Easy Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam) à la Martha Stewart

A jar of homemade kaya
A jar of homemade kaya

I’ve been thinking about kaya a lot lately—that creamy, unctuous coconut egg jam that was the foundation of many a childhood breakfast. I ate kaya at home between toasted sandwich slices (Gardenia, of course). I ate the holy trinity of Singapore breakfasts–kaya toast, soft-boiled egg, and iced Milo–at the neighborhood kopitiam (coffee shop). And I ate kaya swirled into soft loaves of bread that my mom bought from the local bakery.

Kaya set2
The components of kaya toast–kaya and butter

I was definitely craving kaya. Unfortunately, the store-bought specimens looked like jam only ET could love but maybe even he would be put off by the fluorescent yellow or green hue. And not surprisingly, it tasted bad too.

So I did a little research to see what it would take to make kaya at home. After skimming a few recipes that required freshly-squeezed coconut milk, 10 eggs, and/or hours of stirring over a hot water bath, I all but gave up.

Then it hit me. Kaya’s ingredients and texture are similar to a curd! So I looked up the recipe for lemon curd in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and realized it would be so easy to tweak to make kaya. The ingredients are surprisingly similar. The biggest difference was that instead of whole eggs, only the yolks are used. And it takes only about 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish!

To be honest, I was a little skeptical. But the recipe was easy to follow and the curd/custard turned out perfect in taste and texture the very first time!

Thank you, Martha!


Easy Kaya (Coconut Egg Jam) à la Martha Stewart

Kaya with knife

Martha Stewart didn’t really come up with a kaya recipe but her lemon curd recipe was the inspiration for my version. Instead of palm sugar, you can also use brown sugar—light or dark, it doesn’t matter–and/or use a mix of white granulated and brown. And feel free to adjust the amount of sugar to suit your taste. If you can’t find pandan leaves, don’t fret, just leave them out. Or you might want to try vanilla. Personally, I don’t find vanilla to be an adequate substitute for the complex flavor and aroma of pandan leaves. But, if you didn’t grow up with it, you probably won’t care. Just sayin’.

Makes: 1 cup
Time: 15 minutes

¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk (not light coconut milk please!)
4 egg yolks
3-1/2 ounces palm sugar (2 discs), crushed, or 1/2 cup sugar
2 to 3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot

Combine the coconut milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium heavy-bottom saucepan and whisk until smooth. Add the pandan leaves and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. To be doubly sure the custard is cooked, it should register 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Don’t forget to scrape down the sides!

Remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the pandan leaves. Strain through a fine sieve into a small glass bowl or jar with a lid. Leave uncovered until completely cool. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.


Kaya Toast

Kaya toast

The authentic way to make kaya toast is to grill your sandwich slices—white bread is best, Gardenia or WonderBread is even better–is over coals. Since this is not always possible,  just toast it. Slather a thick layer of butter (at least ½-inch according to some sources), followed by a hefty layer of kaya. This is not meant to be diet food!! Remove the crusts, halve, and serve with coffee, tea, or Milo!

For something a little different, sandwich kaya and butter between two Jacob’s Cream Crackers.


Technicolor Vietnamese Pickles (Do Chua)


Technicolor Vietnamese Pickles (Do Chua)

Asian pickles do not adhere strictly to Western pickling methods (quick pickles, salt-brined etc) nor do we have a tradition of canning using sterilized jars and such. This method is a combination of quick pickles and salt-brined pickles and they’ll keep in the refrigerator for up to a month. But they hardly ever last that long. This combination makes a sweeter pickle so adjust according to your taste. Use them in bánh mì sandwiches or Vietnamese vermicelli noodles.

Time: 45 minutes, 15 minutes active
Makes: 1 quart

5 carrots (about 2 pounds) in white, burgundy, and orange
6 large celery sticks (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup water
1 cup rice or distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
Dried chilies (optional)
Peel and cut the carrots crosswise into thirds.

Then slice them vertically down the middle into three planks and then cut each plank into matchsticks. Cut the celery to the same shape and size.


Place the carrots and celery in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with salt. Mix well and let the vegetables sit for about 30 minutes to draw out moisture and allow the pickling brine to penetrate the vegetables more thoroughly for better texture and flavor. They should be soft and pliable at the end of it. Rinse and drain.

While the vegetables are sitting, make the pickling liquid by combining the water, vingar and sugar in a medium bowl. Heat the pickling liquid in the microwave on high for one minute. Stir to dissolve the sugar completely.

Pack the carrots, and celery and dried chilies, in two pint-sized (16-ounce) jars. Divide the pickling liquid between the two jars. Seal and refrigerate.

Steep for at least 2 hours and enjoy. The pickles will keep in the refrigerator for four weeks, if they’re not gone by then!

Vietnamese pickles

Ingredient Spotlight: Lemongrass

chopped lemongrass
After lopping the tops and bottoms off the lemongrass stalks, I cut the remaining bulbs into rings

One of my favorite Asian herbs, lemongrass, and its long, slender form is fast becoming a common sight here in the Northwest. You can often find the stalk with its variegated colors–from white to yellow to pale green–three to a bundle at Asian markets, and solo or even in a tube at your neighborhood Safeway.

Lemongrass imbues an array of Southeast Asian dishes with a delicate citrusy flavor that’s part Meyer lemon, part mint and part rose petals. And if you find its scent vaguely familiar, it’s because the plant oils are used in citronella candles, famous for warding off pesky mosquitoes.

While many know it as an herb used extensively in Thai and Vietnamese cooking for dishes such as tom yum soup and caramel chicken with lemongrass and chilies, lemongrass is indispensible in Indonesian cooking too. It’s part of an essential bouquet garni of herbs I call the Holy Trinity–galangal (lengkuas), salam leaves (daun salam) also known as Indian bay leaves, and lemongrass (serai). This trio of herbs make their appearance in many traditional Indonesian dishes.

I throw lemongrass into coconut rice and always always save the discarded bits (see preparation below) to brew with green or jasmine tea.

My latest lemongrass discovery–lemongrass-infused vinegar

In fact, I love lemongrass so much I even tried to grow it when I lived in California. Unfortunately my not-so-green thumb failed me but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try.

It’s so easy really. Head to the store and buy stalks that are firm and green, a sure sign that they will root. Then simply snip off an inch or so from the leaves and stick the root end into a glass of water. Leave them on a sunny windowsill and roots will start sprouting from the bottom of the stalk in about a week or two.

Once small roots have grown at least an inch long, transplant them into a container or right into rich, garden soil. Just be sure to keep them “damp like a moist sponge.” Lemongrass loves being outdoors in the summer sun—they are tropical after all—but when the temperature drops in the fall, you’ll have to take them inside.

Lemongrass is such a versatile herb and can be used in myriad ways. (Here’s a recipe for Caramelized Chicken with Lemongrass and Chilies.) I opted for something simple on this occasion. After infusing vinegar with chopped lemongrass, I whisked some of the flavored vinegar into a vinaigrette and tossed it with an edible flower salad with white nectarines. It was such a lovely side for a mid-summer evening’s dinner, I couldn’t resist putting the photos into a slideshow for you. Enjoy!

Here are some lemongrass tips:


Look for plump, bright green stalks minus any dried brown bits. Lemon grass is available dried and frozen at Asian stores, but fresh provides the best flavor. I’ve seen lemongrass in a tube at supermarkets and that’s okay too in a pinch.


Store them in the refrigerator for up to a week but for any longer, freeze them as is. Or you could prep them and cut them into rings (see below) before freezing them in a freezer-safe container. They’ll last almost indefinitely and there’s no need to thaw them before use.


Peel the tough, fibrous outer layers of the lemongrass. Cut an inch off the root end and about 6 inches off the top leafy end where the green meets the white, leaving about 3 to 4 inches of the white middle. Smash the white bulb with the butt of your knife or a heavy mug to release the essential oils and cut into rings and mince as required.


Zesty Lemongrass-Infused Vinegar

lemongrass in vinegar

I was inspired to make this simple lemongrass vinegar by my friend Pranee who blogged about it on I Love Thai Cooking. Next time I’m going to try adding coriander seeds and/or dried chilies to the mix. This vinegar also makes a wonderful hostess gift. Strain the vinegar and pour into a pretty bottle. Save the lemongrass tops to insert inside the bottle for interest.  (Please visit this Web site for safety tips)

Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 cups vinegar

3 fresh lemongrass stalks with no brown spots or blemishes
2 cups rice or distilled white vinegar

Peel the outer layers of the lemongrass. Cut an inch off the root end and about 6 inches off the top leafy end where the green meets the white, leaving about 3 to 4 inches of the white middle. Smash the lemongrass with the butt of your knife or a heavy mug to release the essential oils. Cut the lemongrass into rings and place in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid.

Heat the rice vinegar in the microwave for 2 to 3 minutes on high until it just starts to bubble, or heat on the stove.

Pour the vinegar over the lemongrass, cover tightly and steep at least overnight, two to three weeks for maximum potency in a cool, dark place. Strain through a colander and pour into a clean jar or bottle and store in the refrigerator.

Use in your favorite vinaigrette recipe and toss with salad or drizzle over roast vegetables like asparagus or zucchini.


Ingredient Spotlight: Kecap Manis

kecap manis art II
Kecap Manis II — Jackson Pollock would be proud!

A very important person once said, “You can’t argue with taste.” This V.I.P. happens to be my dad. He’d make this declaration while pouring kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce, literally “sweet sauce”) over whatever food was on his plate, be it fried noodles (normal) or spaghetti (not so normal). When it comes to food, Dad’s tastes are simple. He likes Asian food and he likes it cooked by my mom. Any other dish can be remedied by drowning it in kecap manis. Seriously. When Dad travels, he carries a miniature bottle (just like those pint-sized Jim Beams and Johnny Walkers) in his waist-pouch, tucked in nice and snug next to his passport and wallet. No doubt, he equates kecap manis with the elixir of life. Dad must be on to something. Kecap manis is popping up more and more on the culinary landscape as chefs are discovering the wonders of this thick, viscous sauce made from sugar, water, salt, soybeans, and wheat. Heck, even Yotam Ottalenghi, the famous Israeli-born chef who owns five London eateries, uses kecap manis in his Black Pepper Tofu recipe (Plenty, Chronicle Books, 2011). Kecap manis is used both as a flavoring sauce and a condiment at the table. It is a mainstay in dishes like babi kecap (soy sauce pork), nasi goreng (fried rice) and satay. I like to float cut Thai chilies in a tiny dish of kecap manis to serve with fried fish, and I find that a squirt or two of kecap manis in my bowl of chicken noodle soup adds subtly sweet undertones. Don’t restrict kecap manis to Asian dishes though. Marinate your steak, simmer your stews, and baste your roasts with it. You can find two brands of kecap manis in the U.S.: Cap Bango and ABC. More Asian markets carry the ABC brand but I always pick Cap Bango if available for its thicker consistency and sweeter, more complex flavor. Molasses is a worthy substitute although I think it tastes more similar to the Chinese version of sweet soy sauce that accompanies Hainanese chicken rice or popiah. If you can’t find kecap manis, I’ve provided a quick method to make your own at home below.

English: Kecap Manis Achli Masak(left) and Kec...
ABC brand kecap manis                                             Photo courtesy: wikipedia.org

I used to be offended that my dad would pour kecap manis over every meal I served him at my house. I’ve since learned to put things in perspective. My dad was a chain smoker for more than three decades and at the ripe old age of 72, his taste buds are probably a little worn and weary. So a taste of something familiar is comforting to him ??. Now I’m just proud he’s at the forefront of a new food trend, plus he’s taught me a very valuable lesson–you really can’t argue with taste.


Quick and Easy Kecap Manis

Some methods will have you simmering herbs and spices like galangal, star anise and cinnamon in the sauce. I don’t think it’s necessary but feel free to do so if you’d like. If you can find Indonesian palm sugar (gula jawa/merah), use it. A brand called SweetTree has it in granulated form and is available at Whole Foods. Time: 2 minutes Makes: 1/4 cup Mix 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce and 3 tablespoons brown sugar together in a small bowl. Microwave on medium for 20 to 30 seconds. Stir to mix. Microwave a few more seconds if the sugar has not completely dissolved. The flavor is similar but the consistency will be thinner than store-bought. To make larger quantities, use the same ratio 1 water:1 soy sauce:3 sugar and simmer on the stove top over low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved and the sauce is thick and syrupy. Store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months.


Here are more recipes for making kecap manis:

Here are recipes that use kecap manis:

Homemade: Peanut Sauce

I’m a peanut sauce convert. There I said it.

It’s true, I never liked peanut sauce.

It probably has to do with the fact that my mom always served peanut sauce with boiled vegetables, i.e. the popular Indonesian dish gado- gado. C’mon, do boiled vegetables sound appetizing to you? I didn’t think so. To my 8-year-old self, gado gado’s only saving grace was the crispy shrimp crackers (krupuk) crushed and scattered atop this mound of rubbery greens.

Peanut sauce plus boiled vegetables=Gado-gado
In the U.S., however, it seems people don’t have such prejudices and just about everyone is enamored with peanut sauce. This fact is, of course, reflected on the menus of Southeast Asian restaurants all across the country. Without fail, you’ll find Swimming Rama (the Thai version of gado gado) on page 1 or 2, and if you look a little further down you’ll find the ubiquitous satay (grilled skewered meat) accompanied by its faithful companion–peanut dipping sauce.

Heck, even my husband adores peanut sauce!

Thankfully, I have seen the light in recent years. My peanut sauce awakening came in the form of a soba noodle salad tossed with a peanut dressing singing of ginger and rice vinegar. This was when I decided I could like peanut sauce after all. A quick call to my mom and a few days later I was making peanut sauce from scratch.

Many peanut sauce recipes start with peanut butter as a shortcut. Not for me. In fact, I’m so dead serious about making it from scratch I pass on the food processor and grind the peanuts using pure muscle power instead. (Ok, ok, so our food processor is in storage).

Indonesian cuisine has a dizzying array of peanut sauces, each with subtle nuances. Each region has its own version and a different dish to go with it.

By tweaking the basic recipe below, you can make a sweet and sour sauce for a dish called asinan comprising salad leaves, eggs, tofu, cucumbers, and cabbage tossed with the sauce. Just add dried shrimp (dry-fried in a wok) and enough sugar and vinegar for the right balance of sweet and sour.

Or mix in sweet cloves of garlic, pounded to a paste, vinegar and petis udang (black shrimp sauce), for tahu telor, a tofu omelet of sorts. I asked my mom how much garlic to add and she told me, “Supaya wangi bau bawang putih,” until it is fragrant with the smell of garlic. I love how poetic that sounds!

You could add any of the above ingredients to flavor your peanut sauce regardless of what you want to eat it with.

Toss the vegetables with the peanut sauce and top with shrimp crackers and fried shallots, and your gado-gado is ready to be eaten

As a healthy veggie-eating adult, I usually toss the basic peanut sauce with a medley of vegetables like green beans, cabbage, and beansprouts (yes, they’re all boiled), and top it with fried tofu, potatoes, and/or hard-boiled eggs. Sometimes, I’ll rebel and use fresh vegetables like Romaine lettuce and cucumbers. Or I’ll mix it in with vermicelli rice noodles and tofu.

A light drizzle of kecap manis, plus the mandatory shrimp crackers, and lunch is ready.


Peanut Sauce
peanut sauce

The raw shelled peanuts I buy at the Asian market usually come with their skins on, but don’t worry, the skins aren’t noticeable once they’re all ground up. The 12 oz bag makes 2 cups of ground peanuts but since I like to make my peanut sauce in small batches, I only use 1 cup of ground peanuts at a time (half the total amount). I’ll fry the entire bag of peanuts at one go, grind them up and refrigerate the remaining cup. If you prefer to make the sauce all at once, just double the amount of water and increase the seasonings judiciously.

Makes: about 1 cup sauce
Time: 30 minutes

1/4 cup oil (or just enough to coat the peanuts)
1 (12oz) package raw peanuts (about 2 ¼ cups)
2 to 3 kaffir lime leaves
Sliver of shrimp paste (terasi), toasted (optional)
1 tablespoon seedless wet tamarind, or lime juice
3 tablespoons Indonesian palm sugar or packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili paste like sambal oelek(or to taste)

Pour the oil into a wok or large skillet. Heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the peanuts and stir-fry them until the skins turn a darker shade of reddish brown and the insides turn golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss them continuously so they cook evenly and don’t burn.

When the peanuts are done, scoop them up with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on a plate lined with paper towels. Remove any burnt peanuts, they will taste bitter.

When the peanuts are cool enough to handle, grind them until fine like sand, in a food processor or pulverize them with a mortar and pestle like I did, in which case, grinding them till the texture of coarse sand will do. Otherwise your arm might fall off!

In a small pot, combine 1-1/2 cups water, the lime leaves, shrimp paste, tamarind, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, breaking up the shrimp paste and tamarind pulp. Inhale the intense fragrance of the lime leaves!

Using a strainer or slotted spoon, remove the leaves and any remaining tamarind pulp. Add 1 cup ground peanuts and bring to a boil. Save the remaining 1 cup for later. Simmer until thick and creamy like gravy, stirring often so that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the sambal oelek. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Serve the peanut sauce with vegetables, over soba noodles, or as a dipping sauce with grilled meats like satay. Garnish with fried shallots, fried shrimp crackers, and kecap manis.

Pat’s note: The sauce will keep for up to a week in the fridge. To reheat, add a little water if it’s too thick, and warm on the stove or in the microwave.


5 (Aha!) Ways with Fried Shallots

Store-bought fried shallots are convenient and cheap. For $4 per 8oz bottle, you'll be getting lots of flavor-enhancing mojo

A member of the fried shallot-green onion-cilantro trifecta, fried shallots are my absolute favorite garnish. Alone or as part of the team, they add loads of flavor to just about any dish.

In SE Asian cooking, fried shallots (aka bawang goreng in Indonesian) are most often added as a garnish to soups, noodle dishes, and congee. I always top fried noodles and fried rice with fried shallots (ooh … I used ‘fried’ three times in one sentence!). And it’s a great all round substitute if you don’t have onions or shallots on hand.

Here are 5 aha! ways to use fried shallots:

1. Stir fried shallots and cilantro/chives into an omelet

2. If you don’t have chicken or vegetable stock, add fried shallots and fried garlic during cooking to flavor soups in a pinch

3. Add fried shallots and fresh shallots for layer upon layer of oniony flavor in braised dishes like red-cooked pork or Vietnamese Caramelized Pork Belly (Thit Kho)

4. Shower shallots over a simple lunch of a sunny-side-up egg drizzled with kecap manis on rice

5. On the Western front, top steaks, salads, pastas, and (everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dish) green bean casserole with fried shallots.

I have to admit I don’t enjoy deep-frying in my kitchen, so I’m inclined to buy fried shallots readymade. Look for golden hued specimens that are light-colored and crisp as opposed to dark and oily.

However, my mom always made it from scratch. Whenever she slipped a big batch of sliced shallots into the oil-filled wok, I would stand clear, startled by the loud hissing and sputtering as the moist shallots hit the hot oil. As the sizzling calmed down, I would stand on my tippy-toes to peer into the wok to watch the shallots foam and dance about. When they were done, mom would scoop up the golden bits with a large wire-mesh strainer and drain the tiny shards on newspaper before starting all over again.

Once the shallots were crisp and brittle, my mom would tip them into a large jar for safe-keeping. And whether we were eating oxtail soup or fried rice or gado gado, the crisp shallot curls would always make an appearance.

If you’d like to have a go at it, be my guest!


Fried Shallots (Bawang Goreng)

You can use any type of vegetable oil–from canola to peanut to corn–that has a high smoke point, just not olive oil. The leftover oil is delicious in a vinaigrette, tossed into a Burmese noodle salad, or can be used again to cook other savory dishes.

8 Asian shallots (about 6 ounces)
Canola oil

Makes about 2-1/2 cups

Peel and cut the shallots lengthwise into paper-thin slices.

Pour oil to a depth of about 1 inch into a medium heavy skillet or saucepan.

Heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking (about 350 degrees F). Tip in as many shallot slivers as will fit comfortably in the skillet (small batches are easier to monitor). The oil will foam and froth because of the moisture, but the bubbles should die down as the shallots cook.

Using a slotted spoon or wire mesh strainer, stir continuously to ensure the shallots brown evenly but don’t burn. They will soften and wilt before turning light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. The timing depends on how hot the oil is and how thin the slices are. If the shallots start to burn quickly, adjust the heat accordingly.

Once they are uniformly brown, remove immediately. Take them out sooner rather than later because they will continue to cook even out of the oil, and if they overcook, they will turn dark brown and taste bitter. Drain on paper towels. The limp shreds will eventually crisp up.

Store in an airtight container for up to one week in a cool, dry place. Refrigerate if you prefer.


Want to see how others are doing it? Here are more fried shallot resources:

Nasi Lemak Lover
Market Manila

What are your aha! ways of using fried shallots?

Homemade: Sambal Oelek (and a Chili Paste Comparison)

sambal oelek
Chilies pounded in a mortar; a squeeze of lime juice, a pinch of salt; homemade sambal oelek is ready

If you’ve bought Sriracha sauce at the Asian market (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?), you’ve probably noticed two other bottled chili sauces parked right by it—sambal oelek and chili garlic sauce. All three are made by the same company, Huy Fong, and sport lids of the same shade of grassy green.

So what’s the difference, you might ask? First of all, the ingredients differ slightly. Here are the ingredient lists according to the labels on the bottles:

Sriracha sauce: chilies, sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar

Chili garlic sauce: chilies, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar

Sambal oelek: chilies, salt, distilled vinegar

Try sampling the condiments side by side, you’ll taste the finer nuances of each. And while you could use them interchangeably, I reserve each sauce/paste for a different purpose.

Mellow and sweet, Sriracha sauce is often used as a condiment for soups (what would Vietnamese pho lovers do without Sriracha?!), fried noodles, even hamburgers, and pizzas. In fact, its popularity knows no bounds as trendy restaurants invent novel ways to incorporate the vermillion-colored sauce into mainstream dishes. Some concoctions I’ve come across: Sriracha mixed into mayo for an Asian-style aioli, or in a Bloody Mary.

Chili garlic sauce and sambal oelek are used more for cooking. Chili garlic sauce, with its garlicky flavor, is perfect for stir fries and to make mabo dofu. I also use it in a dipping sauce with soy sauce and vinegar for dumplings. The combination of heat and tang in sambal oelek is well-suited for tuna salad, and as a shortcut ingredient to make beef rendang (or any other spicy Indonesian dish for that matter).

My heart, however, belongs to sambal oelek. Of course, since we both come from the same Indonesian stock. And while I do have a Huy Fong bottle sitting in my fridge, I also enjoy making it fresh the traditional way—hand-ground in a basalt stone mortar or ulek (oelek is the old Dutch spelling) with a pestle (ulekan). It’s so simple, I make just enough for one meal.

There are so many other sambals in Indonesian cuisine: sambal terasi, sambal badjak, sambal kecap, etc., and I’m planning on a sambal series over the next few months. Plus, I’ll also show you how a little tweaking to the original sambal oelek recipe can give you Hainanese chicken rice chili and steamboat chili!

For now, here’s my method for making sambal oelek.


Sambal Oelek

sambal oelek

The basic sambal oelek “recipe” calls for just chilies and salt. If you like it spicy, add some bird or Thai chilies. The Indonesian name for the long chilies used in sambals is cabe keriting or curly chili, but any long chili like Fresno or Serrano (or whatever chilies are waiting to be picked in your garden before the first frost appears) will do. I found some nice, fat unnamed long chilies about 8-inches long at my market. A small bowl of the finished sauce plate-side next to some fried chicken or fresh-cut vegetables will have you dip-dipping away!

2, 8-inch long red chilies (about 2.5 ounces)
Large pinch of salt, and more to taste
Juice from 1 key lime (about 2 teaspoons), or 1-2 teaspoons vinegar
Sugar to taste (optional)

Time: 15 minutes
Makes: enough for 2 people to enjoy at one meal

Remove the stems and slice the chilies lengthwise. Remove as much membrane and seeds as you like (these are what give chilies heat, and as you can tell from the photos I’m a wuss).

Chop the chilies up and place in the mortar with a generous pinch of salt. Grind the chilies with the pestle using a twisting motion until pulpy.

Chopped chilies (top); ground chilies (bottom)

Add the lime juice and more salt and sugar to taste. Serve immediately.

Note: If you make the sambal in bulk (I strongly advise a food processor!), it will keep in a sterilized jar in the fridge for a few weeks.


sambal oelek
All done! Here's my mess ...

What’s your favorite way to use sambal oelek?


For those dying for a Sriracha sauce recipe, here are 2 great sites to visit:

Viet World Kitchen: Andrea has recipes for fresh and fermented versions
Leite’s Culinaria: A recipe from “The Sriracha Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press, 2011) by Randy Clemen

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