Sambal: the Indonesian everything sauce

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

I went into sauces a bit in my post about shopping at Gang Baru, how ketchup is called tomato sauce and the popular soy sauce is the thick, sweet one.  Ketchup and soy sauce are both commonly used, but neither are as popular as the essential Indonesian sambal.  I’ve heard that Sriracha is now the most popular condiment in the US so I think it’s safe to say that chili sauce is taking over the world.  Indonesia is definitely one place where chili sauce reigns supreme.  It’s referred to as sambal and it seems like there is at least a bottle or two on every table and a packet in every take out bag across the country.

I surveyed some friends from work and most make their own sambal at home, so wanting to learn the local ways, I decided to do the same.  My first step to sambal would be selecting ingredients.  I decided to forgo the big grocery store and hit the traditional market which is typically more economical.  Shopping here can be more challenging since prices aren’t marked (most items are just sold by weight) and I’m still in the elementary stages of mastering the language, though I do at least know words for peppers, garlic and shallots.  But I kept my list short and uncomplicated and I didn’t have any trouble.


With so many different islands, cultures and eating habits, sambal recipes vary greatly.   I blended a couple of different recipes (mainly this one and this one) to make a mild version all my own.  I went with the larger, milder peppers and de-seeded them to tone down the heat.  I’m a huge wuss when it comes to spicy foods!  I like spicy, but I can take a very small amount in comparison to my heat seeking husband.   Store bought sambal comes in spicy (pedas) and a milder version (asli which means original).  I’m original all the way, while Joel goes for the pedas or extra pedas if available.

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

After chopping and sautéing the peppers, tomato, garlic and shallots, they went into the food processor to be blended into a paste.  After that added the sugar and salt and cooked a bit longer.  That was pretty much it for the preparation.  Selecting my ingredients was more time consuming than the actual cooking.   All in all, it turned out well.  I think it could use a little more of a kick, so next time I won’t be deseeding every single pepper.   We move into our new house next week that has actual counter tops (right now my only counter space consists of the top of a mini frig) so I’m hoping to be able to expand on my Indonesian cooking abilities.  So far I’ve got one recipe down and maybe a couple thousand to go.    Wish me luck!

PTX Studio makes Indonesian sambal

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