Sambal Terasi Goreng is one of the most popular sambal in Indonesia. It has a deliciously spicy and salty taste with a distinct umami flavor of the shrimp paste that will perk up any Indonesian food.
As a nation, Indonesia is a dynamic mishmash of different cultures and cuisines. But no matter where you go, Indonesian people have a special spot for spicy foods in their hearts. Almost all Indonesian restaurants, even dough they do not specialize in spicy food, offer sambal or chili sauce to top off the dining. Sambal is basically a staple at all Indonesian tables and dishes are not complete without it.
Each region in Indonesia has its specialty sambal, depending on the ingredients or spices that are unique to the area. In fact, there are more than 300 different varieties and Sambal Terasi Goreng or Fried Shrimp Paste Sambal is one of the most popular sambal in Indonesia that you can find almost everywhere.
What is Sambal Terasi Goreng?
Sambal Terasi comes from West Java. It literally means chili sauce with terasi or dried shrimp paste. Terasi is an Indonesian variant of dried shrimp paste, primarily made from finely crushed shrimp mixed with salt, and then fermented for several weeks. It is usually purchased in dark blocks, but it also sometimes sold ground as granulated coarse powder.
In Indonesia, sambal terasi can be made raw (mentah), boiled (rebus) or fried (goreng). The version I am sharing here is the fried version, so it is called Sambal Terasi Goreng. For the fried version, the ingredients are first fried with oil until tender. Then, grind them with a pestle and mortar or food processor to blend into a paste. Sambal terasi is supposed to be thick and you can make it chunky or smooth based on preference.
What Does Sambal Terasi Taste Like?
Sambal terasi tastes salty, spicy, with an umami taste and strong fishy aroma due to the presence of terasi or shrimp paste. It should be used as an all-purpose condiment. You can use it as a dip, or add and mix it to your foods to add heat and flavor.
Raw vs Cooked Sambal
Raw sambal does not go through a cooking process at all. While the cooked sambal goes through the cooking process first, be it boiled or fried. Since they are processed differently, the aroma and taste produced are different.
As for the aroma, cooked chili sauce definitely has a more fragrant aroma than raw sambal, especially if you use the fried method. As for the taste, both of them are delicious, but the raw sambal will taste fresher.
The raw version will not keep for long and it is meant to be consumed on the same day it is prepared. Meanwhile, the cooked version can keep for a longer time. It can last up to 5 days at room temperature or months in the fridge.
The Ingredients You Need
Here is what you need to make Sambal Terasi Goreng:
- Red chilis. We cannot call the condiment sambal if we do not use its main ingredient, which is chili. For this recipe, I use a mix of bird’s eye chilis and curly red chilis.
- Tomato. Using tomato is completely optional, but it adds a little sweetness and tanginess to the sambal.
- Shallots. Shallots taste somewhat like onion, but with a milder and more delicate flavor.
- Garlic. For aromatic flavor and aroma.
- Terasi. Terasi or dried shrimp paste is a must for making this recipe. Before using it, make sure you toast, roast, or fry it to bring out the taste and aroma.
- Seasonings. Palm sugar, chicken bouillon (optional), and salt.
How to Adjust The Heat Level
The Indonesian culture and cuisine have high regard for severely spicy and hot sauces. However, everybody has different spicy tolerance and if you find the recipe is too spicy, you can consider following these tips:
- Choosing the chili variants. If you want to have less spicy sambal, simply use less spicy chili variants like cayenne pepper or curly red chilis. Or if you want it spicier, use more bird’s eye chilis or other high-heat chilis in your sambal.
- Removing the chili pepper seeds. You can also consider either removing chili pepper seeds, veins, and pith to reduce the spiciness. Capsaicin, the substance in chili peppers that makes your mouth perceive as hot, is concentrated there. Remove these and you will remove even more capsaicin.
- Adding more tomato. Adding something sweet and sour like tomato is another great way to reduce the spiciness.
What is Sambal Terasi Served With?
Sambal Terasi tastes bold and strong, so a little bit goes a long way, or too much would be too hot and salty for the tongue to handle. It usually is served as hot and spicy condiments for any dishes, particularly any fried or grilled foods and lalapan (assorted raw vegetables).
How to Store
If not consumed directly, this Sambal Terasi Goreng should be transferred to a sterilized glass jar. Whenever you want to scoop it, make sure to use a fresh, clean spoon to avoid contamination.
It can last for 3-5 days at room temperature and a maximum of 2 weeks in the fridge. For longer storage, you can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. It is advisable to freeze it in small amounts as it would be more convenient for later use.
How to Make
- In a frying pan, heat oil over low-medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add shallots, garlic, and red chilis. Stir fry until fragrant.
- Add terasi or shrimp paste and tomato. Stir fry for another 5 minutes or until the ingredients are wilted and soft. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer to a mortar and pestle or food processor. Add palm sugar, chicken bouillon, and salt.
- Grind into a paste. Make it chunky or smooth depending on your preference.
Terasi has a strong pungent fishy smell and the aroma gets intensified during roasting or frying it. It is best to open a window or turn on the stove’s exhaust fan to its highest setting when cooking it.