Huy Fong Sambal Oelek Review
A Sambal is an Indonesian and Malaysian culinary paste made with fresh Chili. The simplest, known as a Sambal Oelek (or Sambal Ulek), is based on nothing more than fresh red chili ground with salt. This basic preparation is the starting point for many, many more complex varieties featuring all sorts of ingredients like ginger, garlic, lime juice, or shrimp paste (to name just a few).
The Huy Fong Foods Company is already well known for its famous Sriracha Sauce which graces many restaurant tables worldwide. It is especially recognizable by the same ‘Cock’ Logo seen on the Sambal Oelek jar above. In many ways, Huy Fong’s Sambal Oelek is actually a better product than the Srircha Sauce as it has a much fresher taste. It also contains very little in the way of additional flavorings and is thus much more versatile and useful to the home cook.
As you can see, Chili and Salt are the primary ingredients in the Huy Fong Sambal Oelek. Accordingly, this commercial product cleaves quite closely to the traditional basic recipe, with allowances being made for the fact that it needs to be transported and stored for longer periods than a home-made version.
There is a little Distilled Vinegar included in the blend, which lends a slight tang to the overall effect, but one ingredient that is notably absent is sugar. Typically, this will be present, in one form or another, in most other condiments of this type, and is a factor that must be taken into account when using them as an ingredient in recipes.
The Appearance, Aroma and Taste
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. This makes the paste generally attractive, of course, but it also makes it especially visually appealing when it comes to plating foods.
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. This feature is particularly noteworthy, even unique, in the Huy Fong product as compared to other varieties available.
As for the taste, again, the experience is just like tasting a freshly ground paste. It is not too salty, and the heat is quotient is sufficiently moderate to accommodate most tastes. It is a bit more vigorous than, say, fresh Jalapeño peppers, but definitely not as fiery as the Thai Bird’s eye variety.
Shelf Life and Utility
The amazing thing about the Huy Fong Sambal Oelek is the fact that the sprightly, crisp flavors of fresh chili seem to last forever. Given the salt and vinegar, you could *probably* store the opened container in a cool cupboard, but, if you exercise prudence and keep it in the fridge, I am pretty confident that you will use up the contents of any sized jar long before you see any diminution of quality.
As for using the product, the label enthusiastically urges you to use it as a condiment on all sorts of foods including, eggs, pasta, and… yes… even pizza. However, 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. It is bought and used primarily as a condiment by most people, but it is an incredibly useful and versatile culinary ingredient in its own right.
Huy Fong’s Sambal Oelek is amazing for its long-lasting fresh chili taste, but its versatility really makes it shine. For those of you who cook a lot of spicy foods, this product is an indispensable addition to your pantry.