Friday, January 2, 2009


Sambal. An indispensable condiment in a Malay home. Pre-made sambal tumis (sauteed sambal) is a very convenient way of adding spiciness to a stir fried dish like stir fried noodles, fried rice, for mixing with some crispy fried dried anchovies or as an appetizer to a meal. I know some people with very Malayanized palates who use it like a jam by spreading it on toast and munching it down heat, spice, fire and all

Sambal tumis is not to be confused with sambal belacan. Sambal belacan is a sambal/relish/appetizer that is made by simply pounding some fresh chillies, toasted belacan and finally adding many many squirts of kalamansi lime juice and salt to mix. It is not cooked but is eaten as is. Sambal tumis is on the other hand tumis-ed which means sauteed. It is cooked in oil and usually uses dried chillies instead of fresh to achieve the dark red of dishes like prawn sambal, squid sambal, egg sambal, brinjal sambal and so on and so forth.

There are some variations of sambal of course as some people prefer a mixture of dried and fresh chillies for certain dishes. But if your intention is to store it for stir frying purposes I find it ideal to use dried chillies as I feel that a sambal that is cooked using dried chillies lasts longer.

The following recipe gives a good amount and freezes well if you find it a little too much to finish in a week. Since quite a bit of oil is used I used canola oil or for an even healthier version you could use olive oil.

Please note that I actually added more oil during the cooking process when I found it lacking. Sometimes when cooking a sambal the paste seems to absorb the oil and the sambal looks 'dry' because we add very little liquid while cooking it. In Malay cooking we are always in search of oil in our dishes. The more oil that there is floating around the merrier we are.

If oil is not what you want you can always skim it off after the cooking. I do get cheesed off myself when I see a dish swimming in oil so to clear my conscience I use olive oil if I'm cooking a dish that requires barrels of oil to make it work.

50 gm dried chillies, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained
3 medium large red onions
4 cloves garlic
4-5 candlenuts/buah keras/walnuts
1/2 inch belacan, optional

All the above ingredients are to be blended with 1/8 cup of water in a blender or processed in a food processor dry (without the water).

1 1/2 tsp tamarind pulp mixed with 3-4 tbsp water and the juice strained
2-3 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Heat up 1/4 cup of cooking oil in a small heavy/thick bottomed pot. Saute the blended ingredients, stirring on and off until the paste turns a shade darker, maybe about 10 minutes. Use a low heat all the time as the paste burns easily. Add the tamarind juice, sugar and salt and stir and let cook about 15 - 20 minutes more until the oil rises to the top and the sambal is really cooked and turns a dark red. Done. Cool and store in a clean glass jam jar in the fridge. This will last about a week or maybe more.


Quinn said...

Zu, I've made a large jar of this twice and finally do a write up on it. Thank you so much for the recipe. It's a real keeper and tasted wonderful!

B & D said...

i dont thinkso we get candlenuts over here :( but i would really love to try this recipe :)

Unknown said...

That makes me craving sambal now, especially with fried fish. Just wondering thought, I thought the red onion should be shallots? Because in supermarket near my place, red onion is as big as white (usual)onion.

Zurin said...

Sofie, tq for asking n your interest. Yes I used large red onions instead of shallots because they are easier to peel. Im a lazy cook ...LOL

B &amp,
u can use other nuts instead like waluts or hazelnuts eatc. nuts are used to thicken the sambal :)

Jess said...

Hi Zurin, I wonder if ghee can be used to replace the oil in this recipe? Would that alter the taste completely? Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is extremely spicy!! I love spicy food but this seems to be over the top spicy Zurin.... And somehow I added alot more oil and it tasted somewhat bitter... :-(

Zurin said...

Jess, yes you can use ghee. It mite taste richer because ghee is actually clarified butter. I have never tried but im quite sure it won't be bad! :))


Im sorry that it was too spicy for you . It Is indeed spicy and over the top spicy for sure. However I am puzzled why it should be bitter. Unless the bottom of the pot had burnt?

However you could reduce the amount of chillies if you want a milder taste and replace with some tomato paste or puree instead. It will taste a litte different of course but it will still be red! :))This sambal does need a lot of oil indeed! I hope you'll try again. :)

Jess said...

Hi Zurin, this is one good and tasty chilli! It was indeed super spicy but I find that it tastes much better after a few days in the fridge. Thank you for this delicious recipe!


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