Sambal Bajak Recipe (Javanese Sambal)

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Sambal Bajak is also known as Sambal Badjak among the Dutch and one of sambals that I miss from home. If anybody ever asked me what my favourite sambal was, I would have a hard time to decide. I love every sambal:

I couldn’t live without chili pepper.

My family helper used to make a big jar of sambal bajak for me to bring back to Bogor. Long short story, I moved to another city once I graduated from high school and moved out from my parent’s house. Whenever I was back for vacation, my family helper would pack some goodies that could be reheated and kept in a longer period such as sambal bajak and fish head and cassava leaves gulai (curry) since my hometown has more access to fresh ocean water fish than Bogor.

Speaking abut my family helper, she has more resources of my late mom’s recipes since she learned lots about cooking and baking from mom where mom used to cater foods for other people or organizations in town. She is a Madurese descendant but capable with Sumatran and Javanese cooking. Also, she used to speak Madurese with mom at home meanwhile I knew and used to understand what they talked about but couldn’t reply it back unless I used Indonesian or Javanese. Language is a thing that we need to practice once we don’t use it, it will be gone. By saying this, I now don’t understand Madurese, only some words I might remember.

Sambal Bajak is very likely to company fried foods such as chicken, fish or meat. This time, I served sambal bajak with ayam goreng kremes (Indonesian fried chicken with crunchy flakes). With the courtesy of my family’s helper recipe, I have to twist her recipe. Instead of double frying (fry the ingredients before grinding and the sambal itself), I used two methods. Roast all the ingredients, grind then fry the sambal. By changing the first method, I would use less oil but still had the capability to enhance the ingredients’ aroma.

Did you notice that I have more posts on Javanese recipes lately? Some of you might know or hear about Season with Spice. Season with Spice is a place where people from all over the world are sharing colourful recipes with spices and featuring their culture through their kitchen. Indonesia Eats has been chosen to be a representative of Java on the New Spice Route of Season with Spice. Please take a look two badges on the right hand sided. Thanks to Rene and Mark for the chance.

Sambal Bajak
Javanese sambal

150 grams Thai red chilies
75 grams cherry tomatoes
100 grams shallot
50 grams cloves garlic
5 candlenuts
1 tablespoon terasi (dried shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (gula merah, gula Jawa)
seasalt as desired
oil for stir frying

1. In a high heat, roast all ingredients except, coconut sugar, seasalt and oil in the oven about 15 minutes or until the aroma comes out to the air.

2. Grind the roasted ingredients until smooth but not too fine. It’s up to you to choose a traditional way for grinding the ingredients into spice paste. I chose to use my favourite helper, a food processor to do the job for me.

3. In a wok or skillet, heat up the oil and stir fry the spice paste in the vegetable oil for a few minutes, then add the seasalt and coconut sugar. The amount of coconut sugar can be added as some Javanese tend to have a sweeter taste than any other ethnic groups in the country. Keep stirring until the liquid evaporates and the colour turns darker (dark red).

Cook’s Note:
*I love using cherry tomatoes for sambal too. Cherry tomatoes have known as tomat sambal or tomat rampai in Indonesian.
* If you follow certain diets such as kosher or vegan, you can always omit the terasi. For kosher observers, use katsuoboshi or fish sauce for substituting it.

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About the Author

An Indonesian-born who lived in Winnipeg Edmonton, Canada for more than a decade prior to move to Edmonton in 2017. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.