Sambal Asem Kemamah (Aceh)

Check! Now that I have made this delicious sambal asem kemamah (with stockfish), the chapter sambals from Beb Vuyk’s book is finished! On this blog, I make all 578 recipes of her Groot Indonesisch Kookboek (1973). I have made a total of 290 recipes up till now ;-).

Since I cook from Beb Vuyk a lot, I’m inspired to make my own sambal all the time. The difference between a freshly rubbed sambal or a preserved own is huge.

This sambal asem kemama from Aceh is astounding. This chili salsa holds lots of stockfish as its main ingredient.

Because a lot of salt has been added to preserve the stockfish I soak my stockfish in plain water for at least 24 hours. I change the water 3-times during this time.

This sambal asem kemamah (Aceh) is ready in about 30 minutes and is enough for a jam jar (at least 10 people).

Sambal Asem Kemamah (Aceh) # 34 translated from Beb Vuyk’s Groot Indonesisch Kookboek, page 65.


  • 1 piece of soaked stockfish of +/- 150 grams
  • 5 shredded lomboks (chilies)
  • 4 shredded garlic cloves
  • 10 tablespoons of chopped onions
  • asem the size of a walnut (tamarind)
  • 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/6 block of santen (coconut cream)
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • salt
  1. Finely grind lombok, onions, garlic with sugar and salt.
  2. Fry them in the oil until the onions are light yellow.
  3. Cut the stockfish in very fine pieces and add to the onions in the pan.
  4. Make asem water from the asem with 4 tablespoons of warm water.
  5. Add it to the pan, as well as the block santen.
  6. Stir all well and let the dish simmer for a while until the stockfish is cooked. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if necessary.
  7. This sambal should be fairly dry and, even in the refrigerator, cannot be stored for long.

sambal kemamah (stockfish) ingredients

My bag of stockfish contains more than 150 grams I need for my sambal kemama. After soaking the dried fish for 24 hours and giving it clean water 3 times most of the saltiness is gone (but it is still pretty salty) I freeze my 150 grams and make bacalhau of the rest. Here is a great recipe.

Today I use two types of peppers and some leftovers. The small peppers are a lot spicier than the normal red pepper. I half thaw my stockfish that makes cutting easier.

I grind my red peppers, onions, garlic with sugar and salt finely (bumbu). In her book, Beb explains that salt and sugar make grinding easier because of the coarse grains. I can use some extra help, because the recipe states 10 tablespoons of onions; that’s a bit of work to make into a paste ;-).

The bumbu (herb paste) must be fried in a few tablespoons of oil until the onions are yellow.

The stockfish can be added now together with the santen (coconut cream) and the asem (tamarind). I buy asem in a jar at the shop. That has already been filtered.

I make asem water by adding 4 tablespoons of warm water two a teaspoon of tamarind

The sambal in the pan is pretty wet, keep stirring on medium heat until the sambal turns pretty dry. The fish needs some time to cook too, so I give this sambal kemamah a minute or 5 to cook. Halfway through the cooking, I can smell the stockfish. Delicious.

I’ve cleaned a jam jar thoroughly and I fill, when the sambal asem kemamah is cooked until dry, the jar up and keep it in the fridge.

This sambal asem kemama is very umami. The fish and santen (coconut cream) repress the heat of the peppers. The large amount of onions ensures a nice sambal. Another great recipe from Beb Vuyk.

Want to see all Beb Vuyk’s sambal recipes on this blog? Visit this link.

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