Needing a spicy butt kicking? This is your condiment. Right here.
I may have been experiencing some mild congestion as I washed and stemmed these steaming hot little loves. Let me tell you… it didn’t last long. Moments, maybe. The second that those precious, spicy, tear inducing oils burst out of their shell – holy smokes!
I remember as a kid, one of the scariest condiments that lived in the fridge was sambal oelek. Fiery and hot, not exactly my favorite. As I got older, I began to love spice, even extreme spice. You know, the kind that sears your mouth and makes every cell in your body awake, attentive, and uncomfortable. My first real experience with that kind of heat was in Thailand; a glass noodle salad that became my staple lunch was so incredibly hot that I would literally need to get up and walk around in between bites. I loved it! I can’t say I go out of my way to experience that kind of tongue sizzle on a regular basis here at home, but boy did I enjoy it at the time.
A typical sambal is made of chilies, garlic, ginger, fish sauce or shrimp paste, and some type of vinegar. Generally all warming herbs. Ginger to make you sweat and get your fires burning inside, chilies to ignite your mouth, vinegar to light up all the flavors and spike your taste buds. A sauce to truly warm you on all levels. I had an abundance of Birds Eye chilies, along with some of this years fresh garlic – seeing as my spice cupboard is already essentially overflowing, and I have a jar full of dried Birds Eye’s already… a sambal was the next logical use.
My version…. A spicy, pungent, multi-use condiment free of fish sauce or shrimp paste, made by hand using a pestle and mortar. Five simple ingredients, ultra warming, naturally preserving, and seriously butt kicking. Versatility wise, you can pretty much use whatever type of chilies you have access to, even use a couple of different types! Sauces, especially simple ones like this are so easy to switch up depending on what you have on hand.
Super Spicy Sambal
1 Cup Whole Birds Eye Chilies
1 Head of Garlic
1 Stalk of Lemongrass
3 Tbsp Quality Sea Salt
1/2 Cup Raw Ume Plum Vinegar (Rice vinegar works super well too!)
Peel the garlic, keeping the cloves whole. Bruise and coarsely chop the lemongrass. Using a pestle and mortar to pulverize, begin with the chilies, about half a cup. Twist, mash, and crush the chilies; burst them open. Once they begin to develop a pulp, add in the other half cup, continuing to grind. Once all chilies have been pressed open, add in the garlic and lemongrass, pressing and popping open each clove. Sprinkle with salt, and allow the mixture to sit for about 15-20 minutes. The salt will help release the juices from the herbs. Begin once again twisting and mashing the mixture, squeezing out more and more liquid. Once the sauce is as uniform, or as chunky as you wish it to be – I wanted mine to be a bit chunky because I love biting into spicy, vinegary garlic – pour the vinegar in and give it a couple more good squeezes. Transfer to a sterilized glass jar, leaving room at the top. Refrigerate, and enjoy on basically anything!