Sambal Nasi Lemak

Sambal is the generic name for a spicy condiment made of chillies plus a combination of aromatics such as onions, garlic and ginger beside others. It is an accompaniment for 'Nasi Lemak' a popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore.

4.84 stars

Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 50 mins

Condiment

Malaysian Sambal, Malaysia Hot and Spicy Condiment

Malaysian, Singaporean

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Nutrition per Serving

342 kcal
28 g
25 g
7 g


Sambal is a type of spicy sauce or paste where chilli is the main ingredient. It serves as a condiment to complement other dishes. The name is a generic term used for a spicy condiment in countries in the Southeast Asian region.

Why is this the best Sambal recipe?

This is possibly the best sambal recipe you can find online. The feedback from community who had tried and tested this recipe is certainly very positive.

The secret lies in the combination of chillies used. Both dried and fresh chillies give the best flavours.

Can I use only one type of chillies?

Certainly! In this sambal recipe, fresh and dried chillies are used. Dried chillies gives a deeper flavour and colour to this spicy condiment while adding a decent amount of smokiness. Fresh chillies on the other hand are added for its bright red colour and spiciness.

Although the heat from fresh cayenne chillies are not as hot compared to dried chillies, it is more intense. Using both types of chillies gives a bolder heat to the sambal.

How spicy is sambal?

Sambal can be made very spicy or almost non spicy. It all depends on the chillies that are used and how they are processed. Cayenne chillies are more commonly used in Malaysia. Sometimes, bird eye chillies which are much spicier are selected instead.

To lessen the spiciness of the chillies, remove the membranes and the seeds. Read more to see how dried chillies are made less spicy.

How to eat sambal?

Sambal is so versatile that it can be served with noodles, rice or even flat bread. It goes well with seafood or meat too. Besides nasi lemak, sambal complements noodles such as Mee Goreng (fried noodles) or Nasi Goreng (fried rice).

It is also served as an accompaniment with roti canai (Malaysian flat bread). Each type of sambal has its individuality due to the different ingredients used. One of its many variations is sambal belacan which is raw.

Ingredients for sambal

Chillies and aromatics such as ginger, garlic, onions beside others are usually blended or pounded together. The paste will then be either served raw or sauteed in hot oil until it changes into a darker shade of red. This recipe requires the use of coconut milk although it is not commonly used in Malaysian sambal.

However, this is my preference as I find the addition makes the taste spectacular! Another ingredient that really makes this condiment stands out is the blended anchovies. It gives the dish its individuality and makes it really delectable.

Preparing sambal in advance

I would always cook this in large quantity and store them in containers to be kept frozen. Cooking sambal is quite a task as the heat needs to be well-controlled besides balancing the amount of sweetness, sourness and saltiness that goes into the dish.

Above all, this dish requires the usage of quite a bit of oil because the chilli paste needs to be sauteed until it is fragrant.

How to store sambal?

Sambal can be kept refrigerated in a clean and dry air tight container for up to 5 days. Otherwise, freeze it for up to 6 months. It is advisable to freeze it in small amounts as it would be more convenient for later use.

However, if kept frozen in a big container, allow to thaw for 10 minutes before using a clean fork to scoop out the desired amount. Before consuming, steam sambal for about 20 minutes.


Ingredients

Servings:  
3
garlic clove(s)
3
chilli peppers (fresh)
15
chilli peppers (dried)
20 g
dried anchovies
100 ml
oil
1
shallot(s)
125 ml
water
1 tbsp
coconut milk
1 tsp
tamarind paste
salt
sugar

Steps to Prepare

Sambal Nasi Lemak Step 1

Step 1 of 3

Optionally, remove seeds and membranes of chillies to reduce the spiciness. You may soak the dried chilli to ease seeds and membranes removal process. Blend garlic, fresh/dried chillies and half of the anchovies.

Sambal Nasi Lemak Step 2

Step 2 of 3

    • 10 g dried anchovies
    • 100 ml oil

Sauté the remaining anchovies until crispy over medium heat. Remove them from pan. Add the blended ingredients and stir-fry until it changes to a darker shade of red.

Sambal Nasi Lemak Step 3

Step 3 of 3

    • 1 shallot(s)
    • 125 ml water
    • 1 tbsp coconut milk
    • 1 tsp tamarind paste
    • salt
    • sugar

Add sliced shallots and water. Stir well and cook for about 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add coconut milk and tamarind paste. Continue cooking for about 4 minutes. If sambal is too dry, add more water. If it is too watery, continue cooking until reduced to your desired consistency. Add salt and sugar to taste. Turn off the stove. Add the fried anchovies. Mix well before serving. Optionally, discard excess oil.

Published: January 3, 2014


12 Discussions

Xiao Fang
a month ago

Xiao Fang

Unfortunately the place I am staying only has malaxiangguo kind of dried chilli or dried chilli padi. I reduced amount dried chilli padi and de-seed them, but still very spicy (I am very good at handling spicy food). I added sugar to balance it but it create interesting flavour. Which when eat it, it was sweet then follow by spicyness 😀. I guessed I need to reduce a lot of dried chilli next time.

Sara
3 months ago

Sara

Can i substitute fresh chillies with store bought sambal olek? I could only find fresh green chilli peppers here, so thought of using sambal olek.

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
3 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

No, sambal olek is a condiment on its own. The taste of sambal olek is different because of the preservatives, vinegar and other ingredients. Try it with dried chillies or if you really have to, bell peppers.

Danny
5 months ago

Danny

TBH this recipe was a disaster and I had to throw the whole thing out. I followed the written recipe, only to watch the video afterwards which had lots of steps not in the written. You need to clarify the soaking of elements as well as de-seeding the chilies as lots of other cuisines that use hot peers would never de-seed. You need to be more specific in the written with cooking times and what we are looking for. I don’t think you mean to fry the anchovy on “medium” to get it crispy. I think you mean “high” or even better “get the oil hot and popping.” Be specific on what to do with the shallots. Even at the end, I ended up with a soup: in the written it says “mix well and serve,” but in the video you drain the oil off. The recipes need to be consistent, you should have to go between both formats to get it right. Sorry but this made me mad at the waste of time this caused.

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
5 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

I'm sorry to hear this, Danny. Using your feedback, we've just updated the recipe for precision. The written recipe should be as precise as possible, you are right. Please allow me to go through your comments: Soaking and deseeding chillies are optional. To fry the anchovies, it is best to use medium heat because the anchovies might burn if the heat is too high. It is safer but it might take a little longer with medium heat. Draining the oil is also optional. I like my sambal oilier. That is also how sambal is sold in many Nasi Lemak stalls, with lots of oil. I think Grace was trying to avoid consuming too much oil. Thank you for your very constructive feedback. It was very helpful! We will do better next time.

Danny
3 months ago

Danny

Thanks for the quick response, I gave it another go--awesome! Thank you for this beautiful recipe!

Tanuja R. Nadarajan
6 months ago

Tanuja R. Nadarajan

Hi There, how do I substitute the tamarind paste for my tamarind concentrate. Mine is like a syrupy liquid so I’m not sure how much to use to make the tamarind juice. (https://smile.amazon.com/Tamicon-Tamarind-Paste-7oz/dp/B000JSQKL6/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1M8HQXN6D2CPQ&dchild=1&keywords=tamarind%2Bpaste&qid=1617005100&s=grocery&sprefix=tamarind%2Cgrocery%2C316&sr=1-5&th=1)

Tanuja R. Nadarajan
6 months ago

Tanuja R. Nadarajan

Sorry, I meant I'm not sure how much of my liquid concentrate to use for the tamarind paste.

Grace
6 months ago

Grace

Hi Tanuja, you can start with 1 teaspoon and add on if you want more sourness. Always taste as you cook to balance the flavours.

Lynne Hesp
6 months ago

Lynne Hesp

Our Favourite local cafe in Port Dickson served a Sambal that was sweeter and not toooo spicy which was great for me and the kids. She called it sweet sambal. what would be the best way to replicate this while still getting a good flavour? can I adapt this recipe with less chilis and more sugar/coconut milk or is there a good recipe for Sweet Sambal you could recommend? Also I cant get tamarind where I currently live, what is the best substitute for this recipe?

Grace
6 months ago

Grace

Sweeter sambal uses more sugar and onions in their recipe. You can add palm sugar and onions to the sambal without reducing the chillies or coconut milk. I've used vinegar to replace tamarind juice/paste. Works fine, but go easy and taste as you go.

Michael
7 months ago

Michael

Just a question on making Sambal (or any Rempah). I make HUGE batches for my restaurant and I normally buy dried Kashmiri chilis and then painstakingly de-seed, soak, and grind them into a paste, which is added to a big bowl of watery paste (including all the other ground fresh ingredients). Then it all gets mixed together and fried (after toasting my belacan). SO... if I were to substitute Kashmiri POWDER, I would be able to save a great deal of time and effort. But what is your opinion on that? Will it effect the overall flavour? I know it will affect the texture slightly, but with all the other fresh ingredients (like fresh chili, galangal, onions, etc), I don't mind a minimal change in texture. I'm weighing whether to purchase 5 kilos of dried chili vs 2 kilos of powdered (of the exact same variety).

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
7 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

That makes a lot of sense, Michael. You can make sambal with chilli powder. There will be a slight taste in texture and taste, because you won't get the natural oil of chillies when grinding them. Then again, it will save a lot of time so I feel the minimal drawbacks can be excused.

David
a year ago

David

If only non-dried anchovies (in oil) can be sourced, can these be used instead in step 1, and perhaps deep frying these for steps 2-3?

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
a year ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

The anchovies (in oil) are rather big. They wouldn't work for this recipe. In step 2, you can use fish sauce. In step 3, the anchovies can be omitted. Have you tried looking in Korean stores? They are sometimes sold frozen.

David
a year ago

David

Thank you Mira. I'll continue to hunt for the dried variety. Surely there'll be a store somewhere around here that has them.

Nigel Ng
a year ago

Nigel Ng

Can I use this sambal to cook asam fish?

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
a year ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

No, they are different. Here's the recipe for Asam Pedas https://www.nyonyacooking.com/recipes/asam-pedas-ikan-pari~ByZH_viDfcZQ

Christina SEOW
a year ago

Christina SEOW

Hello Grace! I tried to make sambal with dried chillis only (as it is the only item I have, no fresh chillis) and I am having troubles getting the texture right. I have a small food processor/ blender and I used it to chop up the ingredients but the dried chillis remain as large pieces rather than small and unseen. What would you recommend me to do to make the texture finer?

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
a year ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Hi Christina, you can add more water to help with the blending process. You will just need a longer time to reduce the sambal or it might be too watery.

Christina SEOW
a year ago

Christina SEOW

Thank you Mira! I will try to give it a go!

Suzanne Kelly
2 years ago

Suzanne Kelly

Do you use fresh anchovies, dried or bottled?

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
2 years ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Dried anchovies. Recipe updated!

Rex
2 years ago

Rex

Hi could I know how long could it be preserved if I keep it in freezer.

Mira - Community Happiness Manager
2 years ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Up to 6 months.

Rex
2 years ago

Rex

Do appriciate to your reply.

Senly Foo
2 years ago

Senly Foo

I made this today n it taste so good. I reduced dried chilli n add more fresh chilli cos don’t want it too spicy.

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