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You love hot & spicy? You need sambal oelek!

I love cooking with jalapenos, chili flakes, serranos, cayenne, hot curry ... and just about every other spice that adds some nice "heat" to a dish. I was talking to a chef friend recently about where he sourced his wholesale spices, and the subject of chili flakes came up. He told me about an Indonesian chili sauce called "sambal oelek" which, according to my friend, is a secret of many chefs. It adds chili heat to dishes without changing the core flavors of the underlying dish.

Well, I looked all over San Francisco and finally found it! That night I came home and made a thai steak salad and added a tablespoon of sambal oelek to the dressing -- perfect! I've since added a little to seafood dishes, black bean chili, meatloaf, and even my grandmother's famous mac and cheese recipe. It adds a delicious layer of spice and complexity to everything. For someone who cooks with so much spice, and who lives around so many Asian markets, I can't believe I didn't know about this stuff.

I'm curious if anyone else uses it? If so...do you have any good recipes that call for it?

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  1. i bought a bottle of this last weekend.......and haven't used it yet........

    1. It's not secret nor hard to find in asian groceries. Glad you like it! Any additional flavoring adds to the all in all flavor.."underlying" or not. Just enjoy.

      1. This one is really great, though for me, halibut is harder and harder to find and purchase, so expensive now! Halibut with Sambal Vinaigrette and Wasabi Cream, the colors of this dish are beautiful:

        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Val

          Thanks, Val. I'll check that out -- sounds delicious!

        2. Another good sambal is Badjak. I think it is a chilli paste with pureed fried onions. Powerful, but complex, flavor.

          1. Just wondering, where in SF did you find it?

            9 Replies
            1. re: DezzerSF

              Not SF, Dallas, TX, but ask around. SF should have it. Is there anything SF doesn't have?

              1. re: DezzerSF

                I found it at Battambang Market. They have it both large and small size jars. The regular jar is $1.49 and the large is $2.29.

                -----
                Battambang Market
                339 Eddy St, San Francisco, CA

                1. re: foodiesf

                  Unless you like everything REALLY HOT, a large jar should last about 5-10 years. Let us know how you like badjak.

                  1. re: Joebob

                    Hmm. I would say sriracha is spicier than sambal. But I like 'em both. They're great combined. Guess I lurve my hot stuff....

                    1. re: linguafood

                      Funny, I always thought that sambal is spicier than sriracha. My fan is Sriracha because sambal is too vinegary for my taste. Sriracha is sweeter and more mellow.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        i concur. i add sambal when i want something to be extra spicy. also, i usually use sambal as a cooking ingredient, and sriracha as a condiment.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Sambal = sauce. Like sauces, there are many different types of sambals, some hotter than others.

                          They use different ingredients. Some might use vinegar or shrimp, others lemongrass or garlic.

                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            When I said sambal, I meant sambal oelek. I assumed people would have known what I was talking about since the original thread was about sambal oelek.

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              i prefer sambal to sriracha...i find sriracha too vinegary/sweet, since it's not a sauce but a condiment