Sambal sotong, or squid sambal, is a popular Malaysian dish that’s commonly enjoyed in Singapore. It’s spicy, sweet and delicious, and the chilli-based condiment as its hero. It deserves the freshest squid you can find for the most tender result. I like to enjoy this seafood recipe as part of a banquet, with steamed rice, Asian greens and crispy cereal prawns.
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 red onion, cut into thin rings
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
1½ tbsp shaved palm sugar
600g (1 lb 5 oz) cleaned squid, cut into thin rings
salt, to taste
lime wedges, to serve
22 large dried red chillies
2 tsp belacan (Malay shrimp paste)
2 large fresh red chillies
100g (3.5 oz) shallots, roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
For the sambal paste, place the dried chillies in a small bowl, then pour over enough boiling water to cover well. Stand for 30 minutes or until softened. Drain well, using your hands to squeeze out excess water, reserving the chilli-soaking liquid. Use scissors to chop the chillies into large chunks straight into the bowl of a food processor or blender.
Meanwhile, wrap the belacan in foil. Heat a wok over medium heat, add the wrapped belacan, then dry-roast for around 2 minutes on each side. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, place the remaining sambal ingredients into the food processor. Add two tablespoons of the chilli soaking liquid. Add the cooled belacan, then blend everything until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, then stir through the turmeric.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the sambal paste and cook, stirring, for 7–8 minutes or until the oil has separated out; the mixture should look a bit curdled and there will be traces of oil on the base of the pan. Next, add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until the onion has softened slightly. Add the tamarind and palm sugar and quickly stir to combine then add the squid. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stirring constantly, cook the squid for 3 minutes or until it is just cooked through. Season with salt to taste, then serve with lime wedges.