Meaning: The word “sambal” is of Javanese and Balinese origin and simply means “chili sauce” or “hot sauce” in Indonesian.

Ingredients: Sambal is all about the chilies! A base of fresh chilies like cayenne or bird’s eye chilies is ground with a mortar and pestle (cobek dan ulekan) or chopped along with other ingredients. These can include shrimp paste for depth, garlic and shallots for aromatics, ginger for a touch of warmth, palm sugar for sweetness, and lime juice for a balancing tang. Some variations include tomatoes, roasted peanuts, or even pineapple for a sweeter twist.

Enjoying Sambal: Sambal is incredibly versatile! It’s a staple condiment served alongside almost every Indonesian meal. Enjoy it as a dip for vegetables, krupuk crackers, or tempeh. Add a dollop to soups, stews, or fried rice for a fiery kick. Sambal can even be stir-fried with vegetables or protein for a more intense flavor.

Fun Fact: There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of sambal across Indonesia, each with its own unique flavor profile and ingredients. Some popular varieties include sambal oelek (a simple chili paste), sambal bajak (made with tomatoes), sambal matah (with chopped shallots and lemongrass), and sambal terasi (featuring shrimp paste).