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Where to get sambal?

I've never looked for sambal before, my understanding is it's an Indonesian chile paste. My first thought is to go to 99 Ranch. Before I make the trek, was wondering if anyone knows for sure whether or not they have it. Does Whole Foods carry it? Bristol Farms? Anywhere in Pasadena/South Pasadena? Does Surfas have it??

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  1. I think I actually found it at either Smart and Final or at the Ralph's, but it was a while ago.
    Can't recall, but it was definitively a mainstream store.

    1. Haven't looked for it at Whole Foods or BFarms - it's something I usually pick up when I'm in one of the Asian stores and think of it. Closest to me (I'm in Pasadena) is the 99 Ranch in Arcadia at Golden West and Duarte Road. East from there is Arcadia Supermarket, perhaps a bit more pan-Asian, in a mall on Duarte just half a block east of Baldwin, around the corner from Din Tai Fung.

      I've also seen it in "mainstream" markets in areas where there's a significant Asian population. By the time we left Nashville you could get it at Kroger!

      1. i am in denver and haven't had any difficulty finding it in major super markets..... safeway and city market/king super (similar to ralph's)

        1. They stopped carrying it at the Vons Pavillions near my house in Burbank, but the Ralph's in Burbank still has it. Try Ralphs.

          1. Check your local supermarket's Asian Foods aisle, there's a good chance they'll carry it. I think I've even seen massive jars of it in Costco.

            1. 99 Ranch carries sambal olek. Perhaps you want some other specific kind, but they at least carry that, and possibly others.

              1. The Professor is right. 99 ranch carries Sambal Oelek, which is made by Huy Fong Foods (they also make a popular brand of Sriracha), but although it has an Indonesian name, it's not Indonesian per se. Sambal is a general term for chili paste. Oelek translates to "grind in a mortar". I use it as an all purpose chili paste, but primarily for dipping. It goes great on anything!

                So, salsa is to Mexicans, as sambal is to Indonesians, and there are many different kinds of sambal as there are many different kinds of salsas.

                If you want to get funkier sambals, spiked with fermented shrimp paste, check out Indo Kart in Duarte, next to the Duarte Inn. They have a good selection of imported sambals from Indonesia.


                2 Replies
                1. re: elmomonster

                  And a tasty food adventure behind the Duarte Inn on Saturdays!!!

                  1. re: sel

                    That's right! Don't miss it! Pondok Kaki Lima! The best Indonesian food outside the island of Java, IMHO.


                2. Thanks everyone, for your help. I had previously checked my local pavilions, and they didn't have it. But Bristol Farms does, priced higher than it should be, I'm sure, but the convenience factor will outweigh that for now.

                  btw, is there much taste difference between Indonesian and Sri Lankan sambal?

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: slacker

                    simpang asia in palms (on national and motor) will definitely have it. they're probably the only indonesian-specialty grocery store in the area. from what i remember, their sambal is pretty authentic and i think their cafe might have a really fresh version (both my then roommates were indonesian).

                    1. re: slacker

                      What are you using your sambal for?

                      Having traveled throughout SE Asia, I can tell you there are so many different types of sambal even within Indo, SL, and Malaysia.

                      For Indo, the base of most sambals is the oelek (ulek), so you may want to start there.

                      For Malaysian sambal, belacan (with toasted shrimp) is very common.

                      For Sri Lankan sambal, sini (seeni) sambal is made with fish and onion.

                      LAX-C has a decent selection, but if you're in South Pas/Pas, a quick trip out to Duarte will yield the best selection of Indos.

                      Good luck!

                    2. Sambal is a general term for some sort of condiment containing ground or flaked chile as one of its main components. From there, the variations can be quite wide. Some have no more than some kind of edible oil, garlic, and seasonings added, while others can have fermented shrimp paste (belacan), coconut milk, shrimp, anchovies, shallots, tomatos, lime, peanuts, candlenuts, and on and on... probably as many as a dozen types of sambals exist, and any respectable family has their own spin on at least a couple of them.

                      If you want the fresh stuff that needs refrigeration, you will probably need to go to a shop or restaurant that sells mostly Indonesian, Malaysian, or Singaporean foods. These three cultures cannot live without sambal - my father-in-law makes a mean sambal that is so tasty that his friends will pay him to make it for them. Unfortunately, he lives in Kuala Lumpur.

                      The stuff in places like the chain supermarkets are usually the basic types that require no refrigeration - sambal terasi or sambal balado. They are good for certain things, but IMHO, any sambal with belacan is much much better. Ramayani on Westwood Blvd sells at least two kinds - one with alot of belacan - and Simpang Asia on National has some as well.

                      1. Ralphs. Wholesome Choice in Irvine has the large size. Asian market on Sawtelle downstairs from Curry restaurant above Olympic Ave

                        1. Amazon sell tons of them - why am I just seing this thread?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                            Because you were out of town in 2007 when it got posted?

                            1. re: Servorg

                              Might have been in Indonesia MAKING sambal!
                              That was the highlight of my trip to Bali

                              1. re: Ciao Bob

                                And to think, I spent a month there on a 2nd visit sampling the magic mushroom cafe omelets...Sambal would have been a lot less of a trip, that's for sure. ;-D>

                          2. I've seen it at my Ralph's (glendale), Seafood City, Woori Market downtown and I think even Smart and Final. The groceries in Chinatown.

                            One glorious day, I even found it at the 99 cents store!

                            I'd also take a peek at Trader Joe's. They have their own version of Siracha and sweet chili sauce, why not sambal?

                            Worse comes to worse, drive to the San Gabriel Superstore (on Valley Blvd.) where you can pick up tons of it cheap. And then go to Siagon Bakery and get banh mi to take home on their killer bread.

                            1. Since the Summer is upon us again shortly, I will offer my version of Sambal Ulek. Lemongrass in the Alps is hard to find so I use Lemon mixed with spring onion. Great on rice, with food, or a BBQ marinade, like Salsa:

                              • Red Thai, Chinese or Bird’s eye red chili peppers. 6-8 ( Seeds & all but the tops ).
                              • Garlic, 4 whole cloves, plus 2 cut-up spring onions.
                              • Ginger, 1 tablespoon chopped.
                              • Vinegar, 1 cup.
                              • Shrimp paste, 1 tablespoon.
                              • Coconut juice or Coconut Milk, 1 cup.
                              • Sugar, 1 cup.
                              • Calamansi Limes, 6, cut up.
                              • Lemon or Lime Juice, 1 tablespoon.
                              • Lemon or Lime zest, added to a dash of Olive Oil.

                              1. Crush, chop, or blend the red chiles, garlic, onion, ginger, with the coconut juice.
                              2. Add the vinegar, mixing.
                              3. Add the Calamansi Lime, including the peel. One can also use regular lime.
                              4. Pour and cook the mixture into an open pan, adding the Lemon or Lime juice.
                              5. Cook until the mixture reduces and turns salsa-thick, 10-20 minutes.
                              6. Add the sugar, and more Lemon juice if needed. The mixture will change color.
                              7. Remove from the heat, and use hot or cold.

                              This is an excellent marinade for fish, shrimp, chicken, beef, or Lamb. I also eat it alone as a side for rice.

                              1. Hey guys, dumb question: Is Sambal the same as Sambal Oelek?

                                Sambal Oelek is Chili Garlic Sauce (both by Huy Fong Foods) minus the garlic (and 5-mg of sodium). Chili Garlic Sauce is available everywhere now. Every major grocery chain has it near its international and kosher aisles/ sections. I'm guessing Sambal Oelek is pretty easy to find as well. The last time I recall actually spotting it was last week in the Jasmine Market in Culver City (I think $1.99 for an 8-oz jar).