Always accompanying Southeast Asian food, belachan is a mainstay in cuisine from south of China, to Thailand, to Malaysia, to Singapore, to Indonesia and to reaches far and in-between. Needless to say, as Straits-cooking is a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Dutch influences, it is an essential condiment to nyonya or Peranakan food. At its heart is shrimp paste. Preparation from there on varies widely based on culture, cuisine and heritage. Sambal belachan is a spicy, intoxicating shrimp paste made with chillies and spices. Some version of it can be easily found in any Asian food store around the world. However, every Southeast Asian family is likely to know someone who will insist that so-and-so in the family makes the best homemade sambal belachan ever, and proclaim it with quiet pride. I am no different. I like mine hot and spicy, sometimes a touch of lime for an added zing.
One of my favourite store-bought version of sambal belachan is from Glory Foods, available in Asian grocery stores in California. A close substitute available online from Amazon is Nonya Sambal by Prima Taste.