6 Varieties of Indonesia’s Burning Sambal

Try all the 6 varieties of Indonesias burning sambal to spice up your life. Well, these varieties of sambal will surely spice up your tongue. At least, by trying some of Indonesia’s hottest, spiciest, and of course tastiest, varieties of hot sauces known as sambal, the inseparable must-have condiment to go with any Indonesian cuisines.

Most Indonesians do have a tongue of steel because a lot of regions across Indonesia cannot live without sambal and each of them has its own special variety. Depending on the region, the sambal could either be sweet, salty, sour, or just simply spicy. The list compiled below will only serve just a few of the hottest and spiciest sambals available throughout the archipelago.

The best tips before trying one of the varieties of Indonesian sambals is that you should prepare a glass of water or warm tea. You’ll definitely need this to compensate and cool down after sampling some of these fiery delights. Cold water is certainly not recommended since it is not an antidote.

Here are all the 6 varieties of Indonesia’s burning sambal:

1. Sambal Kecap

This is the most typical sambal that is made almost all across the archipelago with no particular roots. Of course, each region has their own version, but Sambal Kecap mainly consists of fresh Asian shallots, sweet soy sauce and, as expected, lots of chilies. Anyone with no expertise at cooking can surely make this because none of the ingredients need to be cooked. It is best to prepare the sambal a few hours before eating it so that the soy sauce has time to soak some of the flavors of the other ingredients. Nevertheless, it is also nice to eat it as soon as you make it. This sambal will be perfect for lightweights who want to strengthen their resistance against spicy yumminess.

Best served with: rice and grilled meats or food, especially fish or chicken.

Why this is special: it contains pure raw chilies, including the seeds and all. If you only eat the soy sauce, it will taste nice and mild. Yet, if you accidentally bite into the chopped chili, beware that it feels like a bomb unexpectedly exploding inside your mouth.

2. Sambal Korek

Originated from Solo in Central Java, sambal korek is quite easy to make only consisting of four ingredients: lots of small red chilies (the hot ones), Asian shallots, garlic, and salt. Then, all ingredients are chopped and mashed together using a mortar and pestle and then cooked for a while in hot oil before serving. The name Korek literally means scrape that is how people eat this super spicy hot sauce. They scrape the sambal little by little with chicken or duck combined with warm rice because too much would be too hot for the tongue to handle.

Best served with: rice and fried duck, chicken, or fish.

Why this is special: Beginners should beware because even spice kings would feel their tongue burnt even on the first lick. The small red chilies are actually the hottest ones in Indonesia and this sambal uses a lot of this type of chilies. However, after a few tastes, the hot spicy yet salty mixture makes you get addicted. It leaves your tongue wanting more and more despite the hurting burning sensation as if your adrenaline goes faster.

3. Sambal Matah

Sambal Matah is the fresh type of sambal from Bali that is both spicy and refreshing at the same time. This is another type of sambal using fresh raw ingredients including red chilies, green chilies, Asian shallots, green tomatoes, lemongrass, terasi (shrimp paste), kaffir lime leaves, and kaffir lime juice. This spicy goodness has become the most popular type of sambal originating from Bali. You can find this kind of sambal in any Balinese restaurants.

Best served with: rice and grilled fish or seafood.

Why this is special: This sambal is very interesting because it is spicy yet refreshing at the same time. The fire burning sensation from the chilies can be doused simultaneously by the other fresh flavors of the sambal, such as the tomatoes and Asian shallots. The sambal is not mashed together so the fresh natural flavors of each ingredient are still very strong giving you the option to eat them individually or simultaneously with the other components.

4. Sambal Roa

Sambal Roa is a typical chili sauce coming from Manado in North Sulawesi province made of Roa fish (galafea). Roa is a type of smoked fish that is originally from North Manado. It is basically made of roa fish sauteed in extremely hot chilies, though some commercial products produced outside of Sulawesi tone down the heat so that more people will be able to enjoy it. In fact, many people consider this to be a side dish or even main companion for rice because it already includes fish. If you do manage to get your hands on the real deal, don’t forget to taste it with real caution since it is extremely burning.

Best served with: rice or Bubur Manado (Manado porridge)

Why this is special: Despite its being super spicy, this type of sambal is tasty in its own right with just rice and nothing else. It leaves such a lovely fish flavor and strong smoky essence that it could actually stand alone as a dish.

5. Sambal Terasi

This is also another variety of sambal that has different versions across the most regions in the archipelago, the sweetest one being from Central Java (perfect for spicy lightweights). Moreover, there are two varieties of sambal terasi, raw sambal terasi and cooked sambal terasi. Its ingredients sometimes differ but always contain red chilies, terasi (shrimp paste), Asian shallots, garlic, and salt. You should also note that the fresh raw version is usually hotter than the sauteed version.

Best served with: fresh vegetables known as lalapan in Sundanese for the raw sambal terasi. Basically, rice and almost any type of meat and vegetables will be suitable for the cooked one. The raw one is, of course, also delicious with rice and most types of meats and vegetable dishes.

Why this is special: Most Indonesian homes have their own type of Sambal Terasi available every day, especially for those spice lovers. In fact, this is probably the first type of sambal you should try and get used to before exploring the other varieties because this has the very basic flavor of sambal.

6. Sambal Dabu-Dabu

This fresh sambal also comes from North Sulawesi. Similar with Bali’s Sambal Matah with its raw ingredients and exploding flavors, sambal dabu-dabu is made of coarsely chopped green tomatoes, chilies and shallots, crushed with a pinch of salt and kaffir lime juice. Another similarity with Bali’s Sambal Matah is that sambal dabu-dabu is not blended together using a mortar and pestle. Instead, it is just mixed together in order to keep the natural raw flavors alive.

Best served with: rice and grilled fish or seafood.

Why this is special: It will definitely be like a party on your tongue. You can taste all the salty, sour, and spicy sensation leaving a delightful lingering sensation inside your mouth.

Yes, try all those 6 varieties of Indonesia’s burning sambal during your stay in this wonderful country. They represent a bit of Indonesias culture and cuisines. You have not tasted the true Indonesian cuisines if you do not try its sambal yet. Don’t you dare to get the challenge?

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