When I was growing up, there were times there may be up to 3 different types of sambals on the table; each as a condiment for a different dish my Granny cooked. That was how seriously she felt about taste, and how serious accompaning sambals were to a Peranakan table.
One of the most versatile sambals on our Peranakan table would undoubtably be the Sambal Belacan. A good Sambal Belacan is all about the belacan. And there are many different types of belacan on the market, of varying quality, shapes and sizes.
When I was younger, before belacan was vacuumed-packed in pretty packages, Ah Mah used a belacan that came in a rectangle shape. So the usual measurement of 'about an inch' or 'about half and inch' made perfect sense - especially coupled with Ah Mah's cooking method of 'agak'-ation (estimation). Later on though, with belacans coming in circle shapes, differing rectangular blocks, well, it wasn't enough to give measurements by length. ;P
Brand loyalty on my part? Maybe. But I really find that the taste of this belacan is really good, compared to others that I've tried, because this brand is really, really hard to find in Singapore. My brother buys a few packets of this each time he goes to Malaysia for Ah Mah, and she hoards it like gold! =)
I finally found a stall in Holland Village market that sells this brand of belacan, so knowing that I have a steady supplier in Singapore, I only buy 2 packs each time either hubby or I am in the area. =)
Sambal belacan is one of those things that generally tastes the same, but is different depending on the person making it, precisely because of the quality and quantity of belacan used. There is really no 'standard' taste, but only 2 ingredients take centrestage to make the sambal what it is.
My sambal belacan is extremely spicy. But it's the way I like it. When I made the sambal belacan for my granny though, I used more big chilis which are milder, compared to the fiery hot chili padi, or birds' eye chili.
400g Big chilis
200g Chili padis
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste
- Deseed all the chilis. I usually have to put on 2 plastic gloves, one over another, to do this. Trust me, it's an extremely hazardous thing to deseed chilis, which is why whenever I make my sambal belacan, I make a huge batch so that I don't have to revisit this 'torture' anytime soo. ;P Like I said, my sambal belacan is extremely hot, and you should tweak the chili proportions to your
threshold of paintastebuds. Keep the weight about the same, but use a whole lot more big chilis to the chili padi.
- Toast the belacan either in a toaster oven or pan-fry it dry. It's important to do so because it will heighten the flavour of the belacan.
- Because of the quantity I make, I use a food processor to blitz my chilis, making sure not to blitz it too finely, nor too coarse. The texture I aim for is for it to resemble pounded chili.
- Blitz the chilis with the belacan.
- Add salt and sugar to taste. Keep the sambal belacan in a clean glass jar in the fridge if used regularly, or in the freezer if not going to be used soon. I usually make 2 jars - one to be frozen to be used after the jar in the fridge is used up.
- Use a clean teaspoon to scoop about 2 teaspoons out from the jar. Serve the belacan with lime juice from a small lime (aka Sng Kum).
See? Even the bottle says it's hot. ;P