Nasi Lemak Sambal

Sambal Nasi Lemak Bawang

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My Rendang isn't Crispy

My Rendang isn't Crispy

By Zaleha Kadir Olpin

Published 2019

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In South East Asia, sambal is the standard name for any spicy dish where blended chillies are the main ingredient. This is a basic vegetarian sambal that I always make to accompany my nasi lemak, purely because my family is not too keen on other sambals. I have included a note on how to make anchovy sambal below.


  • 125 ml (4 fl oz / Ā½ cup) vegetable oil
  • 2 slices asam gelugor or 2 tsp tamarind juice
  • Ā½ tsp salt
  • Dark brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and sliced

Spice Paste

  • 20 dried chillies, seeds removed and soaked in hot water to rehydrate, then squeezed to remove excess water before using
  • 4 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 300 g (11 oz) shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 large white onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 stalks lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped


  • Place all the ingredients for the spice paste in a blender and process until smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the spice paste and fry, stirring frequently to avoid burning the sambal. As the sambal dries up, add a little water to loosen up the paste. Cook until the oil separates. This will take at least 45 minutes.
  • Add the asam gelugor or tamarind juice, salt and dark brown sugar. Let it simmer over low to medium heat, stirring frequently until the oil separates again.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the onion and give it one last stir. Turn the heat off.
  • Discard the excess oil, if desired, before serving.

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