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.


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 . . .

4 thoughts on “Fun With Food II: This IS the Huy Fong Sambal Badjak”

  1. when i moved to louisiana many years ago, one of the things i first discovered was asian supermarkets — south louisiana has a fairly large vietnamese population–and one of the best things i discovered there was huy fong sambal badjak. that flavor! it was unlike anything on the shelves. fieriness is easy to find, and louisiana is full of hot sauces. but there was a magical over-the-top complexity in sambal badjak, and it seems to be irreplaceable. in the many years since huy fong became unavailable i’ve tried other brands — including kokita, a reputable company– but they don’t even come close. i grinned at your persistent efforts to wrest the recipe from the company, salute your ability to come up with an original label and its list of ingredients, and admire your explorations at replicating the real thing. your final foto^ looks exactly like the huy fong sambal badjak i recall. good luck in arriving at the perfect magic of that lost wonder.

    1. Hello and thanks for your comments!

      I too tried a bunch of substitutes . . . for a while I subsisted on Huy Fong’s also-long-gone-and-lamented Sa-Te Sauce, but they discontinued that bad boy too. Sigh. Caravelle actually makes a halfway decent substitute (Pepper Sat-Te Sauce: Tia Chieu Sa-Te), but Huy Fong’s discontinued sauces made a big hole in my heat intake. Thanks again for your positive comments, I actually have another 3+ pounds of red jalapeños sitting in my cold entryway right now waiting for action . . .

  2. I was wondering how the sauce would come out if you were to use habaneros or chile de árbol peper. I may try your recipe, but instead of habaneros replace them with fewer habaneros given their fire power, or about the same amount or more chile de árbol. I’m thinking of combining the two.

    1. Tony,
      Thanks for the comment/suggestion, I think it would be lovely with habañeros. The sauce is a bit sweet using jalapeños, and while it wouldn’t be any less sweet with habañeros, their fruity taste would be a nice lead-in. I don’t think you’d want to go all habañeros (unless you want a HOT sambal), but I’m gonna give it a whack with a couple of handfuls next time. Nice call.
      I think the de árbol chiles would be too tough to turn into a smooth sauce. The skins of the de árbols is, in my experience, tougher and won’t cook down as well. However, adding a few might be a great idea.
      I have another recipe from the late, lamented La Bamba restaurant in Columbus. They had a great tomatillo-based salsa that had a chile base that consisted largely of chiles de árbol. The secret was that they fried the dried chiles before using them, which made them nice and crispy and amenable to being blended without that toughness issue. The base was just chiles and onion (I roasted the onions) with water, and the sauce was finished with tomatillos (I broiled 3/4 of them, with 1/4 fresh), cilantro, and salt. I liked it with a bit of cumin.
      So, my suggestion would be using some red jalapeños (unless you can’t get them), fry the dried de árbol chiles, and toss in habañeros to taste.
      Thanks again for the comment, I appreciate your interest.

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