Sambal oelek is not quite as popular in the West as sriracha but in recent years it has begun to emerge from the shadow of the rooster sauce. These days, sambal oelek has a strong following among people who want a purer hot pepper experience. It has a variety of important qualities that make it one of the most versatile chili pepper products on the market. Here are some very tasty sambal oelek uses so you can get the most out of this chili paste.
Use it in a marinade
You can use sambal oelek and one of the ingredients in a marinade or you can use it as a marinade without adding anything else to it. Its thick texture allows it to cling to the surface of meats and its red color can give paler foods like shrimp or chicken an attractive red color.
It is especially well suited to open flame cooking and can make an attractive addition to marinades for skewer preparations. The gentle heat that sambal oelek gives will be mellowed by the cooking process so that only the slightest trace of spice will remain when the dish is ready to serve.
Add it to a Bloody Mary
This is one of our favorite sambal oelek uses. Bloody Mary cocktails are known for their savory and spicy character, which mixologists have achieved via the addition of everything from pickled habaneros to sambal oelek. Not only does it have the right color to blend into a blood Mary perfectly, its subtle heat will not dominate the drink but instead will give it a subtle spark.
Use it as a condiment at the table
The traditional way to use sambal oelek is as a condiment served at the table the way salt and pepper are served in the West. People in Southeast Asia serve it in little bowls for dipping or pouring over rice, meats and vegetables. It works that way with Western foods as well.
Use it as a ketchup substitute on your burger or as a dipping sauce for your fries. If it’s too spicy for you, mix it with some regular ketchup or mayonnaise. It is a great salsa substitute on tacos as well.
Use it in stir-fried dishes
Another traditional way to use sambal oelek is in the sauce component of your stir-fried dishes. The chili paste’s thick texture allows it to coat meats and vegetables evenly, which is one of the desirable characteristics of stir-fry sauce. It is a good alternative to chili pepper powder, which can burn quickly in a hot wok.
Add it to your barbecue sauce
If you want to add heat and liquid to barbecue sauce without adding excessive acidity or too many other flavor notes, sambal oelek is one of your best bets. It brings a little moisture and a little heat without anything else that might clash with the other flavors.
Add it to a salad dressing
Sambal oelek can have a dramatic visual effect if you add it to a vinaigrette due to the chili pepper seeds and pieces of red pepper. In addition to improving the looks, it will also liven up the flavor of your salad.
Sambal oelek works well in creamy dressings, especially if you want to dampen the heat a little. Use it in the mayonnaise for a potato salad or coleslaw. It can enhance the color just like paprika while also giving your dish considerably more heat.