Kitchen Tips

How to Make Sambal

Sambal is an extremely easy-to-make and easy-to-use sauce/paste that complements every dish, every meat and every cuisine. It is a fresh and spicy sauce that turns an ordinary dish into a winner. Sambal is a popular dish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, where there are hundreds of different types made with a variety of different ingredients including shallots, Petai (beans from a tree) and fermented shrimp. Ideally, you can make a large batch of Sambal, freeze it and use it whenever you want to spice up a dish. A simple kitchen how to – remember to store it for not more than 3 months, else it loses its freshness.

Now that we’ve got your attention, here’s how to make Sambal.

How to Make Sambal

Image Courtesy: Christopher Paquette used under the Creative Commons Licence

The things you need:

8 small chopped red onions

8 fresh chilies sliced, remove seeds for a milder sambal

5 cloves sliced garlic

1 stalk lemongrass thinly sliced (use only the bottom 3 inches of the stalk – this is the most fragrant part of lemongrass)

1⁄2 ounce tamarind (soak in a cup of water and pour the tamarind juice through a strainer before use, to avoid chunks and granular particles)

10 dried chilies (soak in hot water for 5 minutes)

2 tsp turmeric powder

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt, or to taste

8 tsp oil

How to put it together:

Step 1: Blend onions, chilies, garlic, lemongrass, tamarind and dried chilies into a paste. Add 3 tsp oil to ensure it blends to a smooth paste.

Step 2: Add 5 tsp oil in a pan. Once the oil is hot, add the paste and sauté until aromatic.

Tip: Always keep the flame on a low. Sauté for about 13-17 minutes, constantly stirring the paste.

Step 3: Add tamarind paste, salt and sugar.

Step 4: Cook till the oil separates from the pan and floats to the top.


Your perfect sambal is ready to use. Why not try your own twist on this classic by including other herbs and spices like Kafir lime leaves, Galangal or ginger. If you are keen on trying Sambal but have difficulty finding the ingredients to make it, why not try Yeo’s Sambal Oeleck which is available in most supermarkets

And if you’re in a mood to give some Sambal a try immediately, here’s Asian Inspirations’ must-try recipe – Sambal prawns

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