IFC – Indonesian Fried Chicken or Ayam Penyet a.k.a DEATH BY CHILI.

FeaturedIFC – Indonesian Fried Chicken or Ayam Penyet a.k.a DEATH BY CHILI.

Hello everyone, it’s been a long time since I last posted, and I think it’s about time I revisit this much ignored blog. I’m back with an explosive new recipe, and a real twist on fried chicken.

OK, so first of all, a disclaimer; this is nothing like the fried chicken you’ve seen in the past. In fact, I only call it fried chicken, because it is deep fried. This is where the similarities end. There is no breading, but there is a crispy skin. There is no glaze or sauce, just a super spicy oily sambal. This is not a recipe for those who faint of stomach.

So here I give you ‘Ayam Penyet’ or in English – ‘Smashed Chicken’. Personally I think ‘death by chili chicken’ is more appropriate, but you be the judge.

4 simple ingredients – red and green bird’s eye chili, red onions and garlic – mixed with the frying oil will make the best sambal ever.

The recipe is very simple, anyone can do it, but it delivers with big spice, big flavours, crispy skin and juice meat. Oh and when I say big spice, I mean it. In this particular, recipe I used 60 birds eye chili, and would have used more, but the wife isn’t so good with spice.

So here we go, proceed with caution…

I’ve broken the recipe into 3 stages; poaching, sambal and frying.


Poaching liquid

  • Big saucepan full of water
  • Plenty of salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/4 nutmeg grated


  • 26 small, green, birds eye chili
  • 34 red / orange birds eye chili – sizes can range
  • 3 medium size garlic
  • 3 big Asian shallots or one normal one
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 6-10 tablespoons of frying oil – see later


  • Wok half full of appropriate cooking oil (something that can handle high temperatures – sunflower, vegetable or canola)
  • 3 large chicken thighs


  1. First all, you need to poach your chicken. Take your saucepan full of water, and add in the seasonings listed. Bring it to the boil, and then reduce the heat until you get just below a simmer. You don’t want a rolling boil here. Then add your chicken and poach it for about 10 minutes. The aim here is pretty much cook the chicken until about 90% done. Once this is done, drain the chicken and put it in the fridge to fully cool down. This stage is essential to achieving crispy skin.
  2. .Prepare the Sambal, this is probably the energy intensive part of the process. Put all of  the ingredients into  mortar and pestle (or cobek and ulek if you’re lucky enough to have one). Then simply mash into a rough paste. You don’t a perfect paste, you should still be able to see large pieces of chili, but they should be flecked in and amongst much smaller pieces, see photos for the best idea.
This just about shows the consistency you’re aiming for – as you can see most of the chili has been based into a fine paste, but there are still a number of larger flakes.

Note: DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT be tempted to use a blender or processor, and DO NOT finely chop it all beforehand to make it easier. It will simply not taste the same. Trust me here, I didn’t believe it at first and its true. You also really want that roughness about it, it shouldn’t be uniform and this can only be achieved by hand.

  1. Get your oil hot, just to the point that if you put a wooden chopstick into it, it begins to bubble away. Then add in your well drained and fully chilled chicken. By having the chicken fully chilled, you won’t over cook the chicken as you crisp the skin. Rather you’ll simply be reheating it. I recommend using a nice long pair of tongs for this, as even well drained chicken may cause some hot oil to go flying. Cook it until the outside becomes brown and crisp. I find this may take 6 – 8 minutes.
  1. Now comes the good bit, and possibly the most important. Your chicken should be cooling, but do not throw that oil away. Take about 6-10 tablespoons of it (start with 6 and add more as needed) and add it into a warming pan. Then take your sambal and cook it out for about 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Instantly your kitchen should come alive with the smell of chili garlic and onion. You’re not looking for colour, just for the larger pieces of chili to start to wilt. Using the oil which was used for cooking the chicken ensures an extra infusion of taste, and really makes the dish. You want the sambal to come out fair oily, because the oil is where the flavor is.
Crispy chicken on the Cobek waiting for its sambal
  1. Put your chicken into the cobek (if you have one, a plate if you don’t), and put a generous amount of the sambal onto its crispy skin. Next, take the Ulek and lightly smash the chicken open, exposing the juicy meat to the spicy sambal oil. Give it a minute to get to know each other, and you’re almost ready to eat.
‘Smashed’ chicken with the all the good sambal and oil soaking into that delicious meat.

Serving suggestions: You want at least 1 – 2 chicken thighs each. Preferably 2, of course, though no one’s judging you for taking 3. Serve all the chicken on one plate, or cobek, and people help themselves. My favourite accompaniment is a bed of plain white rice, with a little Kecap manis or sweet soy sauce dashed over the top. The rice is perfect for mopping up all that delicious oil. Have some milk or chilled water handy, this one will knock your socks off.



Day Trip to KL

Day Trip to KL

Hello all, just got back from a flying one day trip to Kuala Lumpur. It was my second time to the Malaysian capital, but my first one alone. I always find solo travel a different, but often better way to sample a city or country. Considering my last journey was far from pleasant, I was keen to give the capital a second opportunity to impress me.

Landing and arriving in KL is much the same as any other airport. KL is a decent airport; it has nothing on Singapore’s Changi, but there are a number of other Southeast Asian countries that it could give a lesson or two to. As always, the journey was full of people walking slowly, and me dreaming of a day when walkways are split into a fast and slow lane.
Moving out the airport, and into the city. One of the reasons I’ve always preferred Singapore to Kuala Lumpur for my frequent day trips is the distance between the airport and city. It is a rather formidable 50km. The travel by car would be expensive, and take a good portion of time from the trip. Especially when you consider that it would be both ways in a single day. As this trip, and destination was forced on me, I had no choice but to grin and bear it. I must, however, say that I was honestly surprised at the ease, simplicity, and speed that the journey from airport to city was made.
The KLIA Express makes the journey every 15 minutes, and takes approximately 30 minutes; going direct, without stopping to KL Sentral. There is also the option for the KL Transit, which stops at multiple stations on route. Naturally, this makes for a longer journey. I get the impression that the prices are the same, so unless your place of stay is on route, I’d suggest taking the Express. The cost, as of March 2017, was 55MYR one way. If you’re doing a day trip, like myself, it’s 100MYR for a return. It’s worth it, the 10MYR saved is almost an extra beer on Jalan Alor. Overall, I have to say that my concerns surrounding the journey to and from the airport were quickly alleviated. In fairness to Kuala Lumpur, the journey to and from the airport is quite similar to that in Singapore. Though it is considerably cheaper in the Merlion city. It is, however, about the only thing between the two that is cheaper.

KLIA Transit and Express prices – correct as of March 2017. From official website.

It was on my trip to the KL Express, that provided one of the silly little stories that all trips, we hope, are full of. Deciding to use my fairly passable Indonesian language skills to help me get around, I was slightly alarmed at someone offering to show me where to rent a train, instead of where to board one. After a few minutes of intense confusion, I discovered that for train in Bahasa Indonesia – ‘kereta’ – is actually the word for car in Malaysian. It was at this point that I gave up using Indonesian to communicate. The two languages are incredibly similar; Indonesian being a form of Malaysian, but the differences were too much for me in my sleep deprived state.

Upon arriving in KL Sentral Station, I immediately went about finding my way to Jalan Alor. However, having found a ticket machine which would provide me with a ticket to a monorail station near to it, I quickly learnt that all my denomination were too large to use in the machines present. So I’d need a way to break some large notes. Somehow or another, this lead to me eating a McDonald’s breakfast. I probably should be ashamed of this, but I’m not going to lie; no regrets.

So the double egg Mcmuffin was demolished, I returned to machine, purchased the ticket, and went about finding my way to the correct form of transport and platform. It was at this point that I had my first, of two incidents, where KL transport employees, knowingly gave me wrong information. Anyone who has ever been to KL Sentral, will attest to the sheer labyrinth that it is. It is the point where all the transport methods in KL truly integrate; the layout, though, is mind bogglingly confusing. There are 2 or 3 methods situated close by to one another, but others are found further out from the centre. Naturally the Monorail system to Imbi, falls into the latter category. To find out where to board the monorail, I asked an employee on the subway station, where the monorail to Imbi could be found. They repeated my request – monorail to Imbi – and promptly pointed me towards the subway and to take the platform to the left. I entered and after finding no reference to Imbi looked for further assistance. I was then told the correct place to go to, but this did involve me losing my paid ticket in order to exit. Therefore, I had to pay again.

A map of the integrated transport system of KL. The system is effective, but potentially confusing. From official website.

Finally, after much confusion, I found my way to Imbi station and from there I was faced with a small walk to Jalan Alor. So here’s my first top tip when traveling, both in KL or any city; utilise Google maps’ offline capabilities. If you know you’re going to spend a lot of time in a new city, anywhere in the world, then download Google maps to your smartphone, and download the city map to your phone. It can give you great advice on getting places, and can even provide you with your GPS position with your phone on airplane mode. It made the journey from Imbi to Alor very simple.

Jalan Alor was billed to me as ‘street food heaven’. And here’s the thing, I can believe that it’s true. Unfortunately, it cannot be said for during the day. At night, the street may come alive with the mingling of backpackers and locals looking for grub. During the day it seems to be half closed and more than half empty. It certainly has left me with a reason to go back. Regardless, I found an open joint and ordered some kwetiau goreng (Indonesian spelling yes I know) and a large bottle of Carlsberg. The fried noodles were more than a bit oily, I feel like the excess was enough to give my motorbike an oil change. That being said, it tasted good, and when you’ve got warm sun, and a good cold beer, then there’s always going to be good feelings felt. Unfortunately, such feelings can’t last for long on a flying day trip, so I was soon off to find the way to the Petronas Towers.



Lunch on Jalan Alor kwetiau goreng and a Carlsberg.

It was on the way back to the monorail that I found a street seller with Cendol. It’s one of my favourite drinks in Indonesia – a syrupy coconut milk drink that is normally filled with ice and green flour balls. It sounds odd, but it’s delicious. This one certainly was too… Until I discovered that it was filled not just with green flour balls, but also corn. Alas, I hate corn.

Cendol – one of my favourite drinks. Not sure on the use of 🌽

Ok, cendol diversion aside, back to the journey to the Patronas Towers. I knew already, from research, that I needed to take the monorail to Bukit Nanas, from there I should walk to the subway and get off somewhere along the line. Unfortunately, I had forgotten the stop, and needed to ask for assistance. I asked another transport employee, which stop for the Patronas Towers, and they again repeated my question. The response? Get off at Pasar Seni. Now by this point, I was wary of bogus advice. So I checked my maps, and discovered that the area was closer to KL Sentral than the Patronas Towers from that location. It was during this map check that I realised that the stop was KLCC. Really not impressed with the KL transport employees though.

Ok, so putting the terrible guidance to one side, I was determined to have the highlight of my trip; the Patronas Towers. They are truly a world renowned marvel for a reason. You can’t help but be in awe of them when standing at their foot. Gigantic monoliths keeping watch on the city. I felt dizzy just looking up at them. I stopped for the obligatory photo session, and I am quite happy with the results there. Not bad considering I apparently forgot to charge my batteries and had to snap in a hurry.

KL’s twin towers. An awesome sight to behold

From there is was just a simple task of jumping on the subway back to KL Sentral, and taking the Express back to the airport. I did, however, make one quick detour for a cheeky Nandos. There are no Nandos in Jakarta, and this is a crime.

A cheeky Nandos – excuse picture quality, camera had died.

Asian Roots; Spotlight Galangal

Asian Roots; Spotlight Galangal

Excuse my delay in writing  a new post; exam season is just about finished in the land of Indonesia, and it every bit as stressful as you’d expect in an Asian country. Marking tests takes it out of you mentally more than physically, and for some reason this makes my desire for writing to diminish.

So let me introduce you to my next series of informative blog posts; Asian Roots. In many ways it is a continuation of essential Indonesian ingredients, but the ingredients I’m spotlighting are a little more relevant in a broader Asian perspective, so you could view it as essential Asian ingredients, but I’ll be focusing on roots.

Initially there’s only three types of roots which I will be discussing; ginger, galangal, and tumeric. Many people will be fairly familiar with the first, and almost as much with the final one, though I’d imagine this will be only in a ground form. Ground versions are good, and quite essential to Indian food, but outside of that country, the trio are used primarily fresh and often in combination.

Over the course of the next three weeks, I aim to inform you all about these scary, yet really not so intimidating “Asian roots”. This series will then culminate in the trios, in my opinion, ultimate useage. The making of the world’s most tasty dish; Rendang.

Let’s kick off with the least known of the three, any my personal favourite; galangal. Pronounced “guh-lan-gal”, it is also known as “laos” and “langkuas” in Malay based languages. Like tumeric and ginger it is a rhizome, and can be confused with ginger.

Galangal – lighter in colour than ginger – photo credit to Food Republic

It is often referred to as Thai ginger. This is simply because it is to Thai cooking, what ginger is to Chinese. It is part of the Thai holy trinity in cooking. Together with lemongrass and kafir lime leaves, it forms the base for the majority of their soups and curries.

There is definitely a small flavour overlap with its more famous cousin, but ask any Southeast Asian Ibu, and they’ll tell you that you can’t substitute the two with each other. While there are some similarities, they are only slight and really, in many ways, they are polar opposites

In appearance, they are of similar size, though galangal is often slightly larger. Ginger is somewhat darker in colour, galangal is whiter, and tumeric is often a light yellowy red.

In terms of flavour profile, ginger and galangal are truly poles apart. I’ve seen some recipes which suggest you can substitute one for the other, but this is a bigger lie than the £350 million Brexit NHS pledge (Remainer and proud – slightly bitter too). Ginger is hot and spicy, whereas galangal is cooling, fragrant and pine like. Comparing them is like fire and ice.

To prepare, you can treat galangal in a number of ways. Just bear in mind whether or not you intend it to be edible or not. The texture is extremely wood like, so if you intend to let people eat it, it must be heavily processed beforehand. Pounding or processing it into a paste is the best way to incorporate it into your meal. Most Southeast Asia recipe’s that use it will have it in paste form. If not, cut it into a disk and use it much like bayleafs or kafir lime leaves; to flavour your dish and be discarded at the end. If you are making it into a paste, then be sure to remove the skin, if as a disk, then there’s no need. It’ll be discarded anyway.

When it comes to storing galangal, I typically prefer to buy it fresh and when needed. It can be stored for a week or two in the fridge. There are some people who suggest buying it, cutting it into disks and freezing it. I’m not saying this method is bad, but I just don’t think you get the same zing out of it after freezing.

Cut into disks like this to flavour soups and curries. Just insure to remove them before serving, as they’re next to inedible. Galangal is also best frozen in this form. Photo credit: Jacquelyn’s kitchen.

 If you wanted to start cooking with this cool root, then I’d suggest using it in a simple stir-fry. The following one is just an example, and is actually one of my go-to stir-fry recipes.

Spice paste

3 tablespoons lemon grass – finely chopped

1 inch piece of galangal – finely chopped and skin removed

4 chopped garlic cloves

3/4 teaspoon of ground tumeric

Stir fry ingredients and sauce

Any vegetables you desire – usually choose green beans and carrots.

Any meat or substitute ( I often use tofu or tempe – a fermented protein substitute)

1 1\2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon oyster sauce

1 1\2 teaspoon fish sauce

Salt to taste and if needed.


1. Blitz the spice paste into a paste (simple right?).

2. In oil, stir fry veggies and meat until about half done.

3. Add in spice paste and cook it out. Ensuring to cook the other ingredients thoroughly.

4. Add in the seasonings.

5. Enjoy with rice.

It’s a simple recipe set right in southeast Asia, with a lot of inspiration from Cambodia. It’ll give you a good example of galangal’s interesting flavour. Aside from this recipe, it you really wanted to try experimenting with galangal, then a simple look into any Thai cookbook would give you untold inspiration.

So to recap, galangal; it’s got a cooling, piney taste. It’s very woody and can be frozen. It’s essential to Thai cooking, but certainly very present in Southeast Asian cuisine. Stay tuned for more on ginger and tumeric. 

The All Comforting, Meatball Sub.

The All Comforting, Meatball Sub.

Wow! It has been a hell of week, very busy! I managed to screw up my toe at the start of the week, and I’ve been limping ever since. I’ve also been busy working on various projects, and my team, Liverpool, managed to lose the UEFA Cup, badly. So it has been a hell of a week, and this is why I’ve not been too active.

That being said, I have been busy cooking this week, and I’ve been trying out a number of new recipes which will be coming your way some day soon. Two of my culinary highlights this week, would have to be rendang, and butter chicken curry, both big favourites of mine. However, I’ve decided today maybe the best time to bring in my first Western Recipe.

That has to be a Meatball Sub, which is one of my ultimate comfort foods. It brings me back to my hell raising days of university, when I’d roll out of bed hungover, and I’d stagger to the local subway for this messy beauty. Unfortunately, my hell raising days have slowly petered out, but my love for this exquisite sandwich has not. It is a great pick me up, and a real reminder of home. Something very important when living abroad.


It is simple to make, and meatballs and marinara are easy to freeze and store. So let’s get making that piece of heaven, that will help me get over Liverpool’s shocking loss to Sevila.

250g mince beef
1 heel of a loaf of bread – the bit at the end.
2 pinches of dried thyme
2 pinches of dried rosemary
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper

It is so easy to make, and make sure you do use one heel of bread. It is no filler, trust me, the bread soaks up all the juices, and makes it juicy and delicious.

1.Put into a bowl, and mix it all together, really give it a good knead.

Note: make a small burger patty, and fry it now, taste it and adjust as necessary.

2. Roll it up into small ping pong sized balls. I like to roll it once to get the correct amount, then I squash it and mix it together a bit more. Then I roll it into the final result. I just find this way ensures it sticks together best when cooking.

3. The mix should make around 17 – 18 meatballs. 17 if you followed my instruction regarding the taste check.

4 good sized tomatoes – sliced into chunks
1 onion – well diced
3 cloves of garlic – minced
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste.
1 cup of water
1/2 beef stock cube

This marinara is so simple, and doesn’t use a complicated list of ingredients. So you do need to use the best stock cube, and tomatoes you can afford. The individual ingredients really do punch their own weight here.

1. Put the olive oil in the pan on medium – high heat, and sweat off the onion and garlic. We’re not looking for colour here, just to get there onions to begin to go translucent.

2. Introduce the tomatoes to the pan, and cover it. Allow the tomatoes to cook down for 5 to 10 minutes, and allow them to add their moisture to the mix.

3. Add in all the final ingredients (not the meatballs), and let it cook down on a rolling boil for another 5 minutes.

4. Put the marinara into a blender, and blitz down to a smooth consistency.

5. Return to the pan, and then either add water, or reduce the liquid until the desired viscosity is acquired.

6. Finally, fry the meatballs until golden brown, but not completely cooked, then add them to the mix, and allow the residual heat to finish the cook. They also get the chance to soak up that amazing sauce.


Meatball Marinara – I use 4 – 6 balls per six inch sub.
Olive Oil
6 inch baguette

The final piece is very easy to put together. So simple.

1.Quickly drip some olive oil on the baguette, having opened it up, then crisp it up on a dry pan. If you have a griddle pan, then even better; get some nice char.

2. Apply the mozzarella to the toasted bun, and then slather the sauce and meatballs onto the bread. If you have a grill – I don’t – then put the mozzarella on top of the sauce, and meatballs, then grill it until melted. I do it the other way to achieve gooey cheese.

3. Put it in your mouth, and breath a sigh of happinesimage


Essential Indonesian Ingredients – Sambal

Essential Indonesian Ingredients – Sambal

This is an additional article, and a follow up, to my previous article about Sambal Terasi. Sambal is so variable, and flexible, with such an importance to the cuisine, I felt it required an additional article to explain this.


Ok, so first of all, Sambal isn’t necessarilly an ingredient. It is more typically used as a condiment, and can be found in almost every Warung and Kaki Lima – street food vendors – in Indonesia.

If I had to give a metaphor, to help Westerners understand this amazing condiment, it would be this; Sambal is to Indonesia, what parmesan is to the Italians; Pepper to the French, and tomato kethup to the British. It is something on the side of every meal, which people add to their own taste.

That is where the similarities end though, because whereas my European examples take a “one size fits all” approach, the opposite is true in Indonesia. A large number of Indonesian dishes will have their own specific sambal, and each vendor of that dish, is likely to have their own version of it. Such is the importance of this condiment to the national cuisine, a vendor’s livelihood can often depend on his sambal quality, as much his, or her, main product.

To give you an example of this, let me refer to a rather funny altercation with my wife, as we went out in search of Mie Ayam – Chicken Noodles. It is one  of her favourite meals, and being Indonesian, she considers herself a sambal connoisseur. We went to a street vendor, and everything seemed great. The noodles were the right ones, and well cooked. The chicken tasted great, and the broth was perfect. Then came the sambal, which wasn’t the correct one for the dish, nor well made. We’ve NEVER eaten there again.

Now you can see its importance, let’s move on to how you eat with it. Now in England, we have two types of Ketchup eaters – the “to the siders” and the “go crazy, and pour all over.” In Indonesia, there is only “to the side”, and you add small amounts of it, to each bite you have, just a small amount mind, as it can overpower the taste. The only exception to this, is when eating soups, or broths, when you add the sambal to alter the flavour or spice, and this is entirely to taste.

If you’re interested in cooking, and eating, Indonesian food, always try to “Google” the dish you want to try, to see if it has its own sambal. If I ever cover a dish, with a specific sambal, I will ensure to post it alongside. Pairing the right sambal with an Indonesian meal, is almost as important as the cooking of the meal itself.

To end with, let me give you a quick recipe for the most basic of all sambals – Sambal Oelek. The name comes from Ulek, the stone pestal and mortar.



20 keriting chilies, long thin ones
4 garlic cloves
6 Indonesian shallots – 2 ordinary ones


  1. I like to pre-chop all my ingredient, before mashing them into a paste, so do this first.
  2. Add your chopped chilies, shallots, and garlic to you cobek and ulek-ulek, or mortar and pestle, add salt to help you grind it, then grind.
  3. Add in a splash of oil to bring it together.
  4. (Optional) put the mixture in a frying pan, and cook the paste for a minute or two. I prefer this, as it blends the flavours nicer, and mellows the garlic, and shallots a bit.
  5. Salt to taste.

Sambal Oelek is the base for most sambals, so it is a great place to begin. From here you can add a whole host of ingredients to replicate Indonesian recipes, or make your own. Popular ingredient would be – lime, lemon, various vinegars, sugar, tomatoes, terasi, spicier chilies, bell peppers, etc…

Sambal Oelek is also what is commonl referred to as “chili paste” in many recipes.





Sambal Terasi

Sambal Terasi

If there is one  thing, which is definitively Indonesian, it is Sambal. It is said you are not Indonesian, if you don’t like and know how to make it.

That’s all well and good, but there are almost as many different sambals, as there are islands in Indonesia. This isn’t even an exaggeration, the dish you eat will most likely have a certain sambal; different ethnic groups will have their own, and each ibu – ibu will have their own recipe for each one.


In this post, I’m just going to talk about one type in particular – sambal terasi. It is a favourite amongst Indonesians, especially those in Java. It is special, because of the rather pungent ingredient, terasi, or shrimp paste. For more information on this fragrant ingredient, check out my previous post.


This sambal is easy to make, its main ingredients are simply; chili, garlic, red onions, and terasi. Secondary to these, I added salt, lime juice, a little palm sugar and vegetable oil. There is a secret in the oil I use though. My wife’s aunty shared this with me, and it is a bit of a game changer. Don’t use new oil, but oil that has been previously used to fry something. Indonesians often use oil from frying ayam goreng – something I’ll post one day – for this recipe, I used oil leftover from making buffalo wings with my secret sauce. No I won’t be posting that.

Ayo! Mari bikin sambal terasi.

6 cabe keriting – the long red, curly chillies
3 cabe lombok – the big fat chillies
3 cabe rawit – birds eyes chillies
3 cloves of garlic
4 red shallots – the small Asian ones. If you can’t get them, use 1 1/2 ordinary ones.
1teaspoon of terasi
1 teaspoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon of palm sugar
3 teaspoons of used oil


I should say here, that everyone makes their sambal differently. It a matter of personal taste. Some people, for example, will even add one tomato to this. The number of chillies is flexible, I use lombok to bulk out the body, and keep the spicy level to something in between mild, and hell. You could use no lombok and up to 15-18 keriting, to make it spicier. Though, if you really want heat, add more birds eyes.

Ultimately, this recipe is super flexible, and these amounts just represent my – and by that, I mean my wife’s – personal preference.

1. Roast the terasi – put it in a frying pan, no oil and  heat it gently for 2-3 minutes.

2. Chop up your main ingredients – chilies, shallots, and garlic. Yeah, you’re going to pound them into a paste, but this just makes life easier.

3.  Get out your cobek and ulek – ulek, or mortar and pestle. Honestly, don’t use a blender, you’re looking for some whole chilli pieces, this is not hot sauce. Bash, smash, mash and grind the chilies, garlic, shallots, sugar and terasi into a loose paste. See the photo for a rough guide.


Note: use salt to help your grinding effort. It reduces the moisture, and increases the abrasive action of your grinder.

4. Heat the oil gently in a pan, then add this paste. Cook the paste out for about two minutes.

5. Finish off with the lime juice.


This makes an amazing dip, as a condiment for all forms of food – sauces, soups and anything else you want a hint of spice in.

Essential Indonesian ingredients – terasi

Essential Indonesian ingredients – terasi


Terasi,or shrimp paste as it is known to us westerners, is an ingredient, which will ultimately divide opinion of all those who read this. It is made by taking the shells of shrimps, and putting them through a fermentation process. The result, is a  paste, or sometimes sauce, which is quite essential to a variety of Indonesian dishes.

The role shrimp paste plays in Indonesian cuisine, is actually very subtle, yet surprisingly essential. It is to Indonesia, what fish sauce is to Thai, and Vietnamese cooking, and the anchovi to the French. It brings seasoning, and that precious hint of unami to your  cooking.

The paste is actually prevalent across South East Asia, with almost every country, and often every village, city or town, within  it, having their own varieties. Contrary to popular belief – I’m looking at you Wikipedia – it is not used in most dishes, but when it is, it simply can’t be substituted, yes anchovies and fish sauce do the same job, but the flavour is very different.


Note: Indonesia never uses fish sauce – I repeat – never uses fish sauce. Just because Thai and Vietnamese cuisine does, doesn’t mean all South East Asian countries do.

The paste, as previously stated, is essential to a number of dishes. It is most often used in fish or vegetable based dishes and quite often dips too. One condiment, to which it is beyond essential, is sambal terasi. A favourite accompaniment to many Indonesian dishes.

When using terasi, there are a few things to be aware off. First of all, it stinks. It beyond stinks. It is wretched. It will make you vomit. Second, you have to roast it gently before use. This will make it smell worse, and worse again, it will make your whole house stink – windows  wide open people. Third, start off with small amounts. Properly used it takes dishes to an entirely new level; over used and it will ruin them completely. Finally, it is worth it. To really appreciate it’s subtle flavour, you need to make sambal terasi; both with and without the terasi. Once you’ve tasted the difference, you’ll learn to accept the ingredient. Though you’ll never love it’s smell.

With this in mind, I’ll be exploring the vast world of sambal this weekend, and finishing with an authentic sambal terasi recipe.