The Jakarta Post
What is the best food for the last, chilly week of winter? According to chef Bara Pattiradjawane, the answer is sambal, the chili paste many Indonesians could not live without.
On Thursday, the last day of the 2019 London Book Fair, the popular chef served no fewer than three kinds of sambal at the Indonesian booth aptly named Spice Cafe.
Bara is the author of the new book Sambal Nation, a recipe book on the food he calls “a spicy condiment that unites a nation”.
“Sambal is actually just chili crushed with a mortar and pestle, with salt [added]. That’s the basic sambal,” said Bara. “And then you add shrimp paste, you add sugar, you might add a lot of things to it so that it becomes the Indonesian sambal.”
Bara prepared and served three kinds of sambal during the lunch slash panel session, sambal rias andaliman from North Sumatra, sambal dadak from West Java and sambal colo-colo from Maluku, showcasing the complexity and diversity of a seemingly simple dish.
“Some are quite simple and raw, and some are quite complex. Some recipes can be done in under five minutes, and some can take four hours,” said Bara.
Take sambal rias andaliman, for instance. Bara mentioned that the key ingredient in the dish is andaliman (Batak peppercorn), which is often translated as Sichuan peppercorn, despite being a different herb altogether. The andaliman is specific to the North Sumatra region and can be quite hard to find anywhere else across Indonesia.
In the session, Bara invited visitors to join him in preparing the sambal. Konstantinos Konvasdekis from Greece volunteered to prepare the sambal dadak, before trying it himself.
“It’s quite spicy, but I still can handle it,” he said.
Visitors at Spice Cafe lined up to try the sambal with just crackers or with a dish of hot, steaming rice and shredded tuna. It was a rather chilly day in London, with strong wind and rain in the morning, but Indonesian sambal saved the day and warmed up the visitors at the book fair. (kes)