My kitchen produces two things each year that are universally loved by my friends: sambal and fresh, fermented salsa. It did not occur to me to combine the two until I was staring down the barrel of a pint of freshly picked strawberries, which clearly only had a day left in them. On a hunch, I grabbed my sambal and added the muddled strawberries, and I was in love.
The resulting salsa is hot, of course, depending on how hot your sambal is. My sambal is a garlic chilli sauce–a chunky mix of peppers, garlic and salt that’s allowed to ferment into a wonderfully delicious mass of umami. I dip summer rolls (gui cuon) into it, and it is wonderful.
Garlic chilli sauce needs time to mellow out and ferment if you make it yourself, so you won’t have time to do it this year, but you can just grab a bottle of Huy Fong and add strawberries to that.
How to make strawberry sambal salsa
Destem your strawberries and dust them off. If they’re not dirty, don’t wash ‘em. I know, this seems counterintuitive, but we actually want the natural yeast on the outside of the berry, so washing them doesn’t help our ferment. To be clear: This salsa is still amazing even if it doesn’t ferment, so don’t worry if you don’t see signs of fermentation.
Smash your berries with your instrument of choice. A muddler, a potato masher–even a fork will do. You want a chunky, juicy, deep red mash. Start adding garlic chilli sauce a tablespoon at a time, mix it in, then taste. Keep doing this until you reach your desired level of heat. I used 1 pint of strawberries for 3 tablespoons of garlic chilli sauce. That’s it, just two ingredients.
Put this into a jar with an airlock attached, and leave it on the counter out of the sun, in a spot under 20°C. Let it hang out on the counter overnight, then transfer it to the fridge. Those strawberries are super fragile, so at best, you have two-three days to eat this spicy, fruity mixture. But they’ll be glorious days.
Sure, it’s great on a tortilla chip (grab the blue corn, the magenta salsa against the blue is pretty inspiring). But I urge you to go grab a piece of swordfish or halibut or some other thick, flaky fish, and use this as a relish on the grilled result. I beg you to put a bit of this on a piece of fresh melon. I beseech you to put it on a smoky, hot brat. And this will really rock your world… but put a tablespoon or two of it into whipped cream and then use that whipped cream on a cupcake. (You’re welcome.)
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