Sweet Chili Sambal 4.000

Michael Temchine for The Washington Post

Cooking for One Feb 3, 2010

This sambal gets its sweet-tartness from a combination of tamarind and sugar, spiked with chili peppers and deepened with fish sauce. It's great on eggs, spooned over grilled fish and as a dipping sauce for french fries or in place of cocktail sauce for shrimp.

Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several weeks or frozen.

Servings: 4 cups
  • 1 walnut-size piece tamarind pulp or 1 heaping tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large poblano chile peppers, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 3 ripe (red) jalapeño peppers, stemmed but not seeded, then coarsely chopped (may substitute green jalapeño peppers)
  • 2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Ground cayenne pepper


If you're using tamarind pulp, combine the hot water and pulp in a small bowl. Smash the pulp with a fork to dissolve as much of it as you can. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then strain and discard the pulp, reserving the tamarind water. If using the paste, dissolve it in the hot water.

Combine the bell pepper, poblano and jalapeno peppers, onions, garlic and oil in a food processor; process to form a coarse paste. Transfer to a medium nonreactive saucepan over very low heat and cook uncovered for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't stick or burn. The vegetables should be very soft, and the mixture should be slightly thickened.

Add the reserved tamarind water, brown sugar and fish sauce; cook uncovered for 30 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is sticky, thick, salty and sweet. The oil should have fully separated from the paste and be sitting on top. Add cayenne pepper to taste and mix well.

Cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container for several weeks.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook," by Jaden Hair (Tuttle, 2009).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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