Kitchen Tips

Demystifying Sambal Belacan

Malaysian food, as we know has a lot of cultural influences and the dishes prepared using those techniques involves a unique taste that adds a zing to it while also satiating your palate.

There are different condiments that are added to Malaysian food and some of them are really unique to the cuisine. Sambal Belacan also known as sambal belachan is one of them.

It is one of the fiercest condiments added to rice, noodles, laksas, sausages, grilled fishes and many more dishes that the Malaysian pantry cannot do without. It is a standard spicy condiment that adds a great flavour to the dishes.

Sambal Belacan

Image Courtesy: Karen used under the Creative Commons Licence

It is also used as a dip with raw vegetables like cucumber and shredded cabbage. Of course when you take a bit, you will be forced to gulp down many jugs of water because of its fieriness but it’s totally worth it to taste it once in a lifetime.

If you’re wondering what makes this condiment so special, well, it’s the use of fresh red chillis or bird’s eye chillis and a host of other accompaniments that adds a distinct flavour to it.

Sambal refers to any kind of fresh chili paste mixed with a variety of spices and belacan refers to dried shrimp paste.

The belacan is either roasted on direct flame for a few minutes or oven roasted till it browns a bit and then mixed with the chilli paste.

Belacan also uses kalamansi lime (limau kasturi), salt and sugar (to taste or optional). The tangy taste of the lemon cuts down the intensity of spice bringing out a balanced flavour.

There are other spices and flavours added to Sambal belacan which includes tomato, onion, garlic and ginger to enhance the flavour and used commonly to stuff it inside fishes.

Here’s a simple recipe of Sambal belacan that you can make at home in 3 easy steps:

What you need:

Deseeded Red chillies or bird’s eye chilli (extra spicy), belacan paste, Kalamansi/kasturi lime juice ( normal lime juice will also do)a pinch of sugar and salt as needed.

How to make Sambal Belacan in 3 easy steps:

Step 1: Roast the belacan on flame or in the oven, until it browns.

Step 2: Pound/ grind the chillies and belacan until it blends well.

Step 3: Add sugar, salt and lime juice and mix well until all of it is incorporated.

There you have your sambal belacan. You can refrigerate the paste for about a week, but if you freeze it can stay up to a month.  Pair it with your favourite dish and enjoy your meal to the fullest.

You can also check out 5 delicious Malaysian sauces

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