Took this last weekend while I was making a batch of sambal petai. I really like the vibrant colours of the half cooked petai with the big onions. And the smells from the combo of chillies, onions and petai is out of this world!
Simply because… this could be the first half cooked sambal petai wallpaper in the world. 🙂
A thoughtful friend, Jace, gave me some lovely fresh green cili padi some days back and I had dumped some into my Korean ramen. These little fiery babies were extra fragrant, unlike their common cousins. Since I had about a handful more, my mind started concocting some kind of green sambal. After clearing our overgrown “serai” (lemongrass), I decided to hit the kitchen to experiment a bit. The results? Son No. 1 liked it although it was a tad too spicy for him. For me, pedas is GOOD! (Pedas = spicy)
Here’s my simple recipe of Sambal Serai
20 cili padi (Bird’s Eye Chilli)
15 shallots (or 1 large red onion)
10 cloves garlic (or 1 head of garlic)
8 stalks lemongrass
1 1/2 tsp vegetarian belacan
Salt to taste
Blend everything into a paste.
Heat up the oil and pour the paste into the hot oil.
Using medium heat, fry it till it is slightly crispy. Keep stirring to avoid burning the sambal.
If the sambal is too spicy, add in some sugar to tame the flames.
For mine, I went for the saltier version of this sambal. Good with hot steamed rice and a simple stir fry vege like kangkung (water convolvulus). Apologies for the lack of beauty shots of the sambal as I did not realise that it turned out way better than expected. I just love the aromatic blend of the lemongrass with the shallots. Serai + shallots = 1 happy nose!
Being the true Melaka Nyonya, our Nasi Lemak would not be complete without “kangkung” (water convolvulus). Thankfully, my IT dude friend and his missus managed to hunt down some. Made 2 different sambals to accommodate the non-petai eating diners. Decided to make a milder, sweeter Sambal Nenas for my non-petai eating friends and also for the friend whose sambal tolerance level is at the primary school.
Decided to make “Kerabu Kacang Botol” as well. Erm…. More like an experiment. Thankfully, my lab rats reviewed and the experiment was considered a success.
For a Nasi Lemak, the sambal can make or break it. Besides the fragrant coconut rice, the sambal is the highlight for most people, me included. One of my friends posted about my Sambal Petai and Nasi Lemak on her Facebook and I have had requests for my recipe. As a true blue Nyonya who cooks using the “agak-agak method”, I was like “Yikes! I really dunno how many grams of this or that.” So, I went off to the nearest supermart and got MORE petai and spent an afternoon “quantifying” my Sambal Petai.
So…. here’s my recipe.
11 fresh red chillies
35 shallots (“Bawang Merah”)
20 candlenuts (“Buah Keras”)
3 cups petai
2 large yellow onions
400 ml tamarind juice (“Assam Jawa”)*
1 ½ tbsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
*made from 3 tbsp tamarind paste + 400ml water
Blend ingredients A into a paste.
Half and slice yellow onions into strips.
Heat up oil and once the oil is hot, sauté the blended paste. Keep stirring consistently to avoid burning the paste.
Once paste turns a darker red, add in petai and onions.
Add the tamarind juice.
Add salt and sugar to taste.
Use the food processor with a chopper function.
Soak the candlenuts to soften them before blending them.
If the paste looks watery, drain the excess water with a sieve.
Use more oil when cooking the paste. Spoon out excess oil once the sambal is ready by allowing it to sit for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Add birds eye chillies (“cili padi”) if prefer a spicier version.
So, what’s a Sambal Queen blog without a post on sambal, right? Here’s my “Sambal Belacan for Dummies”.
What is Sambal Belacan?
Besides being my fav thing that I cannot live without, it is essentially a chilli paste made from fresh red chillies and roasted shrimp paste. There are several different versions of this all-time favourite. Cooking, like art, is pretty much subjective and largely depends on the cook’s interpretation of the dish.
The Sambal Belacan I learnt is a family recipe I learnt from the best Sambal Belacan maker in the whole wide world. (Ok, am allowed to be biased a bit, no?) This is my late grandmother’s recipe that has never failed me. It has just 3 ingredients – Fresh red chilies, roasted belacan (shrimp paste) and freshly squeezed lime juice. Oh yes, my grandma’s recipe also has a heart full of love.
When I became a vegetarian, one of the things I missed is good ol’ fashioned Sambal Belacan. After much experimentation with several vegetarian belacan powders, I finally found a real decent one that my mother-in-law found in Ipoh.
How to make Sambal Belacan?
If you ask any Nyonya for their recipes, they will tell you that they agak–agak. This means that you will probably NOT get anywhere with Metric System in a Nyonya’s kitchen. This agak–agak method of cooking comes from many years in the kitchen watching the veteran cooks at work and experimenting in our own kitchens. I am blessed to have been able to watch 3 great cooks at work – my late grandmother, my mum and my mother-in-law.
So, here’s my Sambal Belacan recipe.
Fresh red chilies
Vegetarian belacan powder
Fresh lime juice
Salt to taste (Optional)
Wash the chillies clean and dry them.
Fry the belacan powder over VERY low fire until fragrant. (Enjoy the lovely smells! :D) MUST keep stirring. Whatever you do, do not leave this unattended.
Allow the fried belacan to cool.
Put all the red chillies and belacan powder into a chopper/food processor or you can do the good ol’ fashioned way with a “lesung” (pestle and mortar).
Pound until fine.
Squeeze some lime juice over the sambal paste before serving.
Best lime to use is “limau nipis”(Calamansi) or “limau kasturi” (lime). In a pinch, lemon works as well.
If it is too spicy, try adding a pinch of sugar to douse the heat a little. BUT if you are really a kindergarten chilli eater, best to remove the seeds before making your sambals.
When pounding the chillies using the “lesung”, the trick is to put one chilli at a time and some belacan to prevent the chilli from splattering on you. If the paste gets a little watery, add more belacan. Keep adding chillies and belacan alternatingly.
If you must use a food processor, please do not use those blenders that need water to be added to work. This is not recommended as you don’t want a runny sambal belacan.
Welcome to my little blog. You must be wondering… Why Sambal Queen? I have my workmate, Cynthia to thank for coming up with something so ME. You see, both Cynthia and I just LOVE spicy food. I cannot live without my daily dosage of chillies and count Sambal Belacan as one of my fav food.
My mum used to tell people that I started eating spicy food at the age of 2, when I sweated my way through a plate of rice with some Gerang Assam. (This is the Nyonya equivalent to Asam Pedas) Given that I grew up in a 100% Peranakan household where my grandparents and aunt all love spicy food, it’s no wonder I inherited their love for spicy food.
So, sit back, relax and enjoy my humble offerings. It is my sincere hope that this little blog of mine would benefit you in some way.