Today, I crave vegetables. Perhaps, it is a natural reaction from having too much meat last week when we were in a mad scramble to cook everything in the freezer during the typhoon-induced blackout. So, I cooked this dish of potatoes and okra in sambal sauce.
Sambal is a spice paste; there are as many variants as there are cooks and brands. Sometimes, I make my own; other times, I use the kind that comes straight out of a jar. What I don’t do is to rely on sambal alone to flavor my food. Always — always — I complement sambal with herbs, spices or other seasonings. I do so for two reasons. First, I have a low tolerance for hot food and I need something to balance the heat. Second, I find that too much heat drowns out the flavors of the ingredients.
For this dish, I added a pinch of thyme and a tablespoonful of simple syrup infused with lemongrass, pandan and kaffir lime leaves.
It’s one part sugar, one part water, a bunch of lemongrass, two pandan leaves and two kaffir lime leaves.
- 1 c. of vegetable broth
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into two-inch cubes
- 10 to 12 pieces of okra, trimmed and cut into halves or thirds
- salt and pepper
- a pinch of dried thyme
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 tsp. (or more, if you prefer more heat) of sambal paste
- 1 tbsp. of simple syrup
- In a wok or shallow pan, bring the vegetable broth to a boil.
- Add the potatoes and okra to the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Throw in the thyme, onion, garlic and tomatoes.
- When the mixture is boiling, turn down the heat, cover the pan and cook the vegetables for 10 to 12 minutes or just until done.
- Uncover the pan and turn up the heat to high. Stir in the sambal paste and simple syrup. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and thickened.