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.
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.