Sambal – it’s something most locals love, and cook and use differently in every home! In fact, the definition of the perfect sambal can even become a point of contention, I prefer mine fiery, others like it sweeter, some need the tanginess of assam. I use this almost daily at home to stir-fry veggies, or tempeh/petai; as a dip for Shabu Shabu meats, or even as a condiment for fried rice or chicken nuggets! This recipe will yield a basic sambal, you can modify it to your own preference (saltier/sweeter/sour) accordingly. As you cook, remember that sambal is a labour of love, and it takes time and effort to perfect, if it’s too watery, it won’t have the same oomph! If it’s too dry, it may burn fast. I have used tomatoes in my recipe, which adds some liquid and also gives the sambal a slight tang (and a gorgeous colour), and generally use sugar instead of gula melaka as I like it to have a lighter taste.
For the sambal:
5 red chillies, stems removed and cut coarsely (deseed if you have low spice tolerance)
4-5 chilli padis, stems removed (omit if you have low spice tolerance)
2 big tomatoes, cut coarsely
10 shallots, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
15-20g belacan (optional)
4 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon gula melaka
1 teaspoon concentrated chicken stock/powder
4 tablespoons oil
1kg eggplant, preferably smaller eggplant as the texture is firmer
3-4 heaped tablespoons of sambal
Blend all the ingredients for the rempah, except oil, salt, sugar, concentrated chicken stock. Heat the oil in a saucepan until shimmering, then gently add the rempah. Fry over a low flame till dry, slightly lumpy in appearance and darkened in colour; it usually takes 15-20 minutes.
Add the rest of the sambal ingredients to season the rempah. I usually add more sugar than salt, but again, it’s to your taste. Cook for another minute or so to melt the sugar, then remove from the pan and set aside.
Remove stems of eggplant and cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat a pan over high heat and add the oil. Place the eggplant cut-side down in the pan, in a single layer – you might have to cook the eggplant in batches. Pan-fry in oil for 2-3minutes before flipping. Remove from the pan when the eggplant is cooked through. Repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.
In a bowl, mix the eggplant with the sambal gently – how much sambal you’d like is up to you. Any leftover sambal can be cooled down and frozen in small batches for future use.