Warung Spesial Sambal, because sambal is the champion

by Anton Muhajir on 2013-04-01

Hot to hotter: Four plates of different sambal, including the refreshing sambal made of mango in lower right.Hot to hotter: Four plates of different sambal, including the refreshing sambal made of mango in lower right.

For some Indonesians, spiciness is an important element in a dish. No matter how delicious the food is, if it’s not spicy hot, something seems to be missing.

No wonder chilies, peppers and other hot spices have always been main ingredients in Indonesian cuisine.

Warung SS — the SS stands for Spesial Sambal — in Batubulan, Gianyar regency, completely understands this concept. The warung (food stall) only opened three months ago, but customers already flock there on a daily basis. Some even have to wait in line for around an hour to get a seat, and some of these fans are “daredevil” Western tourists who want to find out whether sambal (chili condiment) is truly as spicy as the Indonesians love to claim it is.

Big operation: The front of the food stall displays a signboard announcing that it serves 84 items on its menu, the majority of which are sambal.Big operation: The front of the food stall displays a signboard announcing that it serves 84 items on its menu, the majority of which are sambal.

Customers are not only from Denpasar, but also all the way from Jimbaran and even Bangli. The roots of Warung SS in Batubulan can be found with a street-side food vendor on the campus of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. The first such warung opened on the campus 10 years ago, and the Batubulan stall is its first branch outside Java.

From the abbreviated name of the warung, anyone can certainly guess that the largest variety on the menu is sambal. There are 27 kinds of sambal, 11 vegetable dishes and 24 beverages.

The various types of sambal include sambal belut, sambal teri, sambal tahu, sambal trasi segar, sambal bajak, sambal tomat and many more. From all of these, a list of the 10 best sellers is updated every month and written on the stall’s information board.

This month, the fresh sambal terasi (shrimp paste chili sauce) stands at the top, followed by cooked sambal terasi, sambal cumi, sambal tomat and sambal belut and, last but not least, sambal tubruk.

The sambal are priced from Rp 1,500 to Rp 5,000 (16 to 51 US cents) per portion.

The stall’s attendant said that the sambal were guaranteed to be both spicy and fresh, because they were only made after being ordered. Thus, customers must wait around 30 minutes for the food they order to actually land on the table.

Each of the sambal differs in flavor, for example, sambal mangga is both hot and sour because of the ground young mango fruit, while sambal tempeh will definitely taste like tempeh with the kicking heat of the ground chilies.

The degree of heat in these sambal is noted on the menu, so customers know what they are getting beforehand. For example, sambal kecap is categorized as Bullsh*t because it is not too spicy, while sambal tubruk is categorized on the emergency aid (P3K) list for its high level of spiciness. Be aware that the descriptions of these levels of spiciness are hyperbolic in nature.

Popular: Customers fill the dining area of the increasingly popular food stall.Popular: Customers fill the dining area of the increasingly popular food stall.

The food stall, which has a capacity around 50 seats, of course also offers various other common dishes using fish (catfish, gourami), chicken and beef.

Warung SS Batubulan opens daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

- Photos by Anton Muhajir

Choose an Edition