Sambal Terasi
For the Indian dish, see Sambar (dish). For the ethnic group, see Sambal people. For the language family, see Sambalic languages.

Sambal is a chili based sauce which is normally used as a condiment. Sambals are popular in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as in the Netherlands and in Suriname through Javanese influence. It is typically made from a variety of chili peppers and is sometimes a substitute for fresh chilis. It can be extremely spicy for the uninitiated. Some ready-made sambals are available at exotic food markets or gourmet departments in supermarkets in many countries.

Sambal is a Javanese origin loan-word (sambel) of Indonesian and Malay.

Fresh chilis are the main ingredient for a sambal

The most common kinds of peppers used in sambal are:

  • Adyuma: Also known as habanero. These are usually yellow and blocky (like a miniature paprika): very hot.
  • Cayenne pepper: These are usually red and blocky (see above). There are a number of similar looking peppers which are much milder. These can be recognized by their shiny appearance.
  • Madame Jeanette: Yellow or light green elongated pepper. They have an irregular shape.
  • Bird’s eye chili: red or green (or combination) approx 10mm diamaeter by 50 mm long, known locally as cabe rawit (Javanese): extremely hot.
  • Chili peppers or lombok (Indonesian): These are elongated and have a red or green colour. These are relatively mild, the green ones being milder than the red ones.
  • Cabe Taliwang– near identical on Scoville scale as the naga jolokia, though they are unrelated. Legend states it was this wild chili which lent Lombok Island its name: Island of the Chili. Cabe taliwang is approximately twelve times hotter than cabe rawit.

Indonesian sambal

The traditional way of making sambal utilizes a stone mortar

Sambal Bajak in jar

There are nearly 300 varieties of sambal in the Indonesian archipelago.[2] some of the popular varieties are:

Sambal asam
This is similar to sambal terasi with an addition of tamarind concentrate. Asam means tamarind or sour in Indonesian.
Sambal bajak (badjak)
Chili (or another kind of red pepper) fried with oil, garlic, terasi, candlenuts and other condiments. This is darker and richer in flavor than sambal asam.
Sambal balado
Minangkabau style sambal. Chili pepper or green chili is blended together with garlic, shallot, red or green tomato, salt and lemon or lime juice, then sauteed with oil.
Sambal dabu-dabu
It comes close to the Mexican salsa sauce, it is of Manado‘s origin. It consists of coarsely chopped tomatoes, calamansi or known as lemon cui or jeruk kesturi, shallots, chopped bird’s eye chili, basil, vegetable oil, salt.
Sambal durian or Sambal tempoyak
It is made from fermented durian called tempoyak. The fermentation process took 3 to 5 days. The chili and the tempoyak may be readily mixed together or served separately, to cater the individual preference in ratio of chili to tempoyak to determine the scale of hotness. This sambal available in two varieties: raw and cooked. In the cooked variety, pounded chilis, shallots and lemongrass are stir-fried with anchovies, tempoyak and tumeric leaf (for aroma). Petai (Parkia speciosa) and tapioca shoots are also frequently added. The sweet-sour-hot sambal can be found in Sumatra and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), especially in Palembang and Bengkulu.[3]
Sambal gandaria
Freshly ground sambal terasi with shredded gandaria, a kind of tropical fruit native to Southeast Asia.
Sambal kalasan
Sometimes also called sambal jawa. Similar to sambal tumis, it is stir fried. It uses a heapful of palm sugar (sometimes subtituted with sugar), tomato, spices and chili. The overall flavor is sweet, with mild hints of spices and chili.
Sambal kacang
A mixture of chilli with garlic, shallot, sugar, salt, crushed fried peanuts, and water. Usually used as condiments for nasi uduk, ketan, or otak-otak. The simple version only employ cabe rawit chilli, crushed fried peanuts and water.
Sambal kecap manis
Indonesian sweet soy sauce, chili, tomatoes bits, shallots and lime it has a chiefly sweet taste, as said by the Indonesian word manis which means ‘sweet’.
Sambal kemiri
This is similar to sambal terasi with an addition of candlenuts.
Sambal lado ijo
(Minangkabau for green sambal): a Padang, (West Sumatra) speciality- sambal is green (not the usual red)- made using green tomatoes, green chili, shallot, and spices. The sambal is stir fried.
Sambal matah
Raw shallot & lemongrass sambal of Bali origin. It contains a lot of finely chopped shallots, chopped bird’s eye chili, terasi shrimp paste, with a dash of lemon.
Sambal ulek (oelek)
Chili (bright red, thin and sharp tasting). Some types of this variant call for the addition of salt or lime into the red mixture. Oelek is a Dutch spelling which in modern Indonesian spelling has become simply ulek; both have the same pronunciation. Ulek is Indonesian special stoneware derived from common village basalt stone kitchenware still ubiquitous in kitchens, particularly in Java. The Ulekan is a pestle shaped like a hybrid of a dinner and soup-plate with an old, cured bamboo root mortar (ulek-ulek) employed in an ulek manner: a crushing and twisting motion (like using a screwdriver) for crushing lime leaves, chilies, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other kinds of ingredients.
Sambal petai
A mixture of red chilli, garlic, shallot, and petai green stinky bean as the main ingredients.
Sambal petis
Uses chili, petis, peanuts, young banana, herbs and spices. An east Javanese sambal.
Sambal pencit/mangga muda
Freshly ground sambal terasi with shredded young mango. This is a good accompaniment to seafood. Pencit means young mango in Indonesian.
Sambal rica rica
A hot sambal from Manado region, it uses ginger, chili,lemon and spices. Suitable for barbecue meats.
Sambal setan
A very hot sambal with Madame Jeanette peppers (red brownish, very sharp). The name literally means “devil’s sauce”. It is popular in Surabaya
Sambal Taliwang
This variant is native to Taliwang, a village near Mataram, Lombok Island, and is made from naga jolokia pepper grown specially in Lombok, garlic and Lombok shrimp paste. A kilogram of naga jolokia pepper is extracted, ground and pressed. This is mixed with ground garlic and shrimp paste, then cooked with vegetable oil.
Sambal tauco
A Sulawesi sambal, contains the Chinese tauco, lime juice, chili, brown sugar, and salt.
Sambal terasi
A common Indonesian style of sambal. Similar to the Malaysian belacan, but with a stronger flavor since terasi, is a more fermented shrimp paste than belacan. Red and green peppers, terasi, sugar, salt, lemon or lime juice (tangy, strong). One version omits the lime juice and has the sambal fried with pounded tomatoes. Popularly eaten raw.
Sambal teri lado
a Padang, (West Sumatra) speciality, sambal is made using chili pepper, tomato, shallot, spices, and mixed with salted ikan teri (anchovy). The sambal is stir fried and similar to Malay “sambal ikan“.
Sambal tomat
Similar with sambal tumis but with the addition of crushed tomato and sugar. The tomato is stir fried along with the other ingredients until a paste like consistency. The overall taste is hot and sweet, it is a good mix with lalapan.
Sambal tumis
Chili fried with belacan shrimp paste, onions, garlic, tamarind juice. Tumis means “stir fry”. Often the cooking oil is re-mixed with the sambal. It may be mixed with other ingredients to produce dishes such as sambal kangkong, sambal cumi (squid) and sambal telur (egg).

Malaysian sambal

Sambal belacan
A Malay style sambal. Fresh chilis are pounded together with toasted shrimp paste (belacan) in a stone mortar to which sugar and lime juice are added. Originally, limau kesturi or calamansi lime, is used but since this is scarce outside of Southeast Asia, normal lime is used as a replacement. Tomatoes are optional ingredients. Sometimes, sweet sour mangoes or equivalent local fruits are also used. It can be eaten with cucumbers or ulam (leafy herbs) in a meal of rice and other dishes. A Malaysian-Chinese version is to fry belacan with chili.
Sambal jeruk
Green or red pepper with kaffir lime. In Malaysia, it is called cili (chili) jeruk (pickle). Sometimes vinegar and sugar are substituted for the lime. Used as a condiment with fried rice and noodle based dishes.
Sambal daging/serunding daging
A Malay style sambal prepared from meat and spices and cooked for more than 4 hours until the meat loses its shape, similar to meat floss.

Raw Sambal tempoyak on the left and the cooked one on the right.

Sambal tempoyak
This sambal exists in two varieties: raw and cooked. Raw sambal tempoyak is prepared from fresh chilis pounded together with dried anchovies and served with fermented durian (tempoyak). The sambal and the tempoyak may be readily mixed together or served separately, so that the person eating can determine the ratio of sambal to tempoyak that they want (tempoyak has a sweet-sour taste that offsets the hotness of the chili). In the cooked variety, pounded chilis, shallots and lemongrass are stir-fried with anchovies, tempoyak and tumeric leaf (for aroma). Petai (Parkia speciosa) and tapioca shoots are also frequently added.

Sambal can also be used as an ingredient to a dish, which uses a large amount of chili peppers. Dishes bearing the word sambal include:

  • Sambal sotong (with cuttlefish)
  • Sambal udang kering (with dried prawns), also known in Penang as “Sambal Hae Bee”
  • Sambal lengkong (with ikan parang/wolf herring).[7]
  • Sambal goreng teri kacang (with anchovy and peanuts)
  • Sambal goreng kering tempe (with tempeh)
  • Sambal goreng ati (with cow’s liver, potato, and sometimes petai)
  • Sambal goreng udang (with fresh shrimp)
  • Sambal radio: Omelette mixed with fried belacan, with lots of anchovies. It is a traditional Malay cuisine of Sarawak.
  • Sambal ikan: A Malay style dish prepared from fish and spices and cooked until the fish loses its shape. Available in varieties, some are in the shape of dry fish floss known as serunding ikan, and some are moist such as sambal ikan bilis (anchovies) or sambal ikan tongkol (tuna).
  • Ikan means fish in Malay.



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