Sambal Olek is a traditional Indonesian Spice blend, a result of many food enthusiasts’ late night tinkering in the kitchen no doubt.
I imagine the traditional Sambal Olek to be made with a classic Ulekan, or an Indonesian pestle and mortar. This thing (the Ulekan) is not easy to use, there’s a whole different technique involved in grinding the spices, but I digress – this post is about Sambal Olek and its wonders.
I discovered this fiery chilli paste/blend when watching none other than the Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson on one of her many cooking shows. She really does flirt with the lines of spicy food, which excites me. Nigella’s Sambal Olek was, like mine, out of a jar. Making this sambal mixture at home is honestly not back-breaking work. It requires a hefty amount of red chillies (the small, bird-eye ones that pack a reeeeeeaal punch), salt and enough vinegar to make a paste. Interestingly, the vinegar’s rambunctious tartness is somehow made palatable by the heat from the peppers. For a Sambal Olek paste that has more character, I recommend this recipe from Genius Kitchen that uses garlic, lemongrass and ginger along with the chillies.
Anyway, I like using Sambal Olek for its versatility in the kitchen, and it makes a mean substitute for BBQ sauce when I make pulled chicken or pork. In this recipe, I have used it as the base for my fried noodles, or mee goreng. The gutsy flavours of the sambal were a perfect match for the slightly bitter, earthy Kale. I buy baby Kale from Mustafa, as it’s not very expensive and very easy to handle (wash and dump into a pan). I also added mushrooms here, making this a vegetarian recipe. If you’re looking to add meat, I recommend minced mutton or beef, which not only gives a mamak-mee goreng vibe but also goes great with the sambal.
Images by Howly Pek