Malays and Indonesians and quite certainly the rest of Indo-China, have a vast array of chilli dips, also known in Malay as sambal.  Maybe you already know this, but it is always eaten in small amounts, perhaps a teaspoon or so, on the side of your dish to add to your food as you eat your way through the meal, not to mix in with your meal to a homogenous flavour.  In each mouthful you are supposed to have nuances of sour, heat, salt, sweet, whatever the particular sambal is made of, in differing levels and strengths, lilting upwards and then downwards like a colourful song, not as a boring monotone.

 
Sambal kicap (pronounced saahm- baal kee-chaap) is usually enjoyed dolloped onto mee soto and then haphazardly and very briefly swirled around in the noodles before slurping it all down.  The soup when all the noodles are gone would be even tastier by the end because the sambal would eventually have meandered down into it and punched it up a few notches.   It is also a common and popular dip for a simple side dish of deep fried tofu, called in malay tahu goreng.  Sambal kicap is at once salty, sweet and of course spicy.  The salty-sweet comes from the kicap itself, and is not to be confused with Kikkoman or Woh Hup brand or Lee Kum Kee or whatever ‘oriental’ soy sauce you’d ordinarily reach for.  You need the ones labelled kicap or kecap and that hail from Malaysia or Indonesia.

Habhal's kicap manis

Habhal’s kicap manis (pardon the rips in the label, that’s from abuse coming in and out of my fridge

The brand of choice I have taken over from my mum is Habhal’s for short, or in full, Habhal’s – Kicap Manis Cap Kipas Udang.  Let me translate.  Kicap – soy; Manis – sweet; Cap – brand; Kipas – Fan; Udang – Prawn.  So basically, Habhal’s Prawn Fan Brand – Sweet Soy.  There is another variant of soy from Habhal’s with a green label, which is the salty version, kicap masin.  I personally don’t find a use for it in my kitchen, but I’m sure there are in others’.  In fact, I think my inlaws use the salty one exclusively (whereas in my mother’s kitchen, it’s the red label sweet kicap variant that lives there)

Kicap manis

Kicap manis

 
When I was little, kicap was the alternative sauce to drizzle over rice, when curry that was too spicy for children was on the table for dinner.  And nearly every morning before heading to work, Dad would have two eggs sunny side up, sprinkled with white pepper powder and drizzled with kicap manis.  5 minute half-boiled eggs, cracked open into a small shallow bowl to serve also gets the kicap and white pepper powder treatment before eaten with a spoon.  My mother and many others of her generation always rave about how when they were growing up if they had an egg, white rice, and kicap manis, it was a complete meal for them, and they would contentedly eat the same today.  I think the Malay people are deeply tied to their kicap.
 
For this recipe, I personally tend to favour green chillies but if you prefer using red or that is all you have, those are perfectly fine too.  If you can take the heat, use chilli padi, the variety that is just double the length of the Thai birds’ eye ones, or use fewer of the birds’ eye ones if those are the ones available to you.  Otherwise, the bigger chillies have less heat.  This is a recipe I got from a friend of mine while eating at her house for Eid.  I’ve adapted it slightly by leaving out the sugar that she adds.  To be completely honest, there are no real recipes, it’s just personal preference for flavours, adjust ingredients as you like!  The way we pass recipes to each other is verbal and always goes something like this, green chilli, garlic, about a spoon of sugar, kicap, grind, done!  🙂
 
spot the sambal drizzle

spot the sambal drizzle

 

 

(this always makes me giggle;  the label on the neck of the bottle says, “elakkan daripada dimasuki serangga” which means, don’t let insects in.  The next line says something like, the company is not responsible for the entry of insects if the plastic lid is damaged or punctured.  And in bold, it says “Serangga seperti semut, lipas, dan lain-lain amat gemar dengan kicap manis” which means, Insects like ants, cockroaches and others really like sweet soy.  What a warning..)keep away from lipasserangga

Sambal kicap
Print Recipe
It's not necessary to cook the kicap, really, it tastes perfectly fine without that step. But if you plan to keep it for a little longer in your fridge, I'd suggest cooking it a little so it preserves a bit better.
Prep Time
5 mins
Prep Time
5 mins
Sambal kicap
Print Recipe
It's not necessary to cook the kicap, really, it tastes perfectly fine without that step. But if you plan to keep it for a little longer in your fridge, I'd suggest cooking it a little so it preserves a bit better.
Prep Time
5 mins
Prep Time
5 mins
Ingredients
Servings: 1 cup
Instructions
  1. Chuck the above into the canister for your stick blender, and blend. It should be slightly chunky. Small-chunky, the pieces should be roughly about 0.5cm. Empty into a small saucepan and heat over low flame for about 5 minutes. If using a grinder, grind just the chillies and garlic first, empty into the pot and then add the kicap and water. Heat over low flame for 5 minutes. keep in a jar in the fridge for up to about 2 weeks.
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