Oh sambal! It’s a condiment that an Indonesian meal cannot go without. Sambal is chilli relish and anyone who’s eaten at an Indonesian restaurant will notice is bright red colour on the plate, simultaneously warning you and luring you in for another addictive spicy bite. 

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Now, there are countless types of sambal in Indonesia, testament to the country’s vast archipelago where different regions make their own version and add their own little twist.

Here we’ll give you just a simple, basic version before taking things to new, creative levels. We’ll be presenting ‘Sambal Bawang’, a name given because of the shallots (bawang merah) used in this recipe. Again, even for this type of sambal you’ll find so many versions, but here is one of our favourites (tried and tested by the NOW! Bali Team). 

It’s very easy to make but will make any Indonesian (or Asian) dishes so much better. Great as a dip too, alongside raw vegetables, fried tempe and tofu, or prawn crackers (krupuk).

Sambal Bawang

• 5 Thai chillies / bird’s eye pepper (mild) (double this if you can handle spice!)
• 2 curly red chillies 
• 2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1 tomato, roughly chopped
• Coconut Oil (if available)
• 1 tsp sea salt
• 2 tsp palm sugar (or normal sugar)
• 1 tsp ground coriander seed


• Prepare the ingredients as above, set aside.
• Pour coconut oil into a small pot, as if you are deep frying and have on high heat.
• Put the Thai chillies, red chillies, cut shallots and garlic into the oil, cook for 1 minute only.
• Remove the ingredients from the pot and let the oil drip out
• Place the fried ingredients in a pestle and mortar and grind 
• Now, add the roughly cut tomato, sea salt, sugar and ground coriander seed
•Grind all until made into a paste
That’s it! 


If you don’t have a pestle and mortar,
you can use a blender but be sure not to over do it, blend lightly only. Another creative alternative is putting the ingredients into a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin.

Mix it up! You can add lime juice, shrimp paste (or finely chopped anchovies), to give it a different flavour. There’s no rules for sambal, so get creative. 

NOW Bali Editorial Team

NOW Bali Editorial Team

This article has been written or uploaded by NOW! Bali's in-house editorial team.