1small blockFermented shrimp paste (belacan or terasi)~20 grams
Squeeze of green lime or calamansi juice
In a dry pan, dry toast the shrimp paste till it becomes slightly charred.
Heat a wok or pan to medium-heat and add the cooking oil.
Saute all the ingredients together (except shrimp paste, salt and sugar) until they become tender. You want the tomatoes slightly blistered, caramelised and mushy, and onions translucent .
Remove from heat and transfer to a mortar, leaving excess oil behind.
Pound the sambal ingredients with salt and sugar into as paste. The consistency is up to your own discretion (fine or chunky)
Finish off with a quick squeeze of lime juice just before serving
All the ingredients are easily accessible here in Singapore, so setting aside half an hour of your time will save you trips to the market to purchase store bought sambal!
When purchasing shrimp paste,
Terasi or Belachan (shrimp paste) is the dominant flavour, so you need to get a good brand. Be sure to read the ingredients list and select one with only shrimp and salt. The best belachan comes from Malacca, Malaysia. The packaging is usually round (not square or rectangular), and only contains shrimp and salt. The shrimp-y aroma is milder, not be jarringly pungent. It should also have a light, golden brown colour.
Many supermarket brands contain other ingredients such as sugar, soybean and water that will affect the overall flavour of the sambal. They tend to have a dark brown colour and are extremely pungent.
Remember not to add salt and sugar when cooking the sambal - salt and sugar act as an abrasive to help break down in the ingredients in the pestle and mortar
There are raw versions of sambal, however cooking it always extracts more flavour and sweetness - especially from the onions and tomatoes
There is no secret recipe, but it is important to nail the flavour balance of spice, umami and sweetness.
Charring the shrimp paste is highly recommended, this helps to extract a more smokey flavour to the sambal
Store the sambal in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will keep for 4-5 days.