Traditional Spicy Sambal
Chile pastes are the ketchup of the Asian table. As a kid, I would try to outdo my grandfather by slathering the Chinese version, la jaio,onto almost everything my mom served. (The Rice Krispies escaped.)
I take my inspiration for this garlicky, mouth-tingling version from Indonesia's sambal oelek ( sambalmeans sauce; oelekrefers to the chile content). You can buy it in jars, but the reason to make it is that your own is so much fresher tasting- and, of course, free of any unwanted additions, such as preservatives. Though the recipes that follow put the sauce to great use, I suggest you set this fiery condiment right on your table and enjoy it freely, as I do.
Be sure to wear kitchen gloves when you make sambal to protect your hands and eyes from stray chile heat.
Makes about 2 1⁄2 cups
Lasts 1 month, refrigerated
2 pounds dried red or fresh jalapeños, stemmed and chopped very roughly
10 fresh Thai chiles, or 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 cup minced garlic
1⁄4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 cups rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
- In a medium saucepan, combine the jalapeños, Thai chiles, garlic, and oil and cook over low heat until the ingredients soften and blend, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook until reduced by half, 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the sugar and salt. Cool to room temperature. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to chop to a salsalike texture. Store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar.