Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sambal Belacan and Christianity

For those of you who know me well, you'll know that I pretty much live to eat. Being in Sweden has made me appreciate Singapore's surplus of International cuisine. So, when the craving to eat good spicy chili hit me, I decided to make my own belacan :P

For those who have never had the pleasure of tasting it, sambal belacan is a fragrant chili paste that has been fried with dried shrimp. The chillies give the spice, while a variety of other flavours are what gives it the fragrance, making this my all-time favourite chili sauce.

Now, I enjoy cooking. (Note that I didn't say I'm good at cooking - i just like it :P) It's one of the few activities that makes use of all your 5 senses while leaving part of your brain free to rest. I'm a very experimental cook (I like to have fun with my food), and that's probably why some of my dishes turn out tasting really strange.

Fortunately, though, sambal belacan is not difficult to make. It's just rather time consuming, so make sure you have a 3-5 hr window available before you begin the process.

I followed the instructions from
PigPig's Corner, but played around with the ingredients a little, by adding less sugar, more chili padi etc. The end result was a chili paste that was sweet and tasty, with an extremely fiery aftertaste :P YUM!

I started my cooking journey, excited and passion-filled as I sought out dozens of recipes, comparing the differences while reading reviews. Then came the hunt for the right ingredients. Asian ingredients aren't rare in Stockholm, but finding reasonable quality ingredients proved a challenge. Three stores later, I was finally equipped and raring to go.

Then came the preparation stage. I started out enthusiastically, all ready to perform my cooking feat. As the hours ticked by (I only had a mini blender, and it took a long time to prepare all those ingredients!), I got rather tired. But the thought of eating delicious chili kept me going with a dogged persistence that I never thought I had.

By the time I'd prepared all the ingredients, the pungent smell of ground chilies had started to make me cough, my hands had chili burns and my eyes were watering from the vapor emitted by the small onions. Tough indeed. But I was delighted. I'd finally finished the first HUGE step! Now all I had to do was to fry up the ingredients, and my mouth-watering sambal belacan would be ready to set mouths afire!

I never expected the cooking to be so tedious. Many times, I was tempted to dump in the belacan before the blended chilies were properly cooked. Why does it take so long?? But when the sharp, fragrant sting of chilies filled the air, I knew it was well worth the wait.

After throwing in the sambal belacan, I prepared myself for yet another round of waiting. But this time, I knew what to expect. And this time, I knew that the rewards would be worth it. And so, when the flavourful, all-familiar fragrance began to fill the air, I couldn't help but give a whoop of delight - YES! It was complete!

It felt a bit like Christianity, this chili making process. If only we could start off with passion and faith, keeping in mind the end goal and result, persisting to the end. As we overcome each challenge, we learn and grow, and the next hurdle seems just that bit easier to overcome. Perhaps one day, I too will be able to set off on this journey enthusiastically, keeping in mind the prize, and working towards savouring the sweet rewards of this arduous journey.

And perhaps one day, I'll be able to say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Tim 4:7)


  1. how the HECK did i not see this post!!!


    Josh :D

  2. haha.. good stuff okay, dun play play! :P


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