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.
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.