Sambal oelek (sambal ulek in modern orthography, but the legacy spelling remains more common) is an extremely simple hot sauce much used in south-east Asian cooking. The name is Bahasa Indonesia for "pestle chili", which is a pretty good summary of the recipe:

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Blend using a mortar and pestle.
    • If you're lazy, use a blender. Don't overdo it, the end result should have flakes of skin and seeds left.
  2. Place in a sterilized jar.
That's it. Some recipes add in a tablespoon or two of lime juice or sesame oil, but they're not really necessary. You may also wish to seed the chilies first. Homemade stuff keeps in a fridge for several months, commercial preparations (easily and cheaply obtained from most any Asian grocery) last more or less forever.

The heat depends entirely on your choice of chili pepper, the Indonesian lomboks used for the real thing are quite zippy -- a teaspoon of the stuff will heat up most dishes nicely and a tablespoon will have unaccustomed guests breathing fire. Since its taste is almost entirely limited to the "hot" dimension, you can pretty safely use sambal oelek as a substitute for chili oil or hot peppers in most recipes.

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