A Sambol By Any Other Name

A U.S. dearth of Indonesian and Sri Lankan restaurants (there are less than a handful of Indonesian eateries even in America's largest melting pot, the borough of Queens, NY) has left most of us largely unfamiliar with the defining element of those cuisines - a panoply of zesty condiments known as sambols. Functionally identical to India's chutneys, sambols accompany every meal at the Indonesian and Sri Lankan table; a slight distinction is the fresh and typically uncooked nature of sambols. Another difference is the omnipresence of citrus as a souring agent. Cafe Drake loves these piquant menu sidekicks so much we're sharing our recipes for two of the most typical and adaptable. 


A Sri Lankan sambol perfect with Indian, Indonesian and all Caribbean dishes. Cafe Drake HRV quaffs  the stuff with a fave meal of black beans, yellow rice and fried plantains. Like most sambols however, this is a hot and salty so consume as a true condiment, i.e. in moderation.

Wash and remove the leaves from stems of fresh mint until you have 1 1/2 cups (fairly tightly packed). Add to a mini food processor or blender along with: 2 cloves of minced garlic, 3 chopped green chilies, 3 T. shredded and dried, unsweetened coconut and 1 T. lime juice. Let sit for 30 minutes to moisten the coconut. If you have frozen or fresh available, use that by all means. 

Process all the ingredients until you have a smooth-ish paste. Season with salt to your taste; you'll need about 1/2 t.


Tangy and salty, coconut sambol often surprises palettes poised for creamy sweetness. This sambol is extraordinary served with roast chicken or broiled or grilled fish. A long shelf life in the fridge (up to 8 or 9 days) leads Cafe Drake HRV to make a hearty-sized batch - the recipe below can be halved. If you don't have dried red chilies on hand substitute 1 t. cayenne pepper, more or less.

Start with 1 1/2 cups of dried, unsweetened coconut and cover with 3-4 T. of hot water. Stir and set aside for 30 minutes. When the coconut has softened and reconstituted add it to a blender of food processor along with: 2 diced shallots (3-4 T. chopped red onion), 1 clove of garlic (chopped), 1-2 whole dried red chilies, torn into small pieces, 1 t. salt and the juice of 1 medium lime (or to your taste). Process until smooth. Good chilled or at room temperature, store the sambol in the refrigerator.


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