There's only one way to describe sambal, and that is... red hot.
Well, actually this is not entirely true. Sambals come in various guises. The most commonly known sambals are those in little jars in Chinese or Indonesian restaurants. These are chilli pepper sauces. They come in two varieties: the plain sambal and the sambal goreng1.
However, not all sambals are simply chilli pepper sauces, but they do all contain some chilli peppers or lomboks2. In Indonesia there are a lot of different chilli peppers varying from those you can eat raw3 to the 'rawit' kind4.
In fact there are more than 100 different sambals each with a different taste. Some exist as a sauce in order to spice up a dish, others are a complete dish unto themselves.
The most simple sambal is sambal oelek To make this you cut 10 lomboks very finely and then mix them with one teaspoon of salt. This is the typical red sauce in those little jars that you find in many Asian restaurants.
Sambal Goreng Dadar
This one isn't really that hot.
Scramble four eggs with salt and pepper and mix in some parsley.
Let this stand for 15 minutes until the air bubbles have all gone.
Bake in a large frying pan until both sides are a nice golden brown.
Make a roll out of it and let it cool down.
When cold cut into 1cm broad slices.
Now mix 1 onion cut into small pieces with some garlic, a chilli pepper, a teaspoon of laos5, some salt and pepper.
Fry this mix. After a minute add a teaspoon of 'javan sugar' or brown sugar if you can't get any, some sereh (lemongrass), a small amount of santen (condensed coconut milk) and 10cl of water.
Let it cook for about ten minutes. Now mix the sliced egg roll with this mix and serve with rice and a vegetable dish.
Be sure you have at least one sambal sauce on the table so people can spice up their meal as much as they like. Sambal oelek heats things up a little, or sambal goreng manis, a slightly sweet fried sambal, which isn't quite so hot. Perhaps also have a bottle of thai sauce, maybe Nam Pla (fish sauce), which isn't hot at all but which is pleasantly sweet.
If you really like Indonesian food try a Dutch invention called 'rice table'. It is a combination of about ten to 20 dishes. Often four or more of these dishes are sambal gorengs. It's a real treat. In Holland, all Indonesian restaurants have three or four different rice tables on the menu. It's a great way to explore Indonesian food.