Singlong Sambal Ikan Bilis Review
In my post featuring the Huy Fong Brand Sambal Oelek, I mentioned that a Sambal is an Indonesian chili paste and that the Sambal Oelek is the simplest, and the one on which all other are based. A Sambal Ikan Bilis builds on the basic recipe of red chili peppers and salt by enhancing it with the addition of dried Anchovies, or ‘Ikan Bilis’, as they are known in Indonesia.
This commercial product, made by the Singlong Company in Singapore is certainly a Sambal Ikan Bilis in that it is a chili paste with anchovy added, but it also includes several other flavorings as well. It may not be the absolute best representative of its class, but it is still a pretty decent product.
The Ingredients in Singlong Sambal Ikan Bilis
Ikan Bilis, or anchovies, are actually the dominant ingredient here, with the chilies coming in at second place. What is just a little bit unusual is the inclusion of ‘Belacan’.
Belacan is a dried fermented shrimp paste originating in Malaysia and widely used, under various names, in Indonesia and South-East Asia.
There is actually a specific Sambal incorporating it known, logically enough’ as ‘Sambal Belecan’, which makes its appearance here just a bit curious. Certainly, there are no culinary rules prohibiting the addition, but purists may claim that this product is not a ‘true’ Sambal Ikan Bilis.
Appearance, Aroma and Taste
Unlike many other preparations, in which whole anchovies are often visible, this paste is almost homogenously smooth and nothing resembling a fish, or fish part, is apparent, except for a few tiny fragments interspersed with tiny pieces of onion.
On opening the jar, the aroma very much reminds one of a tomato-based sauce but, surprisingly, there are no tomatoes present in the blend that would account for that effect. The taste is moderately sweet (and sugar is listed as an ingredient), while the chili heat is only moderate; somewhat like a commercial Sriracha sauce in strength. The ingredients list does specify ‘Spices’ near the end but it is not really possible to identify anything in particular beyond the chili itself.
As for the ‘Anchoviness’ of the condiment, that aspect of the taste is pretty hard to discern and, indeed, it is the Belecan that seems to dominate the Umami flavor component. That was a little disappointing for me as I wished to experience the anchovy without interference, but that being said, the overall effect is quite nice and the mild, generic nature of the fishy taste, along with the smooth texture, may actually make this variety appeal to a wider consumer base than more traditional types.
Using Singlong Sambal Ikan Bilis
It also goes well with plain rice too, however, and in the little lunch you see pictured above, I served rice in much the same way as the Malaysian specialty, except that my accompaniments (in addition to the sambal), include sliced Chinese Sausage, rolled omelet slices, and garlic peanuts. Here, the Sambal Ikan Bilis condiment provided just the right fillip and pulled the whole together very nicely…
Many Sambals have their primary use as a condiment, for rice, or noodles, or other foods, but many also double as a culinary ingredient as well. Some versions of Sambal Ikan Bilis may also work in this role but the Singlong product, while very pleasant, is a bit too delicate to be effective that way. It may possibly work in a light soup, but it will likely be easily overpowered in other combinations.
The Singlong Sambal Ikan Bilis is a generally decent product, if bit unorthodox in its constitution. It has a pleasant taste, and should appeal to a broad range of palates, but it is just a little bit limited in that it is best used only as a condiment to relatively mild tasting foods. Beyond that, it is definitely worth a try.