Sambal Terasi

Sambal Terasi

If there is one  thing, which is definitively Indonesian, it is Sambal. It is said you are not Indonesian, if you don’t like and know how to make it.

That’s all well and good, but there are almost as many different sambals, as there are islands in Indonesia. This isn’t even an exaggeration, the dish you eat will most likely have a certain sambal; different ethnic groups will have their own, and each ibu – ibu will have their own recipe for each one.


In this post, I’m just going to talk about one type in particular – sambal terasi. It is a favourite amongst Indonesians, especially those in Java. It is special, because of the rather pungent ingredient, terasi, or shrimp paste. For more information on this fragrant ingredient, check out my previous post.


This sambal is easy to make, its main ingredients are simply; chili, garlic, red onions, and terasi. Secondary to these, I added salt, lime juice, a little palm sugar and vegetable oil. There is a secret in the oil I use though. My wife’s aunty shared this with me, and it is a bit of a game changer. Don’t use new oil, but oil that has been previously used to fry something. Indonesians often use oil from frying ayam goreng – something I’ll post one day – for this recipe, I used oil leftover from making buffalo wings with my secret sauce. No I won’t be posting that.

Ayo! Mari bikin sambal terasi.

6 cabe keriting – the long red, curly chillies
3 cabe lombok – the big fat chillies
3 cabe rawit – birds eyes chillies
3 cloves of garlic
4 red shallots – the small Asian ones. If you can’t get them, use 1 1/2 ordinary ones.
1teaspoon of terasi
1 teaspoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon of palm sugar
3 teaspoons of used oil


I should say here, that everyone makes their sambal differently. It a matter of personal taste. Some people, for example, will even add one tomato to this. The number of chillies is flexible, I use lombok to bulk out the body, and keep the spicy level to something in between mild, and hell. You could use no lombok and up to 15-18 keriting, to make it spicier. Though, if you really want heat, add more birds eyes.

Ultimately, this recipe is super flexible, and these amounts just represent my – and by that, I mean my wife’s – personal preference.

1. Roast the terasi – put it in a frying pan, no oil and  heat it gently for 2-3 minutes.

2. Chop up your main ingredients – chilies, shallots, and garlic. Yeah, you’re going to pound them into a paste, but this just makes life easier.

3.  Get out your cobek and ulek – ulek, or mortar and pestle. Honestly, don’t use a blender, you’re looking for some whole chilli pieces, this is not hot sauce. Bash, smash, mash and grind the chilies, garlic, shallots, sugar and terasi into a loose paste. See the photo for a rough guide.


Note: use salt to help your grinding effort. It reduces the moisture, and increases the abrasive action of your grinder.

4. Heat the oil gently in a pan, then add this paste. Cook the paste out for about two minutes.

5. Finish off with the lime juice.


This makes an amazing dip, as a condiment for all forms of food – sauces, soups and anything else you want a hint of spice in.

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