I can't live without sambal. It's my spicy drug. For me, sambal brings any meal to another whole new level. Greatness.
This is how I make my Malaysian chili paste or sambal, living in a country where Asian ingredients don't come easy.
I've made it in so many ways and have simplified it so that it'll be doable for you also, regardless of where you are.
Texture and flavour - Thick sauce that is spicy and is a bit towards the sweet side. It can be used to condiment other dishes like curry laksa or can be a dish on itself like anchovies sambal.
Level - Easy. It splashes a lot during cooking time so I recommend you to use an oil splash guard.
Occasion - Uff! If you love spicy like me, then use it in anything and everything.
Lets Talk Ingredients
Dry chilis - I use dry red pepper chilis. You can buy them in Asian stores. Dry chilis come in different level of spiciness. So choose the ones that suit you. I love spicy (the spicier the better). If you don't eat spicy food, you can try my not-spicy "sambal" that uses roasted red bell peppers instead of dry chilis.
Sugar - I like to use coconut sugar not only for the taste but it also makes the sambal has that beautiful darker red look. If you're not picky like me, use whatever sweetener that you prefer.
Lemon juice - it's an acidic element with a hint of sourness that balances all the flavours in sambal. Originally my sister and late mother (whom I learnt to make sambal from) use tamarind juice. It's not as easy to get tamarind where I live so I use whatever I have in hands.
SUBSTITUTION: Tamarind juice/paste, lime juice or even vinegar.
Shrimp paste - This is optional. It gives the sambal that umami touch.
SUBSTITUTION: Use 1 tablespoon of fish sauce instead.
What To Eat Sambal With
As I mentioned earlier, you can enjoy sambal as a condiment or as a dish itself.
To use as a condiment, think of it as sriracha. Use it whenever you want to spice up your soups, instant pot chicken congee, or rice or one of my favorites is to have it with curries.
You can make it a dish by adding some sort of protein source in it like squids, shrimps, chicken or anchovies. Serve with rice, there's nothing better.
Malaysian Chili Paste (Sambal)
- 1.8 oz dry chillies (50 g), cut & deseeded
- ½ onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 slice of ginger
- 1 thumb sized shrimp paste
- 1 cup water (250 ml)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Soak chilis in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and blend into a smooth paste with the rest of ingredients using a food processor
- Heat some oil in a wok/pan on medium heat. Pour blended mixture and cook until mixture thickens, around 15-20 minutes. It splashes so use oil splash guard. Stir now and then.
- Add seasonings, mix and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Serve!
How To Store
- In air tight container, in the fridge up to 5 days. Freeze up to 6 months.
- A good sambal is a tad sweeter than it is spicy, salty or sour. Adjust to your likings.
- Use oil splash guard because it splashes as soon as you pour mixture into hot oil.
- Stir now and then to make sure nothing sticks/burns.
Originally published on Feb 13, 2019. Updated with improved text, recipe and pictures on Aug 5, 2021.
Ive managed to get some fresh red chillies, do I make it the same way?
Also, any methods on keeping them longer ie freezing?
Love your recipes!!
Hi Jayanthi! I'd say double the amount of fresh red chillies and you'd have to cook the sambal a bit longer to get the sambal thick consistency since fresh chillies have more water content. It's not going to taste the same though but hey, it's still sambal 😋. I always keep my sambal in small portions, in ziploc bags and freeze. Hope it helps!
WOW! I've tried lots of sambal recipes and this is the best one and it actually turns out the way it should. The taste is just like home! Spicy and fragrant! Thank you! I look forward to eat with my Nasi goreng! 🙂
Yeay 🙌! Happy to know that. A good sambal is a must for us, right? Thanks for your feedback and do check around here for more simplified Asian recipes.
Kate Ingreim says
Thank you for this recipe!!
I miss Malaysian food and I look forward to visit it again someday. I made this recipe and it really reminds me of the stalls and food in Malaysia.
Love - Kate
Hi Kate! I'm happy that the recipe brings back happy memories of Malaysia to you. Thank you so much!
I love your recipes! Made this sambal tonight and it's so tasty. Another winner. Your notes are also helpful for me to know what I should aim for when preparing this. Thank you.!
I'm glad that you find them useful Lily! Sambal is always a winner in my heart 😀 , thank you!
Ahhhh Finally a recipe that looks and sounds right..Thank you for sharing, I tried it and it was perfect , reminded le of the sambal of my favorite Nasi Lemak stall in Melaka..Terima Kasih 🤗🤗
Awesome! Happy to know that it brings back memories to you (coincidently, I was born in Melaka 😂!). Terima kasih for your feedback! 😍
Seriously?? Wow, what's a coincidence !!! Which area?? I'm currently staying in Ayer Keroh..but that stall mentioned before was in Kampung Lapan ..
Anyway , please keep on sharing your tasty recipes.. I made Laksa a few days ago following your recipe and it turned out v.good 😉
Yea? Hey that's awesome! I was born in Terendak. Happy that you loved the laksa, thank you! 🤗🤗
Maggie Butcher says
I have been looking for a good sambal recipe for awhile now, thank you! however i must ask is the shrimp paste a must? I am looking to serve to people with seafood allergens, perhaps i could replace it with golden mountain sauce (although it is thai haha).
Hi Maggie! You can totally skip the shrimp paste, no problem at all (my sister is not fond of it and never uses it 🤣 ). Hope it helps and that everybody likes it 😊.
Can't wait to make this. May I know what Shrimp paste is the best to use?