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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sambal Belacan

My waisek-ness got the better of me yesterday and I tried making my own sambal belacan. Sometime ago, I read Jomel's blog on sambal terasi and that, has got my saliva glands working overtime and talking to my brain that I really should go make my own sambal belacan. Cravings ! cravings !

My earliest memories of sambal belacan was those made by my good friend Liz's mom. She runs a chicken hor fun stall at Brickfields and is never stingy when it comes to ingredients. She'll fry the shallot oil for crispy and fragrant shallots to garnish the hor fun, something you hardly see now. Most stalls will buy prepacked shallots that lack oomph and I've read over the internet that some unscrupulous traders even add plastic straws when frying the shallots, so to maintain it's crispiness.

Back to Liz, her mom makes rocking kick ass sambal belacan. The ichiban stuff ! After she retired, Liz misses her mom's sambal very much and once her mom made her a tub to bring back to Singapore and she gave me some. That small pot of sambal belacan was devoured like gold, a little bit at a time,nothing wasted and the remnants of sambal juice will be wiped over with some white rice.

From thereon, I got hooked but could hardly ever find good sambal belacan, one that rocks the dining table, that is.

Worst are those so called sambal belacan or 'mah lai chan lat chiu' offered by many pan meen stalls. They are watered down and anything but belacan or sambal.

I bought 3 main ingredients - red chilli, kalamansi and cili padi from Giants yesterday. Added with some shallots, I gathered my bouquet ala sambal.. No need to follow recipe,, just agak agak, around 5 chillies, few sticks of chilli padi for the extra oomph, 3 shallots and a knob of belacan. I heard Malacca and Penang belacans aren't the same and mine was the Cheong Kim Chuan belacan I got from Penang last year. BIL claims the premium variety is very very fragrant and I used those. It was blackish and creamy and I toasted it till almost crispy and yes, its very very very fragrant. In fact my house stinks of belacan now, from the living room up to my bedroom, so you can imagine - this is GOOD STUFF !

Then came the big adventure. I was willing to make do with just average sambal by blending the sambal instead of tumbuk - or pounding - the traditional and 'a must' when making the belacan.

Firstly, I toasted the belacan till very dry and fragrant. Then, I used a mini chopper claimed from Cosway  - Empress brand. Set up everything, put in chilli and shallots and ready to  brrrrrrrrrr...
Dang ! that chopper didn't 'brrrrrrr' as expected. Checked power supply, ok. Everything ok, my chopper koyak-ed.. Can't believe the lousy chopper. So if you wanna redeem Empress mini chopper from Cosway, think twice, thrice.. and better still, just don't waste your coupons, this chopper is lousy !

So, I had to dig out my mini pestle and mortar and do it the hard traditional way. I soo miss Sopheak, my helper, while pounding. I never touched the pestle and mortar since the day she left. I had very nice thoughts of her while I was pounding the chilli. Then, the juice.. ter-PIAK up to my eyes. OMG !  chilli + onion + belacan juice in my eyes

At that point, I don't feel much burning yet. I took a tissue paper to wipe it off. Washed it and dripped cold Eye-Mo. Then I felt my eyes burning, so painful and I cursed myself for adding the few chilli padi !  Can't cry coz the eyes were already tearing. I wanted to cry Sopheak ! Sopheak ! pls come back !

I still went back to the pestle and mortar, but this time smarter, I wore my sunnies ! Slowly and patiently 'tumbuk-ed'.. I got these :

Add some salt and squeeze in a kalamansi, it's as good as a Nyonya's (ahem.. . .. gloating a bit here but that's what hubs said.. 'authentic and very Nyonya)

We had it with rice and tau yew bak (soya sauce pork)  :

 Braised tau yew bak I cooked the night before

and steaming hot rice and cold cucumber slices.

Lip smacking dish on a boring weekday night !

That's my first epi on sambal belacan and my good pal, Linda Phua has given me some 'petua' to improve on it. More to come.

but not until i get a bigger pestle and mortar or a good chopper.