Sambal Beans

This is another dish I made for my family’s pot-luck Christmas dinner. I had also made it for company in October. It’s basically green beans, but with a nice spicy bite. The spice may not please some guests. This recipe made enough to serve a good helping to most of about 25 guests.

I used frozen French cut beans, about two-thirds of a one kilogram bag. If you are cooking for a smaller party, or for family, there will left overs. If you make a half recipe, you may want to find another use for part of a can of diced tomatoes and half an onion.

Erik Dalmijn, my cousin from Holland and his wife Rite had given us a couple recipes which called for some herb and spice packets that I couldn’t find at the Dutch specialty store in East Kildonan. I searched the Web for options. There is a recipe on the Web – actually three or four versions of the same basic recipe under the name of Sambal Boontjes or Sambal Goreng Boontjes or Sambal Goreng Buncis. (Boontjes would a correct Dutch usage – a diminutive of beans). They all call for a one liter can of French cut beans. That’s not a common item in a Canadian grocery store; frozen beans worked fine. There are other some other versions, but this one is simple and fast, and it does not call for more than a couple of specialty ingredients.
A few ingredients may be obscure, but I think they are available in larger supermarkets. Some of the Westfair Superstores in Winnipeg are pretty good with ingredients for Oriental, Indonesian and Philippine cooking. You can use Laos powder, also called Galangal powder. That’s basically an aromatic ginger; regular powdered ginger will do. You need Sambal Oelek which is a wet paste made of crushed chili peppers. It’s essentially an Indonesian version, and there there are equivalents in Chinese and Indochinese cuisine. It’s wet and it’s crushed rather than pureed or ground. The recipe also calls for Kecap Manis (also sold as Kecap Sambal Manis) which is a sweet soy sauce. Regular soy will do.

Start with onion and garlic. One medium onion for the full recipe, diced. Two or three cloves of garlic, crushed. Fry the onion and garlic in cooking oil of choice in a skillet or wok. Use about 2 tablespoons of oil. I would turn the heat down after the oil is hot and sauté slowly. Turn the heat down before the next step.

Add 1 teaspoon of Laos or ginger, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and one tablespoon of Sambal Oelek to the onions and garlic in the skillet. The sugar will carmelize and things will burn if you aren’t careful. This only needs to be fried for about a minute. Then add a can (14 oz) of diced tomatoes, stir to blend and bring mixture to a boil. If you are not keen on hot spice, cut down on the Sambal.

After the sauce is boiling, add 3 tablespoons of Kecap Manis, and add beans. The sauce will flavour anywhere from half a kilogram to three quarters of kilogram of beans. Heat the beans thoroughly, and it’s ready to serve.