Just like rice, South East Asians are very specific about the type of sambal belacan (sambal balacan), or shrimp paste chili dip they enjoy. Different ways of preparing can affect the way it taste. My family sneered at my sambal belacan made using electric blender – lack of character, they said. Pounding using mortar and pestle is really good exercise for your arm. After a few try, I am grateful I am not selling authentic sambal belacan for a living.
We serve our sambal belacan with fresh vegetables such as lettuce and cucumbers or boiled vegetables such as long beans and carrots. This is called lalap, vegetables served with sambal belacan. We have lalap as our version of fresh salad. Sambal belacan to us is what olive oil and balsamic vinegar to Italians.
1/8 cup cooking oil
1 (120 g) medium size tomato, halved and seeded
5 (20 g) shallots
10 (75 g) red chilies
8 (25 g) green chilies
1/2 tbsp (5 g) shrimp paste (belacan/balacan)
2 tbsp shaved palm sugar (gula melaka/gula merah)
1/4 tsp salt
Heat 1/8 cup cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes. Fry tomato and shallots till soft and brown for 3 minutes. Remove and set aside
Next fry chilies until they turn a shade lighter for one minute
Drain the oil, leaving only 2 tablespoons of oil on the skillet and turn down the heat. Fry the shrimp paste quickly, break the paste using the spatula for 2 minutes. Remove from heat for later use
Pound the chilies and shallots in a mortal using pestle hard and slowly for 8 minutes. Add tomato halves (skin removed), shrimp paste, palm sugar and salt.
Pound till everything mixed well for 5 minutes
Squeeze lime juice into the mortar and mix well with spoon. Serve with selections of fresh and boiled vegetables
Chilies used here are mixed of green and red chilies, for presentation purpose only since I thought all-red sambal is boring (although equally delicious). Red chillies are more common for sambal belacan.
If less hot sambal belacan is preferred, the chilies can be seeded before frying.
Some people likes smooth sambal belacan, some preferred a bit of texture to it. I like coarse, so pounding using mortar and pestle is the best way for me to get the specific kind of consistency. Smooth sambal belacan can easily be made using spice grinder / electric blender.
Sambal belacan can be stored in refrigerator in a covered container. Good for three days. Longer than that, the texture can be a little bit dry.
Step by Step
Preparing Sambal Belacan using granite mortar