Fun With Food II: This IS the Huy Fong Sambal Badjak

The holly daze got in the way, and then a case of the flux – the grippe – the ick – the flu, caught from one of my grandkids (grandnephew Winston or grandson Julian), knocked me off the office chair and flat on my back.  So it was with little hope that I went back to Saraga International Market to look for red jalapeños, knowing that they’re seasonal.  But it seems that recreating Huy Fong‘s Sambal Badjak was destined to be – right inside the door they had jalapeños on sale for 79¢/lb, and red jalapeños for just 10¢ more.  Yay!  BTW,  check out the Sambal Badjak link – despite the fact that Huy Fong doesn’t make Badjak any more, they still have a brief page on it with an image of the old bottle.

I’d forgotten that I used empty Huy Fong Sambal bottles to store nuts & bolts when I made my first try (see Fun with Food I), and tried to get the ingredient list off from Huy Fong.  Here is the first reply:

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your interest in our products! We strive to make the best sauces using quality ingredients in every bottle.

In regards to your email, we do not produce the Sambal Badjak. If you are interested in purchasing, you will need to purchase through a distributor.

Again, thank you for your inquiry. If you have any further questions or comments please do not hesitate to e-mail us.

Sincerely,

Customer Service

I wrote again, a simpler, shorter email that just asked for the ingredient list.  In reply:

…In regards to your email, we no longer produce that product so we do not have any information we can help them for you. We are sorry for any unconvenience.  Thank you for the comments and support…

I must say that I felt unconvenienced, though I did love that email.  I looked on the web for an image that was good enough to read the ingredient list – no joy.  Finally I remembered the nuts & bolts storage, and found an old bottle of Sambal Badjak.  Here’s the ingredient list:

Huy Fong Sambal Badjak Ingredients:

  • Chili
  • Distilled Vinegar
  • Soy Oil
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shrimp Paste
  • Potassium Sorbate
  • Sodium Bisulfite
  • Preservatives

Wow!  No nuts, no coconut, and, if the ingredient list was in order from most to least by weight, less onion and garlic than sugar and salt!  Surprising, but in some ways not so surprising for a commercial product.  So I decided I’d do something similar:

The Ransom Recipe for Huy Fong Sambal Badjak, v. 2.0

Sambal Badjak ingredients
The ingredients for the second attempt at Badjak
  • 30 roasted red jalapeños (about 1 1/2 lb)
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy oil
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • 3 tbsp light Kikkoman soy
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 12 big cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp fermented shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp tamarind
  • water
  • 1 tsp dried lemon grass (Penzey’s)
  • 2 tsp dried galangal (Penzey’s)

As suggested by Jeff in his response to my Fun with Food I post, I roasted the jalapeños, using my Cajun Cooker (a simple gas jet – works like a charm!).

Scorching jalapeños on the Cajun Cooker
Scorching the peppers on my Cajun Cooker – 10 seconds!
Scorched jalapeños
The jalapeños after a scorchin’

Everything got blended together except for the oil, shrimp paste, tamarind, and spices.

Blended ingredients
Blended ingredients – enough water added to permit blending
Start of cooking
Blended ingredients added to hot oil at start of cooking

I brought the oil up to medium hot, added the blended ingredients, and after the mixture started poppin’, reduced heat to a low simmer.

Sambal cooking
The Sambal after an hour of cooking.

After it cooked for about an hour with stirring, I added the rest of the ingredients (shrimp paste, tamarind, spices).  I continued to cook the sambal all afternoon, adding water regularly to prevent it from thickening too much and sticking.

The Sambal Badjak the next day
The Sambal Badjak the next day

That evening I turned off the heat and let the sambal sit overnight on the stove.  In the morning it was just about what I remembered from the old Huy Fong Sambal Badjak:  brown with beautiful ruby red oil separated out.

Spooning up the Sambal
Spooning up the finished Sambal – you can really see the consistency in this shot
Loading a Huy Fong bottle with Badjak
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for!
Spoonful of Sambal Badjak
Wouldn’t you like to just gooble it up?

Here’s a few notes on the cooking:  The red wine vinegar smelled like a mistake at first, it gave off a lot of acetic acid and a definite red wine aroma that I feared would dominate the sauce.  However, that character almost completely boiled off, though next time I’m going to switch to distilled white vinegar.

The consistency, color, amount of oil, color of oil, sweetness, and heat are all – as well as I can remember – spot on!  I might add more oil next time (say 3/4 cup) because the oil is really delightful.  The galangal is a dominant flavor of the finished sauce, so next time I may reduce or even eliminate it – and if you’re trying to faithfully recreate the sauce, I would definitely not include it – but it gives the sambal great flavor.  I really like it.

In general, despite the fact that I largely guessed the amounts, this came out amazingly close to the original.  If you loved the Huy Fong Sambal Badjak, I think this is it!  I’m going out to Saraga tomorrow to get more peppers . . .

Fun with Food I: Recreating the Huy Fong Sambal Badjak

Ingredients for sambal badjak
All the ingredients for the sambal except the soy sauce.

Hello everyone!  I thought I’d take a departure this week from my fun experiments to show a food (and yet fun) experiment – my attempt to reproduce Huy Fong Food’s famous Sambal Badjak, a delicious Indonesian condiment.  Huy Fong, makers of the famous Sriracha sauce, stopped making their Sambal Badjak and Sate sauces years ago, and I was crushed.  I loved that stuff, and there is simply no substitute. I went to their site, sent them begging emails, and prowled the web for a recipe. I’ve subsequently tried a few, but they didn’t give me the magic flavor and texture of the original.

This is my latest attempt. I emailed another wistful guy who was also looking for a recipe, but he hadn’t found one either – though he did remind me of the smokey flavor that set the Huy Fong sambal apart. So I modified my recipe by adding smoked chiles (chipotles).

Sambal Badjak Recipe

The Ransom Version of the Huy Fong Food’s Original, v. 1.0

Ingredients:

  • 20 red jalapeños, diced
  • 9 dried chipotle chiles, stemmed and crushed
  • 10 dried chiles de arbol, stemmed and torn apart
  • 3 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 12 large cloves garlic, diced fine
  • ~20 salted, roasted cashews
  • 2 tbsp palm sugar
  • 2 tbsp tamarind concentrate
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp Thai ground (dry) galangal
  • 2 tsp dried, shredded lemon grass
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup peanut oil

Cooking

Heat 1/4 cup of the peanut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat until almost smoking, then add the diced veg (jalapeños, onions, garlic, and shallot).  Sweat for 10 minutes.

Vegetables sweated
After cooking the jalapeños, onions, shallots, and garlic for 10 minutes.

Cover the crushed chipotle and chile de arbol with boiling water and let rehydrate for about 10 minutes. Blend together with the cashews and additional water as needed to a thick paste.  Add to the sweated veg.

Chile and cashew paste
The paste made by blending the rehydrated chipotle and chile de arbol chiles and the cashews.
Sambal after adding chile paste
Sambal 10 minutes after adding the chile paste.

Cook for an additional ten minutes after reducing the heat to medium. Add another 1/4 cup of peanut oil, and cook for a few minutes longer.  Add the remaining ingredients except the last of the peanut oil.

Sambal after all ingredients added
The sambal after addition of the coconut milk and seasonings.

Continue cooking, making sure to stir regularly.  Scrape the solids off the bottom of the Dutch oven to prevent burning (they do carmelize, but don’t let it burn – it will ruin the sambal).

Sambal after 2 hours cooking
Slow simmered for nearly two hours.

Reduce heat to simmer, continue cooking and stirring for half an hour.  Add the remaining oil, and cook another hour.

the finished sambal badjak
Minutes after the heat was turned off – it darkened further upon cooling.

The Final Result

The finished product was more like the Huy Fong version than my previous attempts, but failed on a few points.  It was a bit too sweet, so reducing the palm sugar from 2 tbsp to 1 tbsp is recommended.  I remember the Huy Fong Sambal Badjak as being a little bit sweet, but not as sweet as most other versions of the sauce.  The smokey taste was there, but muted – it might be worth roasting the red jalapeños over a wood fire to get something stronger.  Though I suspect a frank smoke taste would ruin the sauce.

The sauce wasn’t dark enough: the Huy Fong version was dark brown.  I thought of doing a French-style browning of the onions as if for classic French Onion Soup, and the sauce could probably have used another spoonful of soy sauce – using dark soy could also help get the color.  I do like the color I got, and it did darken further upon cooling.

The final difference was the coconut milk.  I’m not sure it was even used in Huy Fong’s version, but I do like it.  But I shouldn’t have used the whole can – I think half as much would have been better.  And next time I’m going to add a bit more fish sauce, it pretty much disappeared, and try adding more water and cooking it longer.  The Huy Fong version was also smooth, so you might blend the final sauce to a fine puree – I like it a bit chunky.

Finally, I’m going to bottle this and cover it with a layer of oil.  That was one characteristic of the Huy Fong that I also didn’t replicate: it was a very oily sauce, with a good half-inch of darkly colored oil on top when opened.  Reducing or eliminating the coconut milk would certainly help with that, as the milk helps keep the oil incorporated, though it does rise to the top over time in the refrigerator.

At the end, I was pretty happy with the sauce – I’m not there yet, but that’s half the fun.  The rest of the fun is smearing this over some fresh-fried salty chicken.  Yum!

BTW, this version is hot, as in very hot.  Not carcinogenic, but hot.  If you don’t want it so spicy, I’d use fewer arbols and chipotles.

Be well, enjoy, and have fun!

[NOTE:  Be sure to read Jeff’s insightful comment on this post – he’s the guy who was looking for a recipe, and he makes some cogent, insightful, and hilarious comments.  I can tell Jeff is a fun guy.]