The word “balado” originates from Minangkabau, in west Sumatra, and it roughly translates to “cooked in chilli sauce”. If you’re ever in Indonesia and see menu items with “balado” attached to it, you know it’s a dish cooked in chilli sauce. The most popular are “terong balado” (aubergine in chilli), “telur balado” (hard boiled eggs in chilli) and “daging balado” (twice-cooked beef in chilli).
One that is well-known, but not to everyone’s taste, is “paru balado” which is thin slices of dried beef lungs, almost jerky-like, and topped with freshly cooked, spicy chilli sauce. I love it simply on a bad of steamed white rice. And eating it with my hands (but that’s another blog post).
I find the bird’s eye chilli peppers in Berlin to be milder than the ones in Indonesia so I always use more chilli peppers when using Berlin ones, sometimes even doubling the amount. I judge the hotness of the chilli pepper by biting one for a taste test.
This is a recipe for my personal spiciness level: most ordinary Germans will cry eating this, my handsome-and-talented husband will eat a bit chased by lots of rice, but my chilli-loving friends love it! Disco in my mouth is how I like these dishes!
So, scroll below for the balado recipe, plus a vegan (aubergine), vegetarian (eggs) and carnivore (beef) variations.
Mise en place
30 Thai red bird’s eye chilli peppers, 20 red chillies, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 5 cloves of garlic, a cup of diced onions or shallots (I use a combination), 5-6 whole cherry tomatoes, juice of 2 limes (or a lemon). Salt and pepper to taste, about a teaspoon of each for me.
Make the chilli
In a saucepan, heat some coconut oil and sesame oil over a medium heat. Add the whole tomatoes. Cook until they start to sweat and you can see the skin starting to separate from the pulp. Add all the ingredients except for the lime/lemon juice. Cook for 10-15 minutes over high fire, until everything is fragrant and soft.
Sometimes I get slightly burnt bits and use half a cup of water to deglaze the pan.
Dish out half of the cooked ingredients and leave the remainder in the pan. Blitz this half of cooked chilli into your blender for a smooth paste, or alternatively use a pestle and mortar to make a rougher “rustic” paste. Return to the pan. Add the lime/lemon juice, stir until evenly mixed in, about 5 minutes.
Serve with other dishes. Or, leave to cool and transfer into a jar; when tightly closed, it keeps in the fridge for about a week or two. I don’t really know because I always use it up before O_o
(for vegans) Terong balado for 4 people
2 aubergines. 2 cups of the sambal balado, recipe above. 2 kaffir lime leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. A tablespoon of sunflower/peanut/coconut oil (not olive or sesame oil, these are too overwhelming in flavour). Half a lime or lemon.
Prep the aubergine
Wash and clean the aubergines. I usually cut the aubergine in half, then quartered to get long, finger-length chunks. Line an oven-proof dish with the aubergines, lightly sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Bake in oven
Adjust the oven temperature to 150C. Pour the sambal balado over the aubergines and place the kaffir lime leaves with the chilli. Here I do another 2 grinds of the sea salt mill and sprinkle with the Szechuan peppers. Stir to coat evenly, cover with foil. Then bake for 40 minutes, or until the aubergines are soft and cooked through. Before serving, squeeze the lime or lemon over the aubergines and chilli.
Other vegan combinations
Deep-fried tempeh slices that are stir-fried with the balado sauce. Deep-fried tofu and steamed green beans stir-fried with balado sauce. Diced steamed and fried potatoes stir-fried with balado sauce. These three rather qualify as “sambal goreng tempeh/tahu/kentang” rather than balado, though.
You’ll hear “sambal goreng (insert ingredient name here)” in Indonesia fairly often. It just basically means the ingredient is stir-fried with cooked chilli sauce. It differs from balado in the sense that the chilli sauce is cooked and stirred together with the ingredients, whereas balado often implies that the chilli sauce is placed on top of the main ingredient.
They’re all equally delicious : )
(for vegetarians) Telur balado for 4 people
4-8 fresh, large eggs. 2 cups of the sambal balado, recipe above. Salt and pepper to taste. A tablespoon of butter or peanut oil or coconut oil (not olive or sesame oil, these are too overwhelming in flavour).
Boil the eggs
In a large pot, cover your eggs with water, then bring to boil. Leave to boil for 8 minutes, then take off the fire, and out of the water, and leave to cool. When cool enough to handle, about 30-40 minutes later, peel the eggs. Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
Bake in oven
Cut the eggs in half, lengthwise. Line the an oven dish with the egg halves. Pour the cooked chilli over the eggs. Cover with foil. Then bake for 15 minutes, or until the chilli bubbles and the oils are “sweated out”. Serve : )
(for carnivores) Daging balado for 4 people
400g beef chuck or shoulder, sliced thin into 1-2cm rounds. 2 tbs tamarind paste. 2 tbs coriander seeds, doesn’t have to be toasted. 4 cloves crushed garlic. 2 cups of the sambal balado, recipe above. Sea salt and white pepper to taste; usually a teaspoon of each. Oil for frying, about 4 cups: I do half peanut oil and half coconut oil. Meat tenderiser.
Pound the beef slices with a meat hammer or potato masher until thin and tender. Crush the coriander seeds, tamarind paste and garlic into a paste with pestle and mortar. Add a teaspoon of coconut oil, the salt and the pepper and toss together with the beef until the meat is coated in the paste. Place in a mixing bowl, cover and leave for minimum 60 minutes.
Ratio of water to beef is 2:1. Place the room temperature water in a pot, add the beef with marinade, and bring to the boil. Once it has boiled, turn down the fire and leave to simmer until nearly all the water evaporates; there should be about a cup of broth left, which should be reserved for the second frying . Take out the beef slices and pound again with the potato masher.
Scrub the beef dry — I lay them on a clean tea towel to absord the water. Using paper towels sometimes makes the paper stick to the meat.
Fill a cast-iron pan with an inch of oil. Heat over medium-high fire. When the oil is hot, gently place the beef slices into the oil and fry for about 2 minutes on each side. The beef should crisp up. Drain the oil from the beef slices and repeat with the other slices.
Fourth: second frying
Toss the fried beef slices together with the reserved broth from the boiling. Leave for 10-15 minutes. Pound the beef again; I use my pestle with the beef in a wooden bowl. Reheat the frying oil, removing any bits and pieces left in the pan because these will burn.
Once the oil has reached high frying temperature, add the beef slices and fry for about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Place these on a plate and spoon the chilli sauce over it. Ready to serve!
There are days where I simply eat any of these three with freshly steamed white rice and kerupuk (prawn crackers). Slices of fresh, crisp, cold cucumbers and tomatoes are good with it too.