Sambal belacan is a popular Malay dipping sauce. It has the consistency of pesto. It is usually served with rice as an accompaniment to grilled/fried fish or green Asian herbs also known as ulam. Belacan is a South East Asian delicacy with a pungent flavour. It is made out of shrimps and known to the West as shrimp paste. Those unfamiliar to it may find it repulsive but to the discerning palate, it beckons the gastronomic juices. Sambal is prepared by pounding chillies and belacan into a paste. Lime juice is then added to to enhance the flavour.
Here I have used the sambal to dress some chicken thighs. As a regular chilli fan I rate this as moderately hot. I served it rice and stir fried spinach.
3 chicken thighs (skinned and boned)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
white ground pepper
a good pinch of salt
1 small onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
2 red chillies roughly chopped
1 green chilli roughly chopped
1 tomato chopped
1 cm cube of belachan
vegetable oil for frying
Cut each chicken thighs into 3 even pieces. In a bowl, mix the garlic powder, ginger powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ground white pepper and salt. Add the chicken and coat the chicken pieces evenly with the mixed spice.
Meanwhile, heat a frying pan, add about 1 tablespoon of oil. When hot, fry the belacan until fragrant. Put the belacan to one side, add more oil to the pan enough to shallow fry the chicken. Fry the chicken pieces in batches one layer at a time, turning and cooking each side for 3-4 minutes.
Now, for the sambal, in a blender, add the chillies, onion, tomato and fried belacan. Blitz until smooth. Once all the chicken are done, pour off the cooking oil leaving about two tablespoon. Add the blended mixture to pan and stir. Let it simmer gently until the oil separates. Now add the cooked chicken and coat them evenly with the sambal.