This is the ONLY recipe you need to make perfect spicy-sweet sambal sauce for Nasi Lemak.
Nasi Lemak (coconut rice) is a favourite meal in Singapore and Malaysia! This beloved dish consists of fragrant coconut rice served with a variety of accompaniments such as fried anchovies, peanuts, cucumber slices, and hard-boiled eggs. What really sets Nasi Lemak apart is the sambal, a spicy chili paste that adds a burst of heat and flavour to the dish. In this article, we will explore sambal nasi lemak, its ingredients, and how to make it.
Nasi Lemak is always served with a special sambal, making the spicy-sweet sauce as important as the rice itself!
What is Sambal Nasi Lemak?
Sambal nasi lemak is a type of sambal that is traditionally served with nasi lemak in Malaysia and Singapore. Sambal is a type of chili paste that is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. It is typically made with chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lime juice, and shrimp paste. However, sambal nasi lemak has a unique flavour profile that sets it apart from other types of sambal.
How to Properly Cook Nasi Lemak Sambal
To make the perfect sambal for Nasi Lemak, it is important to properly cook it. The sambal has to be cooked over low to medium heat until the dried chilli dries down and emulsifies – this is also known as “pecah minyak”, or ‘oil splitting’. To find out more this process, see this post right here.
It takes a while for “pecah minyak“ to happen depending on the amount of sambal. Just be patient! The last thing you want is sambal that tastes raw and underdeveloped.
You also want to stir constantly and use a low to medium heat. You also do not want to burn the spices – this will result in a bitter sambal.
TLDR; be patient and stir fry over low heat.
How to Prepare Dried Chillies
If you have dried chilli paste ready to go, feel free to use it. Otherwise, prepping it cannot be simpler. Soak the dried chillies with boiling hot water for about 5 minutes, or until it rehydrates.
For even detailed information on how to prepare the dried chillies, see this post.
How to Toast Belachan
This recipe uses belachan, or fermented dried shrimp paste. Belachan is staple in Southeast Asian cooking, and it adds that much sought-after hit of umami.
I toasted the belachan in this recipe. To toast this, you just need to place some chunks of belachan in a dry pan, and set over low to medium heat. Then leave it alone to toast. You will need to flip it halfway through for a more even toast.
Belachan is damp before toasting. You will know it’s nicely toasted when it is dry to the touch, turns a darker shade, and it will break or crumble easily. A fair warning: there will also be a strong pungent smell wafting through your kitchen! Part and parcel of belachan toasting.
Depending on the size of your belachan, the toasting might take a while.
This might be unpopular opinion… but toasting belachan is optional! I’ve made iterations of sambal with toasted and untoaste belachan… and plot twist: I could barely notice the difference.
Ikan Bilis or Fried Dried Anchovies
One of the unique ingredients that make this sambal perfect for Nasi Lemak would be fried dried anchovies or ikan bilis goreng! Fried dried anchovies are also served with Nasi Lemak; perhaps this is why this sambal gels so well with Nasi Lemak.
See this post for an easy recipe on how to make fried dried anchovies.
By the way, I adapted this recipe from my Mom’s. There is one tweak that I made, that is, instead of blending the ikan bilis with the sambal paste, my Mom cooks the unfried ikan bilis into the sambal itself! This injects so much flavour into the sambal.
This meant that you will get a sambal with ikan bilis in it, instead of just a pure sauce. This is why I preferred blending the ikan bilis with the paste. As much as I enjoy the flavour of ikan bilis, I prefer a sambal sauce without whole ikan bilis in it.
How to Store Sambal Nasi Lemak
Sambal, when cooked properly, can keep very well. This is another reason why the “pecah minyak” process is important. This process cooks off the water in the sambal, hence making in inhabitable for bacteria. The amount of oil used also prolongs the shelf life of the sambal.
Keep the sambal in a glass container. I recommend storing it in the fridge so it lasts even longer.
Of course, if it starts to smell off, or there’s mould on it, discard immediately.
What to Serve Sambal Nasi Lemak With
Sambal nasi lemak is typically served as a side dish with Nasi Lemak, of course.
Check out these recipe posts for Nasi Lemak:
Don’t limit the sambal to just Nasi Lemak! The sambal actually goes amazingly well with regular rice too.
It can also be served with other Singaporean and Malaysian dishes such as satay, fried rice, or noodle dishes.
Watch How to Make Nasi Lemak Sambal:
More Recipes Like This
If you like all spicy sauces, check these out too:
- Singapore Hawker Style Sambal
- Chicken Rice Chilli Sauce
- Thai Spicy and Sour Seafood Dipping Sauce
- Nam Jim Jaew | Spicy Thai Isaan Dipping Sauce
The BEST Nasi Lemak Sambal TumisCourse: Recipes
- Blended for Sambal Paste
- 50g Dried Chillies
50g or 1 large Red Onion
30g or 5 cloves Garlic
30g or 1 tbsp Ginger
2 stalks Lemongrass, inner core (See this post on how to prepare lemongrass)
20g or 1 tbsp Belachan, toasted
2 tbsps of fried Ikan Bilis (Dried Anchovies), fried
1/4 cup Oil to blend
- Frying or Tumis Process
1 tbsp Tamarind Paste, diluted in 2-3 tbsps water to form a liquid
50g Coconut Palm Sugar
Salt to taste, if needed
- Option to dry toast the belachan first.
- Add all of the ingredients to for a blended paste. If the ingredients are not blending well, gradually add oil until you get a smooth paste.
- Add a bit of oil to a pan, and heat over low to medium heat. When hot, pour in the blended sambal paste.
- Stir constantly over the low to medium heat so it does not burn. Continue to stir until the sambal sauce “pecah minyak”, or the sambal emulsifies and the oil floats above the sambal.
- Once it reaches this stage, add tamarind paste, sugar and salt, if needed.
- Stir through and give a taste test. Sambal should taste sweet and spicy.