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Sambal Berambang Asem dan Bola Bayam - Chili and Tamarind Sambal with Spinach Balls

Even simply boiled vegetables taste absolutely delicious when served with this umami-rich chili sauce made with red chilies, tamarind, and toasted shrimp paste.

If Lombok has sambal plecing, then Java has sambal berambang asem. They are both always paired with simply boiled vegetables. My family simply loves it whenever I prepare vegetables paired with lovely Indonesian chili sauce like this, and as a result, I don’t think I ever have trouble convincing them to eat more greens! So give this recipe a try, and I am sure your family will happily eat their vegetables. :)

Sambal Berambang Asem dan Bola Bayam - Chili and Tamarind Sambal with Spinach Balls

Sambal Berambang Asem dan Bola Bayam - Chili and Tamarind Sambal with Spinach Balls

What goes into sambal berambang asem?

When translated from Indonesian to English word for word:

  • sambal = chili sauce
  • berambang = shallots
  • asem (Jawa) = tamarind

Sambal berambang asem literally translates to chili sauce with shallots and tamarind. And indeed the ingredients for this chili sauce are:

  • red chilies. Usually cayenne, but you can mix with bird’s eye chilies or Fresno chilies. The choice of chilies you use depends on the spiciness level you want in the final chili sauce.
  • shallots. The average size of an Asian shallot is much smaller compared to French shallot. You can use either variety, just use the listed weight in the recipe.
  • tamarind. I usually buy a packet of wet seedless tamarind, and then use the amount listed in the recipe and add with water to make tamarind paste. Although marketed as seedless, I have yet to even see one packet of wed seedless tamarind to be completely seedless. So be sure to always strain your tamarind juice/solution/paste in the end.
  • terasi/belacan/shrimp paste. Terasi is sold in a block. To use, simply cut away the needed amount and then toast it until pale and crumbly. The easiest method is to microwave for 30 seconds.
  • palm sugar. I usually use Indonesian palm sugar (gula Jawa). The best substitute is Malaysian gula Melaka or coconut sugar.
  • salt

How do you prepare sambal berambang?

Like most Indonesian sambal, sambal berambang is very easy to prepare:

  1. Grind shallots, red chilies, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, palm sugar, and salt. You can use a food processor, or even a traditional mortar and pestle.
  2. Transfer the ground chili paste into a small saucepot, add tamarind solution. Turn on the heat to medium, stir, and bring to a boil. Adjust the amount of salt and sugar as needed.
  3. Turn off the heat. Transfer the chili sauce to a serving bowl and enjoy with your greens of choice.
Kale sautéed with olive oil and a pinch of salt, served with sambal berambang asam.

Kale sautéed with olive oil and a pinch of salt, served with sambal berambang asam.

What vegetables are suitable to serve with sambal berambang?

You can try some of the followings:

  • spinach (Indonesian: bayam)
  • yam/sweet potato/cassava leaves (Indonesian: daun singkong)
  • water spinach/Chinese spinach/on choy-蕹菜 (Indonesian: kangkung)
  • chayote (Indonesian: labu siam)
  • kale
  • broccoli

For leafy greens, you can cook/boil the vegetables until wilted, then either arrange on a platter and serve with the chili sauce, or shape into balls and serve with the chili sauce.

If you wish, you can even try sautéeing vegetables with olive oil and a pinch of salt, like the one with kale shown in the photo above.

Other chili sauce that pairs well with vegetables

If you love eating your vegetables with chili sauce like this, you may want to try some of these Indonesian sambal/chili sauces as well:

Sambal Berambang Asem dan Bola Bayam - Chili and Tamarind Sambal with Spinach Balls

4.8 from 6 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson

Categories:

Cuisine:

Ingredients:

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

Serves: 4-6

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Sambal
  • 100 gram shallot (Indonesian: bawang merah)
  • 8 red cayenne chilies (Indonesian: cabe keriting merah) (*)
  • 2 teaspoon toasted shrimp paste (Indonesian: terasi bakar)
  • 3 tablespoon palm sugar (Indonesian: gula Jawa)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • tamarind solution from 2 tablespoon tamarind + 5 tablespoon hot water, strain remove pulps and pits
  • Greens
  • 2 bunch of spinach (**)

Instructions

  • Sambal
    1. Grind shallots, red chilies, toasted terasi/belacan/shrimp paste, palm sugar, and salt. You can use a food processor, or even a traditional mortar and pestle.
    2. Transfer the ground chili paste into a small saucepot, add tamarind solution. Turn on the heat to medium, stir, and bring to a boil. Adjust the amount of salt and sugar as needed.
    3. Turn off the heat. Transfer the chili sauce to a serving bowl and enjoy with your greens of choice.
  • Greens
    1. Wash and drain spinach to remove dirt. Add spinach to a wok/deep pot, cover, turn on the heat, and cook until wilted. Drain the cooked spinach well, and divide into 4-6 equal portions, then make each portion into a spinach ball.

Notes

  • (*) For less spicy sambal, use red Fresno chilies, or even 1 red bell pepper (Indonesian: paprika merah).
  • (**) Other than spinach, you can also try yam/sweet potato/cassava leaves (Indonesian: daun singkong), water spinach (Indonesian: kangkung), chayote (Indonesian: labu siam), or even kale and broccoli.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen

Comments

  • The Red Dandy The Red Dandy says:

    Hey. Thx for the recipe. We have so many mangoes at the moment. We need more ideas. :) Be careful in your translation of Kangkung .. I think you woyld maybe say watercress in 'bahasa ingris' morning glory (plant) as most people know it is beautiful but toxic. The again. Red x

    • Anita Anita says:

      Thanks for the warning. I've updated the translation for kangkung to water spinach. :)

  • Margaret Margaret says:

    Hi, I’m very excited to try this recipe! Can you advise the best way to grind shallot s d chili? Do I use a food processor or mortar/pestle? Also, do the shallot and chilli need to be minced? Thanks.

    • Anita Anita says:

      I use a food processor to grind the shallots and chilies, but if you have a mortar/pestle and want to do it the traditional way, you can do that as well :) I usually just roughly chop the shallot and chili before letting the food processor do its job, but if you have a powerful food processor, you may not need to do so.

  • Danielle Wolter Danielle Wolter says:

    It is incredible how many great dishes I am yet to try. Such a fabulous dish to make over the weekend!

  • Krissy Allori Krissy Allori says:

    Absolutely can't wait to make this sauce. The flavors look just amazing. Thank you!

  • stephanie stephanie says:

    OMG this was soo delicious!! Thank you for sharing!

  • Pamela Pamela says:

    Yum! This looks quite a delicious meal and just bursting with flavor! My mouth is watering!

  • Cyndy Cyndy says:

    Oh this sounds amazing! Weekend project is set now - the flavors are mouthwatering.

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