Indonesian Sambal

For those who like a little spice in their lives, there is nothing better than a chili sauce, one balanced in flavor that not only brings mouth heat but also comforting warmth to a meal. For me, a chili sauce in an Asian meal is as important (if not more) as salt and pepper shakers on a western table. Whether soy sauce based or chili pepper based, flavoured with shrimp paste, or fermented soy bean, or lemongrass, or small red chilis chopped with seeds and all (not for the faint of heart) – it lends an umami flavour, which once you start having with your meals, is hard to go without.


If you like the flavour of a particular chili sauce, but not the heat, then why not try to make your own at home? It’s actually pretty simple, and once you have found a good recipe, you can whip up a batch and keep it in the fridge to savour over coming days.

Whenever we go to Bali, I always hang around the villa’s kitchen, and if I ask nicely, Ketut (the chef) is always happy to give me a cooking demonstration. Here are two Indonesian sambal recipes that I love, straight from a Balinese kitchen to you.

Sambal Matah – or Sambal Bali, as I call it 🙂

This is a raw sambal, of Balinese origin.

Ingredients for Sambal Matah

Ingredients for Sambal Matah


5 shallots, finely sliced
3 Lemongrass, white section finely chopped
3 chilis, finely chopped
1/4 lime
1 cm piece of shimp paste
vegetable oil or coconut oil



Heating the shrimp past to soften it and bring out the flavour

 Stick the shrimp paste on the end of a skewer and heat over flame until charred.

 Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, squeezing the lime juice out and reserving the peel for decoration.

 Add enough oil just to coat the mixture.

The finished product!

The finished product!

This recipe uses local Balinese chili peppers, which have a unique flavour. Try it with small Thai chili peppers, but the heat will be more intense. You can serve this with grilled fish or meat, fried chicken – or anything you want, really!

Sambal Terasi

This is a cooked sambal with a stronger flavour owing to the terasi, or shrimp paste.


The building blocks


5 large chili peppers (for taste)
1 small chili pepper (for heat)
6 shallots, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 a tomato, quartered
1 small packet of dried shrimp paste
2 tbsp palm sugar
1/2 kaffir lime, juiced (or substitute with Thai lime)


IMG_6968 Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a pan over medium heat. Lightly sauté shallots, garlic, chilis, tomato, shrimp paste, adding  each ingredient one by one in this order, pausing between each addition.



Remove from heat and cool, then blend until smooth.


 ♥ Re-fry in the pan for a few minutes to blend the flavours, then season with salt and lime juice.

Sambal Terasi

Sambal Terasi

The sambal should be well blended – the only reason you can see the large chunks in this sambal is because the blender was a bit lazy!


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