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Sambal oelek (Recipe: spicy turkey rolls)


In my files, I have dozens of photos of hot stuff.

Chili paste with garlic, Tabasco, piquin peppers, ground chile (green and red), New Mexico chiles, canned chiles, Rhode Island Red Hot Sauce....

I have dozens of photos, and I've got the goods to back them up.

In The Perfect Pantry, I've stashed sauces and spices, from every corner of the world, the use of which will make food hot hot hot. Everything from a mild tingle on your tongue to sweat-running-down-your-head, don't-try-this-at-home hot.

On the warmer end of the heat scale, sambal oelek derives from the Dutch spelling, which in modern Indonesian spelling has become ulek; both have the same pronunciation. According to Wikipedia, ulek is a kind of Indonesian (particularly Javanese) stone mortar (ulek-ulek) and pestle (ulekan) made from a mature bamboo root, used for crushing chiles, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other ingredients.

Thicker than sauce, thinner than salsa, sambal oelek is a fresh-ground paste made of chile peppers, salt, and sometimes vinegar, lime juice, lemongrass, or brown sugar. The heat of the sambal depends entirely on the variety of peppers.

Huy Fong Foods, a California company, makes the brand of sambal oelek in my pantry; it's the most common brand in the United States, available in every supermarket and Asian grocery. Stored in the refrigerator, it will last almost indefinitely. Because its main contribution is heat, you can substitute chili paste, harissa, Tabasco, red pepper flakes, chile powder, or fresh Thai bird chiles.

Once you have sambal oelek in your pantry, you'll find all sorts of ways to use it, in sauces or glazes, in burgers, with chicken, in noodles or vegetable dishes. So go ahead -- turn up the heat!

Spicy turkey rolls

Remember the little cocktail hot dogs we used to call "pigs in blankets"? These little "pigs" can be made with ground pork, too. The inspiration for this recipe came from a cookbook (I don't remember which one) that I found at a library book sale many years ago. Makes 24.


6 scallions, each sliced lengthwise into four "ribbons"
12 oz ground turkey or pork
4 tsp sambal oelek, or to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, beaten with 1 Tbsp water
1/2 cup light soy sauce, for dipping (optional)


Put scallions in a bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let stand 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold running water.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine turkey, sambal oelek, garlic, parsley or cilantro, salt and pepper. Put puff pastry on a work surface, and cut each sheet into 4 rectangles. Place a line of turkey mixture down the center of each pastry piece. Brush edges of pastries with beaten egg. Fold long ends of each pastry over turkey filling, overlapping slightly and sealing to form a neat sausage roll. Trim away any excess pastry. Cut each roll crosswise into three pieces 1-inch wide.

Place on prepared baking sheets. Brush tops with beaten egg. Tie a scallion around each piece. Brush again with egg. Bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve hot, with soy sauce for dipping.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Rotini with spicy meat sauce
Braised fish, Tunisian style

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Lydia, I just realise that we use the same brand of sambal olek!

Sambal is a big thing in my kitchen. I really enjoy the flavor. I find that there really is not other hot sauce/paste that quite captures the flavor like the sambal does. The turkey rolls really sound delish, Lydia!!

The sambal oelek I got from my local Asian store doesn't look anything like this and it smells sourish too so I didn't use it any of the recipe that requires it because I don't think it is the correct one.

My dad loves this stuff and always puts spoonfuls on his food. It's been a while since I've had it but I'll have to get some next time I go to the Asian market.

Mon mari's family can eat hot stuff right out of the jar/can/tube. I'm afraid all I can do is sit and watch with awe. A little bit goes a very, very long way with me!

I've never seen this product locally! Thanks for the introduction.

Lydia, I think you have the hottest and spiciest pantry ever. ;)

There are tons of great hot sauces out there, but they are not created equally. Thanks for distinguishing the sambal from all the others.

Wow -- wouldn't it make a great poster to make a collage of all your photos of hot stuff? Yum!

I've tried Sambal chilli before, brought by my Malaysian friends. It was so hot & spicy my face turned into a bright red tomato! But I have to admit it really spices up the food!

so many posts to catch up with!!!!

Why do I get the sense that you must throw a mean party. While I love pigs-in-a-blanket, I'd rather go for these audacious guys!

Anh, I think this is the easiest sambal to find. Everyone calls it "rooster sambal" because of the label.

Meeta, I really believe that each chile pepper and each hot sauce and each sambal has a unique flavor -- at least that's how I justify having so many different products in my pantry.

Ninja, do try this sambal. The flavor is always fresh and bright, never sour even if it stays in the fridge for a long time.

Amy, I think I would like your dad!

Katie, I never used to be able to eat any hot food at all, but over the years I've built up a tolerance (and a passion) for it.

Mimi, it's easy to find online, of course, but supermarkets with a good-size Asian shelf or two often have this now. I'm glad it's getting easier to find here in RI, too.

Patricia, I think I do, too!

Susan, I agree. Some are very vinegar-y, some are pure pain. This one is neither -- it's clear and bright.

Christine, I've actually thought about making a collage of all of my pantry items -- but I don't have a wall large enough to hang it!

Valentina, did you eat it straight from the jar? I can't do that -- too hot for me! In small amounts, though, it is really, really good.

Lobstersquad, nice to have you back!

Callipygia, my favorite kind of party is a cooking party -- no spectators in my kitchen!

Maybe you could mix some belacan in there and see if you could concoct your own sambal belacan :D

I love that stuff! I always have a jar of that brand in my fridge. We use it up pretty quickly too!

Lydia, I love this stuff. There's one called Sambal Manis which is a bit tougher to find. Great enhancement to peanut sauce.

I'm new to your blog and I've really been enjoying. Thanks!

I have a jar of this! Just haven't opened it yet.

I'm a bit chicken about something as hot as this, although it does have a good back taste :)

Ohh one of my favorite things in the world! I learned to make sambal in Bali a few months ago and I've made it myself twice so far. I ordered 3 bottles from the lady who taught me from a friend who's going back for her honeymoon. It's great stuff! I've never bought it in a jar, come to think of it, I'm not sure I've seen it around here yet.

Tigerfish, I'm giggling. Just when my readers are recovering from the shrimp paste post of a few days ago....

Sher, my fridge feels naked without a jar of this sambal.

KM, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I'm not familiar with sambal manis; is it a bit sweet, like kecap manis? I'll have to look for it.

MyKitchen, get that jar openend! You'll love it.

Kelly-Jane, the secret is to start slowly, adding just the smallest drop here and there.

Christine, I don't think anything in a jar will ever compare to learning to make your own at the hand of a sambal master in Bali! That sounds absolutely amazing.

Never heard of this particular chili paste before. Sounds like one that would flavor Asian type foods superbly. Thanks again for another Perfect Pantry lesson!

One look at that signature bottle, and I start salivating like Pavlov's dog! In recent months, this has become a staple in my kitchen....I start panicking when the level of sauce drops in the bottle. Delicious post, as usual!

Veron, I think there are many kinds of sambal, but this is the one I can always find in the market. I'm making an effort to learn more about the wonderful world of spicy condiments!

Nupur, I thought I was the only person who went into panic mode when my supply of chile sauces gets low! Glad to know there's a kindred spirit out there.

Hi there.
Just saw your receipe for Spicy Turkey Rolls in the August 21/07 edition. Wondered whether you should use cooked turkey or raw?

Thanks very much.

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