Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Sambal Hitam Pahang

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I have access to a couple of buah belimbing trees in my vicinity and they fruit in abundance all year round. When I was discussing with Wendy on what to cook for Malaysia Food Fest Pahang, I requested her to find me a dish which makes use of these little wonderfully sour torpedoes. My first dish for MFF Pahang, is a recipe I knew I would like. When Wendy was telling me about it after she prepared the dish, way before this month’s event commenced, I knew I would love to try it. Not only because the recipe is incredibly simple to follow, but more importantly, the flavours are exactly what I crave for! Spicy, sour and savoury!


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“Crisp to the crunch and tangy to the tongue, perfect with a bowl of plain noodles or rice!” were my initial thoughts. And so true it is. Knowing that I would enjoy it thoroughly, I braved forth and tripled the recipe. So glad I did for it was not only delicious, but it solved the problem of what to prepare for lunch that whole week! Just a bowl of piping hot noodles with a generous dollop of it and a sunnyside up is enough to fuel me for a couple of hours and kept me happy along the way. It goes very very well when used in fried rice as well! Just a simple “Sambal Ikan Bilis Hitam Nasi Goreng versi Pahang” I call it. Not sure if the people of Pahang enjoys it this way, but if they try, I’m sure they would so approve! Syok!
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Sambal Hitam Pahang from Table for 2 or more who in turn adapted it from MyResipi

100gm dried anchovies (ikan bilis)
100gm belimbi (belimbing buluh/belimbing asam)
25gm bird’s eye chilli (when I triped the recipe, I used a mixture of 60% chilli padi and 40% chilli merah)
2 red onions (bawang besar)
5 shallots (bawang merah)
125ml oil
Salt to taste (omitted)
Sugar if needed (omitted)
sambal hitam collage 1
1. Rinse anchovies, drain and coarsely pound them. Set aside. (I pulsed the anchovies with my food processor)
2. Blend shallots and bird’s eye chilli together into a fine paste. Set aside.
3. Puree the buah belimbing and set aside.
4. Thinly slice red onions.
5. Heat a wok on medium heat and put in oil. Cook onions until it looks translucent and soft. Put in shallot chilli mixture. And cook until it looks slightly golden.
6. Put in anchovies and cook until it looks lightly golden and seems dry.
7. Put in belimbi paste and turn heat to low, cook until the mixture turns dark brown and crispy.
sambal hitam collage 2
As you may be quick to realise, I didn’t add any salt. The alluring savoury flavours of the sea impart by the anchovies was good enough to keep this sambal well seasoned.

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Interestingly, the addition of buah belimbing into the sambal added a dimension which reminded me of 菜脯 chai poh pickled radish which we are accustomed to having with 水粿 chwee kueh in Singapore. If I were to make this recipe again, I would replace half of the ikan bilis with udang kering 虾米 hae bee dried shrimp and blitz the mixture more finely. I can imagine it to be thoroughly enjoyable with chwee kueh!
sambal hitam collage 3
The variety of buah belimbing I’d used is different from that commonly used in Malaysia. The fruits are pale yellowish instead of deep emerald green. I was initially skeptical of the whole dish turning “hitam“. True enough, the first batch I’d made was apparently not dark enough by standards. It was also not spicy enough as I didn’t have chilli padi at home then and used chilli merah. Tak syok. For the second batch, I used chilli padi and persevered to fry longer… much longer than I had anticipated for the color to darken significantly to become what was acceptable as a “Sambal Hitam“. It took quite long. I didn’t time myself but it was more than 20 min for sure. As I’d told Wendy jokingly, any darker and I would have to add dark soy sauce already!
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I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest, Pahang Month hosted by WendyinKK of Table for 2….. or More

More Buah Belimbing recipes
On the Trail of the Phoenix – Sambal Jantung Pisang
On the Trail of the Phoenix – Sambal Udang Belimbing
On the Trail of the Phoenix – Ikan Gerang Asam
On the Trail of the Phoenix – Kerabu Belimbing Timun Nanas (Nyonya Spicy Fruit Salad)
Nasi Dagang Terengganu & Gulai Ikan Tongkol

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7 responses

  1. Isn’t buah belimbing starfruit?

    December 22, 2012 at 2:25 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      i think its called belimbing buluh in malay. Peranakans call it buah belimbing :)

      December 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      • Ah! Now I get the right google images!! Never seen this fruit before.

        December 22, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      • Alan (travellingfoodies)

        ah, they are available in Malaysia from what I understand. Probably the more melayu inclined pasar pagis…. don’t expect to find them at Jaya’s… LOL

        I have a photo of the tree near my place which I harvest them from, laden with fruits.

        December 24, 2012 at 12:23 am

  2. My French Heaven

    Magnifique!!

    December 22, 2012 at 3:05 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      merci beaucoup!

      December 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm

  3. I can eat a big bowl on it’s own, salty and all! Looks delicious!

    December 22, 2012 at 4:19 pm

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