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Sambal Oelek the Indonesian Siracha

What is Sambal Oelek?

Sambal Oelek is a Indonesian Chili paste that is traditionally grounded with a pestel and mortar. It consists of Chili Pepper, Garlic, Shallot and Tomato. The ingredients can vary from region and manufacturer. It has a distinct sour taste with a mild spice to it. In north america, the version made by Huy Fong Food(Maker of Siracha) is the most popular version. You can usually find a bottle for Less than 3 Dollars at any Asian Supermarket.

Sambal Oelek Uses

You can use sambal oelek in any place where chili is called for. It has a very distinct pungent and spicy flavor that siracha lacks. I always use mines in dumplings or stir frys. People in Vietnam often use it in their yellow fish sauce.

Sambal Oelek vs Siracha Taste

Growing up I never understood the fascination with Siracha, I always found it too sweet as a Chili Sauce. They are both made by the same manufacturer. They even share the same bottle colorway. In fact I always thought that Sambal Oelek was the original Siracha. However, after eating enough of both of them, you can start see and taste the difference.

Siracha Taste and Texture

Siracha is grounded to a thick consistency without any chunk. It has a mild spiciness to it with a sweet undertone. You will find Siracha in any Vietnamese restaurant. It is often served with HoiSin Sauce and used as a dipping condiments.
This is especially true when you order pho. The beef slices that is served with pho is typically dipped in the hoisin and siracha mixture. People also use siracha to add a extra flavor to both fried rice and noodles.

Sambal Oelek Taste and Texture

Sambal Oelek in contrast has more of a chunky texture. The seeds are left intact and it gives the chili sauce more of a spicy kick. When you smell it, you get a strong smell of tomato, even though it doesn’t have it. According to the description, you can use the sauce in “pizza, eggs, pasta and meat dishes. Although I question the use of this sauce in pizza and pasta, it still makes a great substitute to any American Chili Sauce.

Substitute for Sambal Oelek

Although not perfect, if you dont have Sambal Oelek on hand, you can use Siracha as a substitute. I would personally add some white vinegar and some dried chili flake to mimic its taste and texture.

Sambal Oelek Nutrition

Good news, it’s a healthy choice as a Chili Sauce. It has almost zero nutritional value. The most it has is 85mg of Sodium per 1 tsp. You can chug the whole bottle if you want. Here is a picture of the whole nutritional fact.
Sambal oelek Nutritional Fact

Recipes with Sambal Oelek

Although Sambal Oelek is great by itself, you can still use this chili sauce in different recipe to add both spice and color to the dish. One of my favorite one is to use it in Dumplings.

Spicy Chinese Dumplings with Beef Recipe

Pan fried dumplings are great, but sometimes you would like to add some variety to take it to the next level. This recipe uses stewed drop flank steak and Chili to transform your typical dumpling to the next level.

Spicy Chinese Dumplings with Beef Ingredients

1/2 lb of Stewed Drop Flank Steak or Ground Beef
1/2 lb Boiled Dumplings
1/4 cup of Sambal Oelek
1 cup Fresh Sliced Green onion
2 cloves of Minced Garlic


1) Sear the beef pieces in the pan and remove once browned.
2) Brown the boiled dumplings.
3) Add the Chili and Beef pieces back in.
4) Fry until the Chili is no longer wet. Then Add Garlic for an extra fragrant touch.
5) Plate and Sprinkle the Green Onion on the dish.

Technique Discussion

1) Stewed Drop Flank beef is great because it adds a soft and chewy texture to the dish. Ground beef can be used as a substitute if you do not have that at hand.
2) Boiled Dumpling ensures that it is fully cooked and that there is a flavorful broth inside. Browning it adds an additional texture.
3) Adding the Chili at this stage ensures that the chili paste is infused into the Dumpling. Garlic adds another level of aroma.
4) Green onion is great for color, contrast and flavor.

I hope you find my article on Sambal Oelek vs Siracha to be helpful, please visit the Article page for more!

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