Cherry Sambal 16.000

Renee Comet for The Washington Post

Plate Lab Apr 4, 2014

In honor of this year's National Cherry Blossom Festival, DC Coast executive chef Miles Vaden has sweetened his basic sambal recipe with house-made maraschino cherries.

Do not use the bright-red maraschino cherries available in grocery stores; see the related recipe.

The condiment is on DC Coast's spring menu, served with duck confit gyoza. You might want to serve it alongside roast chicken or stir it into vinaigrettes and Asian-style slaws.

Make Ahead: The cherry sambal can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. For longer storage, the sambal can be processed via the water-bath canning method.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 16 servings; makes 1 cup

  • 2 cups Scott Clime's Maraschino Cherries, drained (see related recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled, finely grated ginger root
  • 1 cup water, or more as needed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought sambal (see NOTE)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

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Combine the maraschino cherries, ginger, water, sugar, sambal, lemon juice and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has reduced by about half.

Transfer to a blender; remove the center knob in the lid (so steam can escape), then place a paper towel over the opening. Puree to a pourable consistency. If the puree is too thick, add water as needed. If the mixture seems thin, return it to the saucepan and cook over medium heat to thicken.

Transfer to an airtight container; cool completely before serving or storing.

NOTE: To make chef Miles Vaden's basic sambal, combine 7 ounces of thinly sliced, stemmed/seeded red and green Thai or bird’s-eye chilies and 1/2 cup water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then cook over low heat for 15 minutes. Drain, and transfer the chilies to a blender, along with 2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar, 2 garlic cloves, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. Pulse until finely chopped but not smooth. Add water to adjust the consistency as needed. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Miles Vaden, executive chef at DC Coast in downtown Washington.

Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.

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