Sambal Rebon: Dried Tiny-Shrimp Sambal

A sambal made of dried super-tiny shrimp, or rebon. Here, rebon is fried with shallots and chillies to give a crunchy, spicy condiment.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Having been cooped up at home since the pandemic began, I’d almost forgotten what a traditional wet market is like. But some time ago, my sense of adventure resurfaced and I took a trip to Babakan Market, located in the Tangerang area, not far from Jakarta. 

Babakan Market is a wholesale market selling local produce, and it opens only at night, from 10pm onwards. That’s because most of the market’s patrons are resellers, and visit the market at night to ready themselves for the next day’s business. And so the market is noisy and chaotic, but very much alive, with piles and piles of fresh produce and busy people haggling over them.

Walking through the market was a feast for my eyes, especially when I saw the dried salted fish section. There were piles of different kinds of dried salted fish and shrimp. Among them was a mountain of dried rebon, or super-tiny dried shrimp! It looked so inviting I just had to buy it. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I needed to get it because it was just irresistible. I ended up buying 250 gr of rebon, which is a lot, because rebon is so light.

Rebon are super-tiny dried shrimp, so tiny they look totally insubstantial. They’re often used as a seasoning, or made into a shrimp paste. Rebon is rich in protein, calcium and iron, and is a delicious ingredient for rempeyek (crispy crackers), abon (floss), sambal, and other dishes. Dried rebon is very salty, so rinsing it with water is necessary to remove the dirt and reduce the saltiness. 

Finding dried rebon outside Indonesia can be challenging, but it’s an interesting and important part of Indonesian cuisine, so do try it if you ever get the chance!

Sambal rebon is a delicious sambal recipe made of fried dried rebon, mixed with chilli and shallot. Preparing it is relatively easy. We just need to slice, fry and mix the ingredients. There is no pounding involved in the process. 

The dish has a distinctive flavour. It’s sharp and pungent, spicy and very tasty. It’s a satisfying accompaniment for rice, and goes well with raw/boiled vegetables, or as a topping for your noodles to add more crunch and enhance the flavour. Sambal rebon can be stored in a tightly sealed jar for a few days too. It will stay fresh and ready whenever you need an extra kick for your meal. 

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Sambal Rebon: Dried Tiny-Shrimp Sambal

Sambal Rebon: Dried Tiny-Shrimp Sambal

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Sambals and Sauces
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal

Description

Sambal rebon is a sambal made of super tiny dried shrimp, or rebon, an ingredient that’s popular in Indonesia but little-known outside of it. Here, rebon is fried with shallots and chillies to give a crunchy, spicy condiment.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 100 gr dried rebon
  • 100 gr shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 50 gr bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
  • Salt to taste (optional)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Mushroom stock powder (optional)
  • Cooking oil for deep frying

Instructions

  1. Wash the rebon thoroughly by soaking the rebon in water, then draining at least twice. Then, squeeze out as much water as possible and pat dry.
  2. Deep fry the rebon until golden (around 8 minutes) over medium heat. Stir constantly to avoid burning it, then set aside. Throw away the excess oil in the frying pan, and clean the pan.

    Deep fry the rebon until golden

  3. Put enough oil in a frying pan, and fry the sliced shallots over medium heat until almost golden (around 7-8 minutes).

    fry the sliced shallots

  4. Add the sliced chillies, fry for another one minute, then add salt, sugar and mushroom stock powder. Fry for 1 minute. 

    Add the sliced chillies

  5. Add the fried rebon, mix and and fry further for another 3 minutes.

    Add the fried rebon

  6. Transfer the dish into a serving bowl and enjoy with plenty of steamed rice. 

    sambal rebon is ready


Notes

  • Always taste the dish before adding extra salt as the rebon is already salty.

Keywords: spicy, shallots, chili

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