sambal belacan

sambal belacan
I have mentioned before my love of sambal, a spicy chilli condiment hailing from Malaysia and Indonesia. In the past year or so I seem to have got into the habit of making up large quantities of this, to stick in the fridge, on the basis that firstly, you just never know when you might need it and secondly, that it seems to go with everything. Well everything in my household that is, from curries, noodles and stir-fried vegetables, from burgers and sausages, to salad dressings, scrambled eggs and cheese toasties. Admittedly I would draw the line with say ice cream or cupcakes, but then that's the beauty of lines ... sometimes you just can't help wanting to cross one.

One of my favourite of the myriad of sambals is Sambal Belacan, one of the most prevalent across Malaysia. But although it may be commonplace, there is nothing ordinary about the flavours. This raw sambal is both fiery with chillies and pungent with shrimp paste (belacan) and lime juice. It will definitely give you and your food a bit of a fillip!

Belacan (or belachan) is the Malay name for dried shrimp paste. This is a dense mixture of salted prawns that have been fermented and then dried and pressed into blocks. It should be toasted before use —either wrapped in foil and dry-roasted or toasted over a gas flame on a spoon.

Skill level: Easy

5 red chillies, finely chopped
2cm piece of belacan (shrimp paste)
1 tsp kaffir lime powder
a half tsp palm or light brown sugar
salt, to taste (I used about a quarter tsp)
juice of 1 lime

  1. Heat a small frying pan. Wrap the belacan in kitchen foil and lightly dry fry until fragrant and crumbly.
  2. Tip all the ingredients into a food processor and blend. Most of the sambal should be smooth, but flecked with chilli seeds.
  3. Taste and add more sugar or salt to taste.
  4. This will last well in the fridge in a sealed container for about 1 week.
  • Some of a chilli's heat is actually in the seeds. It is customary in this sambal to include the seeds. But if you're a wuss . . . sorry, I mean if you prefer a milder sambal, then remove the seeds before blending up the sambal.


Camilla Hawkins said...

This sounds wonderful and I'm sure my boys would love it as they can't have their chilli sauce too hot:-)

Marmaduke Scarlet said...

I adore chillies and my tolerance seems to be increasing. Either that or old age means I just can't tell! But seriously, I've got a load of home-made Siracha sauce on the go at the moment (just letting it ferment a bit), so watch this space!