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Cinta Dapur » Breakfast » Sambal


Sambal is the basic building block of Malay dishes. It can be used to churn out other amazing dishes such as sambal udang, sambal sotong, sambal telur or even served as a condiment for Malaysia’s favourite dish Nasi Lemak. To the uninitiated, sambal can be quite overwhelming. So if you can’t handle spice and would still like to try this dish, then go easy on the amount of chilli.

For me, sambal is a definite must when eating Nasi Lemak. I would even go to the extreme of instructing the Nasi Lemak seller to go “banjir” meaning “to flood”. Yes, I often get weird looks in response. As I usually have Nasi Lemak for breakfast, sambal to me is like the breakfast of champions and it never fails to kick-start my day.

Malaysian Chilli Paste

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  • 1/2 Spanish Onion cut across so you end up with onion rings (you can substitute Spanish Onions with ordinary onions).
  • 3-4 fresh red chillies (seeded) and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 shallots
  • 2-3 stalks of lemongrass (chopped white part only)
  • 1 tbs belacan toasted with a bit of sesame oil (warning: the smell may be a little overwhelming, so be cautioned)
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbs of palm sugar (you can use brown sugar as an alternative)
  • 2 tsp of fish sauce


  • If you have a mortar with rough surface, grind the belacan, red chillies, shallots and lemongrass together.  Do this by twisting the pestle whilst going round the mortar in a circular motion
  • If you haven’t got a mortar, place the belacan, red chillies and shallots and lemongrass into a blender till you get a smooth texture. Add a little water and oil if need be
  • Heat up your wok with oil and sauté the onion rings till it’s soft,
  • Add in the paste and give it a good stir
  • Add sugar, fish sauce and salt.
  • Allow to cool and store in the fridge ready to use.

Stay tune to my next recipe where I will show you how to cook other amazing dishes with Sambal.

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Cinta Dapur is authored by Ivan Cho, who currently works as a Project Manager in the Digital Advertising arena in London. He is also a freelance photographer and a hobbyist food photographer

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