Daily Cooking Quest

easy Indonesian recipes

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

If you are from Malaysia, or if you have ever took a trip to Malaysia, I am sure you have tasted nasi lemak before. And while the whole nasi lemak ensemble is a treat indeed, the one thing that I consider a must have is nasi lemak sambal that comes with it. So, if you are thousands of miles away from Malaysia (like me) and want to make the delicious nasi lemak sambal at home, give this recipe a try. This sambal (chili sauce) is good not only with nasi lemak, but with almost any other Indonesian/Malaysian dishes. We use it with so many thing, from pairing it with fried chicken, all the way to dipping sauce for fresh vegetables.

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Hot (Original) vs. Mild Versions

The original recipe uses 100 gram of dried red chilies. I will be the first to admit that my poor stomach cannot handle that spiciness level. So, what I usually do is I dial down the spiciness level way way down to a measly 20 gram (and I remove all the seeds from the chilies too!). If you want that signature red color in your sambal, you have two choices. First choice, add about 1 to 2 tablespoons of mild/sweet paprika powder (not chili powder, or it will be super hot again). Second choice (which is my preferred version) is to add 1 can (6 oz/170 gram) of tomato paste. If you choose 2nd option, you will definitely want to increase the sugar (usually double the listed amount) and salt (by about 1 teaspoon) to balance out the tomato paste. If you stick to the first option, you most likely won’t have to tweak the amount of listed sugar and/or salt.

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Two Vacations

Now for something completely different. To all my readers, sorry for the super long absence. I took two long vacations back-on-back. First a 3-week trip to Washington, D.C. with my husband. Then a 2-week road trip with my in-laws from Rocky Mountain and going south all the way to Guadalupe Mountain. It was super exhausting but very fun. Now that I am back and have taken enough rest, my posting schedule should be back on track. :)

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

Malaysian Nasi Lemak Sambal

5.0 from 1 reviews



Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 1 hour 30 mins

Total Time: 1 hour 45 mins

Serves: 3 cups


  • 100 gram dried red chilies, seeded (*)
  • 200 gram onion, diced
  • 25 gram garlic
  • 3 candlenuts / 6 macadamia
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup oil
  • 15 gram tamarind
  • 200 gram onion, diced
  • 25 gram shrimp paste (Indonesian: terasi, Malaysian: belacan), toasted
  • 50 gram palm sugar, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, remove the ribs (optional)


  1. Boil chilies in a small sauce pot with water. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until chilies are soft. Drained
  2. Puree boiled chilies, 200 gram onion, garlic, candelnuts/macadamia, and water in a blender until smooth.
  3. Transfer blended chili mixture into a wok or a large frying pan. Cook on medium heat until the chili mixture turns into a thick paste.
  4. Add oil and tomato paste (if using, see *) to the wok/frying pan, stir to mix well. Add tamarind, and stir again. Continue cooking for 30 minutes, stirring every so often.
  5. Add the remaining 200 gram onion, toasted shrimp paste, palm sugar, and salt. Cook and stir for another 30 minutes, or until the chili sauce is dark red, and the oil separates from the chili mixture.
  6. Adjust the amount of sugar and salt to suit your taste. Once you are satisfied with the taste, add the kaffir lime leaves, and stir for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat, and transfer the chili sauce into clean jar(s). If you use sterilized glass jars for canning and store the unopened jars in the fridge, they can easily last for 2-3 months.


  • (*) We prefer a much milder sambal in our home, so I typically use only 20 gram of chilies. And to boost the red color, I add 1 can (6 oz / 170 gram) tomato paste, which makes it even milder and should be very kid friendly.


  • Vaughan Thomas says:

    Welcome back. Here, in a kampung in the south of Java, you're helping my credibility with the local ibu2. They ghink my cooking's incredible!! Huge thanks to you.

    • Anita says:

      Thanks Vaughan! Food is always the best way to win people's heart (and stomach, hehe) and make new friends.

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