Sambal oelek or ulek as it is sometimes known, is a Southeast Asian spice paste that mainly comprises red chillies, salt and vinegar. Sometimes you’ll also find variations that are flavoured with shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, onions and fish sauce. Traditionally made using a mortar and pestle (that’s also how it derives its name), this condiment is a staple in every household and used extensively in sauces, as a marinade for meats and seafood, and also in salads.
I think I should say this now rather than later that this paste is fierce. The first time I opened the jar, I very excitedly took a big whiff only to be coughing for 2 days straight afterward, so yes, a little bit goes a long way.
I love the combination of honey and spice, so adding a dollop of it was second nature; it really balances out the fiery pungency of the sambal oelek. I recently came across a recipe that used a very similar combination of ingredients to slather on vegetables and haloumi (I’m thinking cottage cheese here), before skewering and griddling them on a hot barbecue/pan. It seems like an obvious next choice, especially so with a vegetarian husband in the house!
- 750 grams chicken thigh fillets/drumsticks (bone-in)
- 2 tbsp Sambal Oelek (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp light soy
- 7 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Place the chicken pieces in a zip-lock bag and add sambal oelek, honey, soy, garlic and salt; squish the bag about until the chicken pieces are coated well, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to a day.
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Tip the chicken pieces onto a baking dish and cook in the middle of the rack for 40 - 50 minutes, flipping it halfway into cooking time. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.