Image: The New Paper

Make your own sambal belacan and never again be at the mercy of hawkers who stint on the good stuff.

As promised last week, I am sharing my version of sambal belacan.

This is the fried version that goes with radish cake, noodles, char kway teow and fried rice. You can also fry French beans, long beans and all kinds of meat with it.

This recipe is enough for two to three jars of sambal belacan.

Some people like to remove the seed from the chillies. But not only is that too much work, it halves the heat of the chillies.

In fact, to take the heat up several notches, I throw chilli padis into the mix which results in a fiery aftertaste. You can always add more if you fancy that tongue-burning sensation.


100g dried chillies

20 chilli padis

150g shallots

2 garlic cloves

30g belacan powder

200g dried prawn, soaked

3 candlenuts

2 pieces lemongrass (5cm of white root part, sliced thinly, reserve the remaining part of stalk)

2cm piece of turmeric, cut into small pieces

2cm piece of ginger, cut into small pieces

2 kaffir lime leaves

1½ tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp assam (tamarind pulp)

2 tbsp water

100ml water

100ml cooking oil

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1. Mix the tamarind pulp with two tablespoons of water. Let it soak for five minutes.

2. Strain and reserve the tamarind juice.

3. Remove the stems of the dried chillies.

4. Place dried chillies in a boiling pot of water and boil for five minutes or until softened. 

Image: The New Paper

5. Discard the water, rinse the chillies and grind into a paste. Set aside.

6. Grind the lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, shallots and garlic together. Mix in the chilli paste, belacan powder, chilli padis, candlenuts and dried prawn. Add 100ml of water to make grinding easier.

7. Heat the oil in a wok until medium-hot. Add the ground paste. Lower the heat. Gently mix and continuously stir-fry the mixture. 

Image: The New Paper

8. After frying for five minutes, add the bruised unused part of the lemongrass stalks. 

Image: The New Paper

9. Tear up the kaffir lime leaves and add to the mixture.

10. Fry for another 10 minutes, then season with sugar and salt.

11. Fry for another five to 10 minutes until the chilli paste becomes drier.

12. Turn off the heat. Transfer into deep dish and allow to cool down before storing in jars. Keep jars refrigerated.

This story was originally published in The New Paper