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Ayam Sambal Matah Bali - Pan Fried Chicken with Balinese Salsa
Try this refreshing spicy salsa from Bali using shallots, lemongrass, bird-eye chilies, and lime. They are great with pan-fried chicken, or even grilled seafood.
Bali, the land of a thousand temples, is the most famous island in Indonesia. The view is gorgeous and breathtaking, from the wide expanse of white sandy beaches, to the many Hindu temples, and the cool and green hilly rice terraces.
Many come for the visual treats, but if you have the chance to visit Bali, don’t forget to feast on the amazing Balinese cuisine. Every time I go and visit, the highlight of my vacation is always the food.
What is Sambal Matah?
Each region in Indonesia has its signature sambal, and Bali’s signature sambal is sambal matah. The most common translation for sambal matah is raw sambal since there is no cooking involved when preparing it. Based on the ingredients, I think it is more fitting to call it a spicy lemongrass salsa, or a spicy lemongrass and shallot salsa.
Sambal Matah Ingredients
We will needs shallots, lemongrass, bird-eye chilies, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and terasi/shrimp paste. You can also add garlic, kaffir lime leaves, and bunga kantan/torch ginger flower.
Terasi (shrimp paste)
Since terasi (shrimp paste) can be difficult to obtain if you live outside of Indonesia, feel free to substitute with fish sauce. Although it won’t be very authentic, the flavor is still very similar, and the umami boost from fish sauce is very close to Indonesian shrimp paste.
It is more common in Bali to use kaffir lime for the lime juice. Kaffir lime leaves are common in many Asian groceries in the US, but I have yet to see fresh kaffir limes. I use regular lime to prepare sambal matah all the time, and I think it is not a bad substitute at all.
Use red bird-eye chilies (Indonesian: cabe rawit) for the most authentic experience. If you want a milder sambal matah, you can substitute half of the amount with milder chilies. Try using cayenne (Indonesian: cabe keriting), or even Fresno (Indonesian: cabe besar) for an even milder option.
Olive oil vs. coconut oil
If you have coconut oil at home, defiinitely use that instead of olive oil. Coconut oil is a common cooking oil in Indonesia, so it is not surprising that we use coconut oil for sambal matah.
How to prepare sambal matah?
1. Slice lemongrass
Remove the green outer layers of lemongrass to reveal the inner white portion. Chop away the top part of the lemongrass, then thinly slice the bottom 5 inches of the lemongrass stalk into very thin slices.
2. Slice shallot
Prepare shallots like you would an onion. Peel away the outer skins, then cut the shallots into small dices.
3. Chop bird-eye chilies
Remove the stems, then cut the chilies into small pieces. You can remove the seeds first before chopping the chilies to make the sambal milder.
4. Toast and ground terasi/shrimp paste
Terasi/shrimp paste comes in a block. Use a knife to cut away a small piece, place it in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate.
Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds to toast until the shrimp paste turns a lighter shade, very fragrant, and looks crumbly. Let it cool slightly, then use the back of a spoon to crush into a fine powder.
If you don’t have a microwave, you can also toast the shrimp paste in a frying pan without any oil over medium heat.
5. Juice a lime
Use fresh limes whenever possible since bottled lime juice is simply not very good. If you have a Microplane grater, you should use it to get some fresh lime zest too and add the zest to sambal matah.
6. Make sambal matah
Combine lemongrass slices, shallot slices, bird-eye chili slices, shrimp paste powder, salt, lime juice, and optionally, lime zest in a mixing bowl.
Even though sambal matah is meant to be raw, most Indonesians cook the oil until shimmering before using it. Please assemble the rest of the sambal matah ingredients first before cooking the oil, then pour the hot oil over the sambal.
Use a spoon to mix all the ingredients. Give it a taste test, and add more salt if needed. You can even add sugar if you think the sambal needs it, though I don’t usually add any to mine.
Prepare pan-fried chicken breasts
You can certainly serve sambal matah as a side for any of your Indonesian rice meal, but today we are going to serve it with some crispy golden pan-fried chicken breast strips.
We will use some chicken breasts, salt, pepper, and all-purpose flour. I use olive oil to pan-fry the chicken, but you can use butter or a mix of butter and olive oil for the best of both worlds.
First, cut each peach of chicken breast into two halves so they are thinner and will cook faster and more evenly. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then give a light dusting of all-purpose flour.
Heat oil and/or butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, and fry chicken breasts until golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Rest for 10 minutes after frying to redistribute its juice and making sure the breasts are tender and juicy, then cut into thin strips.
Mix chicken strips and sambal matah right before serving.
TIPS: If you don’t feel like frying chicken breasts, you can buy a whole rotisserie chicken, cut it into bite-size pieces, and mix with sambal matah.
Other Indonesian sambal to try
For most Indonesians, a meal is not complete without a side of sambal or two. If you hunger for more Indonesian sambal, you can give my other sambal recipes a try:
Ayam Sambal Matah Bali - Pan Fried Chicken with Balinese Salsa
- Sambal matah
- 2 lemongrass, peeled to get only the tender white part, thinly sliced
- 150 gram shallots, peeled and washed with drinking water, thinly sliced
- 10-15 bird-eye chilies, seeds removed (optional) and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon terasi/shrimp paste, or 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 lime, juice and zest
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil/olive oil
- Pan-fried chicken
- a pair of boneless skinless chicken breast
- all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- Sambal matah
- Toast terasi: Place terasi/shrimp paste in a microwave-safe bowl, and cover the bowl with a microwave-safe plate. Cook in the microwave for 30 seconds to toast until the shrimp paste turns a lighter shade, very fragrant, and looks crumbly. Let it cool slightly, then use the back of a spoon to crush into a fine powder.
- Assemble sambal matah: Combine lemongrass slices, shallot slices, bird-eye chili slices, shrimp paste powder, salt, lime juice, and optionally, lime zest in a mixing bowl.
- Heat oil: Cook coconut/olive oil in a pan until shimmering, then pour over sambal matah. Use a spoon to mix all the ingredients. Give it a taste test, and add more salt if needed. You can even add sugar if you think the sambal needs it, though I don’t usually add any to mine.
- Pan-fried chicken
- Cut each peach of chicken breast into two halves so they are thinner and will cook faster and more evenly. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then give a light dusting of all-purpose flour.
- Heat oil and/or butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, and fry chicken breasts until golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.
- Rest for 10 minutes after frying to redistribute its juice and making sure the breasts are tender and juicy, then cut into thin strips.
- To serve
- Mix chicken strips and sambal matah right before serving. We usually serve this with steamed white rice, but you can add them you a bowl of salad mix for a filling salad meal too.
Yi @ Yi Reservation says:
Bali is one of the places I have always wanted to visit and it's just as exciting to see a balinese dish here! The sambal matah sounds extremely flavorful. I am really interested in trying this recipe out! Thanks for sharing!
Sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to bring people to visit her country right? That aside, I am sure you will love the salsa, Yi :)
Hi Anita, Thank you for posting up this recipe. I love this dish. Hope you don't mind me correcting an error. Ayam Sambal Mentah (instead of matah, which has no meaning) Bali. Mentah means raw/ uncooked.
Hi Gisela, glad you like the recipe. Mentah is indeed raw in Indonesian, but this sambal is called sambal matah :)
I am glad you confirmed firmly but kindly it is called Sambal Matah. Thank you for posting, I love this dish, refreshing and much flavor.
sita sumanteri says:
Mentah is matah in Balinese languange
This fried chicken looks so colorful and appetizing! I have never cooked anything with lemongrass, but it seems my chance to give it a try. Love the recipe, thanks.
Emily Liao says:
I've never had a balinese salsa until now! The flavors were so delicious, especially paired with chicken.
Tawnie Kroll says:
Full of flavor and so easy to make. Will def be making again, thank you!
This dish turns boring chicken into a delicious meal that is full of flavor.
Andrea Metlika says:
I've never had anything like this but it sounds fabulous!!
Suja md says:
We really like this recipe. Never knew it was this easy to make. Will be trying without further delay!
Claudia Lamascolo says:
What a nice addition to my recipes with all these wonderful spices and flavors. A must try!
So many incredible flavors packed into this sambal matah! It all looks so good. I love how easily everything comes together too.
I love hot and spicy foods and this does the trick! Super flavorful!
I would LOVE to visit Bali someday but I'm glad I can enjoy the foods of the area before I do! This is delicious!
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