Saturday, April 3, 2010
Sambal lalapan is the standard accompaniment to fried and grilled dishes in Java. The combination of a fiery sambal and raw vegetables seems to alleviate the richness of fried foods and adds another note of piquancy to grilled chicken and fish. For someone interested in putting together an Indonesian meal, sambal lalapan is a straightforward dish that can be pulled together in minutes. Its only requirements are an assertive sambal and some fresh, crisp raw vegetables. The sambal is the key.
A good sambal should be hot, with a slight tang from shallots, and the funk of a good dose of toasted shrimp paste (terasi in Indonesia, belacan in Malaysia). A little gula jawa, palm sugar, sweetens the sambal just a bit and pulls the ingredients together. In Indonesia the ingredients would traditionally be ground together with a mortar and pestle, but a food processor makes much quicker work of it and will probably do a better job unless you are experienced with an Indonesian style mortar and pestle. Ideally, you would serve this with some kaffir limes, but I have yet to find the fruit here in the States. (We have a tree growing in our backyard, but it has never produced any fruit.)
A dozen or so red chilies, seeded, roughly chopped (around 180 grams)
5 to 6 shallots, peeled, roughly chopped (around 160--180 grams)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 tsp (+/-) toasted shrimp paste (terasi, belacan)
2 to 4 tsp gula jawa
3 TBS peanut oil
salt, to taste
Place the chilies, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, and sugar in a food processor. Pulse until you have a chunky consistency, smoother than hot dog relish but with a pleasing texture. Heat the oil in a well seasoned or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the sambal and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the oil begins to separate from the paste. Add salt to taste and cool before serving.