Sambal goreng kentang kering is a popular Indonesian side dish or topping made from potato that can be served alongside other Indonesian dishes or simply sprinkled over white rice to add a nice crunchy texture. To be honest, when my mother or I make it, a big part usually ends up being scooped straight into my mouth from the container I am ‘storing’ it in…
Below, you will find my grandmother’s recipe for this dish, which was passed onto me by my mother who is the one seen making the dish in the photographs below. My grandmother and consequently the rest of my family, have always referred to this dish as ‘patatjes’, meaning ‘little potato fries’ in Dutch – not such a very strange nickname considering ‘goreng’ means to fry, ‘kentang’ means potato and ‘kering’ means dry (there is also a ‘non-dry’ version) and the dish is indeed made by deep-frying very finely grated potatoes (and onions and garlic cloves) until crispy and golden. To complete the dish, the fried ingredients are tossed in just enough savoury and sweet ‘sauce’ to make them taste delicious, but a small enough amount to preserve all of that crispy, deep-fried potato-y goodness.
You might be thinking: finely grated potatoes? Well, yes. While sambal goreng kentang kering is often made with either finely diced, sliced, or julienne-cut potatoes that look similar to those ‘potato (match)sticks’ chips you can find in the snack-isle at the supermarket (which you can actually use for a lazy quick version of this dish, by the way), my grandmother always grated the potatoes into delicate little strings with a box grater as you would do for rösti or latkes, so that they would become incredibly crispy and even lighter than shoestring potatoes after frying – which I personally really like.
Now, about that ‘sauce’ I mentioned: for this ‘dry’ version of this dish, it is not so much a sauce, but rather a very thin coating that does add a lot of flavour to the dish, but almost completely disappears into the many strands of crispy potato. This ‘coating’ is both savoury and sweet, but many versions are usually a bit spicy as well. My grandmother for some reason never made it spicy and neither did she really add many other flavourings besides sugar, salt, galangal (laos), tamarind paste and dried shrimp paste (terasi / belancan). While I stay true to her version in the recipe below, I do believe you can play around with different spices. It can also be nice to fry some thinly sliced chili peppers together with the potato, garlic and onions, or to add a spoonful of sambal badjak (or other chili paste) to the ‘sauce’ for a bit of a kick, if you fancy.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON AMOUNTS AND STORAGE:
Please note that the recipe below is for a BIG batch (see photo: you end up with a large wok full) of sambal goreng kentang kering, which is the actual amount my grandmother used to make and is enough for a big family to eat from for several days/weeks. Because of all the grating of the potatoes, a lot of work goes into making the dish, which is probably one of the reasons why she’d make such a huge batch all at once… to get it over with for the next few weeks.
Since the end product is dry and crispy, not dissimilar to fried shallots you can purchase at the store, this dish keeps very well. When stored correctly in an airtight container with some kitchen paper at the bottom, it keeps for several weeks.
Considering this, you might want to think about either making a huge batch as well, which you can store and consume over several weeks, or either halving or even quartering the amounts below if you don’t plan on feeding that many people, or do not intend on consuming it for several days.
My Grandmother’s Sambal Goreng Kentang Kering (Indonesian Crispy Fried Potato Dish – Huge Batch!)
- 3.5kg waxy potatoes
- 600g yellow onions
- 4 garlic cloves
- optional: 1 red chili pepper, sliced thinly
- 1l – 2l sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- For the 'sauce':
- 1 teaspoon purified (no seeds) tamarind paste
- 4 tablespoons water
- 160g granulated white sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground dried galangal (laos)
- ¼ teaspoon dried shrimp paste powder (terasi/belancan), or about a 3g chunk of dried cube kind
- ½ teaspoon salt
- optional: 1 teaspoon spicy pepper paste such as sambal badjak
- a large wok, or preferably two; one for frying and another for combining all ingredients
- a clean tea towel or two
- Peel and grate potatoes with a box grater and place in a very large bowl, or clean sink filled with cold water. Gently rinse the grated potato to remove excess starch, then place in a colander to allow to water to drain off.
- Place (batches of the) rinsed and drained potato strings in a clean tea towel. Gather the ends of the tea towel and gently squeeze out any remaining excess moisture from each batch. You want to get out as much moisture as possible, yet not squeeze too hard as it will damage the fragile potato strings. If the towel gets too wet, replace with another clean towel. Once enough moisture has been removed, place potato strings in a large bowl and set aside.
- Cut in half and very finely slice the onions. Finely slice the garlic cloves (and chilies, if using). Set aside.
- In a large wok or high-rimmed frying pan, heat enough sunflower oil for deep-frying over medium-high heat (meaning: at least a few cm deep).
- Once the oil is hot (test with a small piece of potato; if it bubbles, it’s hot enough), deep-fry the grated potatoes in batches until golden and crispy. Once the potatoes start to slightly change color, carefully separate them and move them around a little. Do not overcrowd the wok or pan as the potato will clump together too much and the oil might bubble over. Allow excess oil from the fried potatoes to drain onto pieces of kitchen paper.
- Next, deep-fry the thinly sliced onions until golden and crisp and do the same for the thinly sliced garlic. Fry the garlic separate from the onions, as it needs only a few seconds and burns quickly. Do the same for the chili peppers, if using. Allow all fried things to drain on kitchen paper.
- In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon purified tamarind paste in 4 tablespoons of water.
- In another clean, large wok or pan big enough to contain all ingredients together(!) over medium-low heat, combine the tamarind paste + water mixture, ground galangal, shrimp paste, sugar and salt (if using chili paste, add as well). Stir well over medium-low heat until the sugar and shrimp paste are well dissolved. The mixture should just start to bubble, and thicken ever so slightly, but make sure it doesn’t burn, then remove from heat.
- During this next step you have to be quick: add all the fried ingredients (potato, onion, garlic, and chili if using) to the wok with the sauce and stir / toss swiftly to combine all ingredients very well. Since the sauce is sticky and sugary, there may always be some small lumps sticking together, but try to coat the little strands of potato as well as you can. The sauce should form only the lightest coating and the end result should be crispy and dry and only slightly sticky at most.
Allow to cool and store in airtight containers with a piece of kitchen paper at the bottom to catch excess oil. Serve with rice and other Indonesian dishes.