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What is sambal?

What is sambal?

Sambal is a spicy Southeast Asian condiment made, in its simplest form, from chile peppers and salt. A more elaborate sambal may contain onion, lime juice, lemongrass, sugar, garlic, oil and/or vinegar. You will find sambal in a jar or bottle at an Asian food market or in the international aisle at the grocery store. 

There are many varieties of sambal. Sambal Oelek is the kind you're most likely to find in the U.S. ("Oelek", "Olek" or "Ulek" refers to the mortar and pestle used to create sambal in Indonesian kitchens.) One Malaysian version, Sambal belacan, is made with shrimp paste. Sambal ikan bilis has dried anchovies in it. Sambal kemiri contains candlenuts.

Generally speaking, any sambal adds a dark, fiery flavor to dishes. A dollop of sambal can enliven some plain rice or a simply cooked piece of meat. For a quick, bright salad dressing, mix together 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons each of lemon juice and capers, and 1/4 teaspoon of sambal oelek.

Recipe: Spicy Turkey Meatball And Cabbage Soup (Cookthink)
Recipe: Sambal-Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Cookthink)
Recipe: Sambal Borscht (Cookthink)
Recipe: Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork In Barbecue Sauce (Cookthink)
Recipe: Quick-Fix Kimchi (Trail of Crumbs)

Or try another of our sambal recipes.

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