Foodstuff: Sambal Oelek – Huy Fong Brand

Hardcore fans of Asian food will likely recognize this brand and product, but if you haven’t come across it yet it really (really) bears trying. I have made, and regularly make my own Sambal Oelek, but this beats mine hands down and I can unstintingly recommend it as the best, and most versatile, commercial chili paste on the market…

The Huy Fong Company, with their Rooster Logo, is probably best known for their Sriracha sauce, which I have seen gracing the tables of countless restaurant tables, most commonly in the same plastic squeeze bottle available in stores. A fair number of the aforesaid restaurants were, I note, western rather than Asian ones.

Their Sambal Oelek, although not quite so well known, is sometimes available at my only local Chinese restaurant when they put out a humongous jar of it for patrons to use to put on dumplings and the like. For some unaccountable reason, it disappeared from our local store shelves for a good couple of years, but it has reappeared now and I am very glad of that indeed. I see that the company also puts out a similar paste which contains garlic and I should like to try it sometime, but this sambal oelek contains only chili and salt with just a touch of vinegar. The vinegar most purists would say, is strictly not proper in a true sambal oelek but, unlike other commercial varieties where the vinegar dominates, here it is barely perceptible in the taste and just adds a nice tang to the bouquet.

The first thing one notes when opening the jar is the vivid bright red color, which, the label proudly declares, is all natural and not enhanced with coloring agents. The aroma is very striking and, beyond the faint tang of the vinegar, manages to retain the slightly fruity rich bouquet of fresh red chilies that have only just been chopped. As for the taste, again, the experience is just like tasting a freshly ground paste in one’s own kitchen. It is not too salty, and the heat is moderate… a bit more vigorous than, say, the Jalapeño, but not quite as fiery as the Thai Bird’s eye variety.

The label enthusiastically urges you to try the condiment on all sorts of foods including, eggs, pasta, and, yes, even pizza, but the simple fact is that you can use this product wherever a chili paste is called for without worrying that additional ingredients will alter the nature of your finished dish. For those of you who cook a lot of spicy foods, this product is an indispensable addition to your pantry…


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