Sambal Verde

Mom's home-made sambal. Photo by Doris Lim

In Nyonya households, there's always this soothing din of going ons in the kitchen, the swoosh of washing, the jackhammering sound of water taps at full blast, the chopping, smashing, slicing and grinding sounds.

The louder and more intense the noise, with the mumble of women’s voices usually herald the onset of a forthcoming feast. A T’ng Tok for instance.

First there’s this saltiness in the air, a little pungent, somewhat rancid until it grows huge. Consumingly voracious....

Nothing quite equals toasting belacan over a charcoal stove at the crack of dawn. No one gets up annoyed but rather smile with anticipation.

The sound that never fails to draw me near is the pounding of mortar and pestle for first the Sambal Belacan… and then the rest is a wonder!


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