specific sambals possessed magical properties? Sambal Matah warded off evil spirits, while Sambal Terasi brought good luck and prosperity. Talk about spicy blessings!
The world's hottest commercially available sambal is called "Sambal Dadah Petir" from Indonesia. It clocks in at over 15 million Scoville Heat Units, enough to make even the bravest sweat!
This fiery condiment is so special in Indonesia that some people believe using sambal would bring them luck in gambling and competitions, while others believe eating spicy sambal before bed will bring them vivid dreams.
There are thousands of variations of sambal in the world and choosing a sambal that is a perfect match for what you’re looking for can be a delightful adventure. However, the flavor of most popular types can help point you in the right direction:
Sambal Oelek represents the basic combination of chili peppers, salt and vinegar. It has a mild to medium heat level.
Sambal Terasi is a more complex sambal made with chili peppers, shrimp paste, garlic, and lime juice. It has a strong shrimpy flavor and a medium to hot heat level.
Sambal Bajak is a sweet and spicy sambal made with chili peppers, tomatoes, palm sugar, and terasi. It has a rich, complex flavor and a medium to hot heat level.
Sambal Matah is a sweet and spicy sambal made with chili peppers, tomatoes, palm sugar, and terasi. It has a rich, complex flavor and a medium to hot heat level.
Sambal adds a flavorful and potentially health-boosting kick to your diet. Its capsaicin content is the star of the show offering potential health benefits such as weight management, pain relief, improved circulation, and reduced inflammation. However, excessive capsaicin intake can cause stomach upset, heartburn, and irritation.
Some commercially available sambals may contain added sugar, sodium, and preservatives. Choose low-sodium and less-processed options when possible.
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