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It's spicy, garlicy, savory, slightly tangy, and its official name is Sambal Oelek, but chefs just call it Sambal. Remember that name, because this simple hot sauce is quietly earning a place in our life right next to the Sriracha or Tabasco. Many of the signs I watch indicate that this sauce from Southeast Asia could be the next big culinary darling. And recently as I travel the country I see sambal showing up on menus, table tops, food trucks, store shelves, and it's looking poised to be one of the next global hot sauce stars.

A little basic information about Sambal-Oelek:

Sam-bal: hot relish made with fruit or spices

Oelek: Ground

Sambal-Oelek: a spicy coarse ground chili Asian hot sauce

Country of origin: Indonesia

Its humble beginnings start in Southeast Asia as a modest spicy condiment where it was originally made in family homes with a mortar and pestle giving it the traditional coarse texture. In Indonesia there are hundreds of versions, where ingredients range from fish sauce, vinegar, varying chilies, ginger and the list goes on, but in its purest form it's no more than ground red chilies, vinegar and garlic. With such a wide variety of possible ingredients Sambal is so versatile that it can be sculpted to meet your personal preference.

My recipe is a little more basic, with a sharp fresh bite of coarse ground hot red peppers a few spices and vinegar for flavor and it's preserving power. I use this on absolutely everything, chicken, Asian noodles, pizza, or my favorite is adding to mayonnaise for a upscale Aioli. I found the red Jalapenos work best for their well-balanced heat and fragrance aroma, they can be a little tricky to find, so depending on the time of year you may look at farmers markets or larger Mexican grocery stores. Of course you can use your favorite spicy red chili pepper, but be cautious as the pepper you choose will dictate how hot this sauce gets.

Once you make this easy sauce at home, it will open your eyes and nose to how powerful a few ingredients can be when combined properly.




Jalapeno peppers, red 440g or 1lb (approx. 22ea)

Garlic cloves, fresh 20g (4ea)

Sugar, white, granulated 40g (3 TBS)

Salt, table 25g (2 TBS)

Water 75g (1/3 cup)

Vinegar, white, distilled 215g (1 cup)


1.) Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender (work in batches if needed), pulse for a few seconds until desired chunky consistency has been reached.

2.) Transfer sauce to a air tight container and store in the refrigerator.

3.) Super simple, and should hold in the fridge for at least 4 weeks.



About Pig

Call me Pig, it's not my real name, but it will do for our purpose.  As you'll find out, I'm a research chef, not a blogger. I travel the country looking for new trends and documenting great American independent restaurants.

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