Thursday, December 5, 2013

sambal belacan

There is this Malay stall near where we live, and they make this divine, totally-to-die-for sambal belacan fried rice. The fried rice is also served with small bite-sized pieces of fish crackers and extra sambal belacan.

It is a bit embarrassing, but whenever I order this dish, the nice people at the stall would give me an extra bowl of sambal belacan.

Yes, I love it that much!

I had been meaning to make my own sambal belacan for the longest time, but never did because I was convinced that it was a lot of work.

Well, I finally made it yesterday.

You know, there was some chopping and a little cooking involved. And loads of pounding. But, I tell you, it was worth every single bit of effort I had put in.

It was FREAKING GOOD, people!!

And if you look at it, it wasn't THAT much work for something that is so delicious. I am thinking maybe my friends would end up with jars of sambal belancan instead of cakes or cookies for Christmas this year!

I can hear loads of cheering right now.

To make sambal belacan, I started by peeling shallots and cutting them into smaller pieces. This was set aside.

I also chopped the red and green chillis into chunks. You can use only red chilli, or the bird's eye chillis if you prefer a super hiam (spicy) sambal belacan. If you want less spiciness, then remove the seeds from the chillis.

I quartered a tomato and removed the seeds.

Finally, I grated some gula melaka, a.k.a, palm sugar.

In a skillet, I heated some oil. Into this, I added the shallots and tomato and cooked them for a few minutes, until the shallots were soft and a little brown. They were then removed and set aside.

To the same oil, I added the chillis and cooked them for about 3-4 minutes to soften them. Then, they, too, were removed from the skillet and set aside.

Finally, I cooked the belacan in the same oil - I did this outdoors. If you are cooking indoors, be sure to open ALL windows and doors to air the kitchen!

I was ready to tombok!

I guess if you really have to, you can use a blender to grind everything but you will end up with a smooth paste. It is much, much better to use a pestle and mortar and pound.

The first to be pounded were the shallots and tomatoes. (Remember to remove the skin of the tomato!)

Then the chillis joined the shallots and tomato. I added them gradually.

The belacan was next.

I added salt and the gula melaka. I tasted as I mixed so as to get the right mix of salty and sweet.

Finally, in the lime juice and I was done!!

Sambal Belacan (Makes 1 cup)

1 medium tomato, halved and seeds removed
10 shallots 
8 red chilies
8 green chilies
40g belacan (shrimp paste) 
10g gula melaka (palm sugar)
salt, to taste
1-2 lime, to taste

1. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Fry tomato and shallots until they turn soft and brown. This should take about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside
2. Using the same oil, fry both chilies for 2-3 minutes until they had softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Using low heat, fry the shrimp paste in the same oil, using your spatula to break it into small bits. This should not take more than a couple of minutes. 
4. Pound the shallots and tomato. Add the chillis and continue to pound until you have achieved the desired consistency. Finally, add the shrimp paste, palm sugar and salt.
5. Pound to evenly distribute all the ingredients.
6. Add lime juice and stir with a spoon.

You can adjust any part of this recipe to suit your taste. In fact, you should taste often while pounding to be sure!
Sambal belacan can be stored in refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to a week - if it lasts that long!