Kitchen Tips

5 Exotic Malaysian Sauces

Malaysian cuisine is exotic and unique in its own ways. It offers signature dishes with an eclectic approach from different regions bringing in an array of flavours and taste to the cuisine.

The prime characteristic of Malaysian cuisine is the generous use of spices, coconut and the flavourful sauces alongside lemongrass and galangal. Malaysian sauces add a distinct flavour and are a popular condiment in the Malaysian cuisine.

The spicy and citrusy element in the sauces gives a strong flavour to the dishes making it a hot favourite among food lovers. However, some of the dishes also use sweet sauce to neutralise the spices in the dish.

Apart from the regular soya sauce there are other sauces that add a zing to the food.

Here are 5 popular sauces that are central to the Malaysian dishes:

Sambal Oelek


Image Courtesy: Christopher Paquette used under the Creative Commons Licence

The quintessential sauce, Sambal Oelek is used in most of the Asian and Malaysian dishes, it adds a touch of heat to the dish flaring up the flavour to the next level. Made with red chillis, shrimp paste and salt it is used commonly in fried rice and noodles.

Peanut Sauce 

malaysian peanut sauce

Image Courtesy: kay used under the Creative Commons Licence

A dipping sauce made with roasted peanuts along with red chillis, lime leaves, soy sauce and garlic is most commonly used in satay to add flavour and also to dip the same and hence it is called Satay sauce. It is used for dipping spring rolls and gado gado as well.

Sweet Soy Sauce (Kecap Manis)


Image Courtesy: Herman Saksono used under the Creative Commons Licence

Used vastly in Indonesian recipes Kecap Manis sauce is also a major part of Malaysian cuisine. It is made with dark soy sauce, sugar, garlic, galangal, bay leaves and is used to make the popular Malaysian Massaman Beef  curry in soy sauce and steamed fish.

Bajak Chili Sauce (Sambal Bajak)

Malaysian Bajak Chilli Sauce

Image Courtesy: Alpha used under the Creative Commons Licence

Made with dried shrimp paste, garlic, cloves, tamarind, lemongrass and galangal, this sauce is perfect for soups and stir-fries, which adds a touch of heat to the dishes. One of the popular dishes that use sambal bajak is ayam goreng kremes, a fried chicken recipe.

Sweet Chili Sauce (Sambal Kecap)

malaysian sweet chilli sauce

Image Courtesy:jeffreyw used under the Creative Commons Licence

A sweet-savoury sauce made with sweet soy sauce, onions, red chillies and lime juice is quite easy to make and is used in Malaysian curry clams, chicken meatballs, curried prawns and shrimp fried rice.

Other common sauces include Hoisin sauce, plum sauce, rice vinegar and Sambal Terong made with  Aubergine.

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