Sambal Nasi Lemak

4.83 stars

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.

Preparation 10 mins
Cooking 50 mins


Malaysian Sambal, Malaysia Hot and Spicy Condiment

Malaysian, Singaporean

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.

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

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.


garlic clove(s)
chilli peppers (fresh)
chilli peppers (dried)
20 g
dried anchovies
100 ml
125 ml
1 tbsp
coconut milk
1 tsp
tamarind paste

Steps to Prepare

Sambal Nasi Lemak Step 1

Step 1 of 3

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. Add coconut milk and tamarind paste. Continue cooking for about 4 minutes. Turn off the stove. Add the fried anchovies. Add salt and sugar to taste. Mix well before serving.

Published: January 3, 2014

6 Discussions

a year 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.

10 months ago


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

10 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Up to 6 months.

9 months ago


Do appriciate to your reply.

7 months ago

Suzanne Kelly

Do you use fresh anchovies, dried or bottled?

7 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

Dried anchovies. Recipe updated!

5 months 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?

5 months 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.

5 months ago

Christina SEOW

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

3 months ago

Nigel Ng

Can I use this sambal to cook asam fish?

3 months ago

Mira - Community Happiness Manager

No, they are different. Here's the recipe for Asam Pedas

3 months ago

David Armstrong

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?

3 months 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.

3 months ago

David Armstrong

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

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