Indonesian Chili Sauce / Chili Paste

Chili sauce or Sambal In Indonesia is a chili based sauce which is normally used as a side dish that served together with hot steamed rice. Sambal is made from a variety of chili peppers. It can be extremely hot and spicy.   Most of Indonesian love it and feel incomplete if they did not have sambal for their meal, especially me :). Indonesian sambal is now served as ready-made and available at any markets in many countries.The traditional way of making sambal utilizes a stone mortar and pestle

The most common kinds of peppers used in sambal are:

Adyuma: Also known as habanero. These are usually yellow and blocky (like a miniature paprika): very hot.

Cabai Merah (Cayenne pepper): These are usually red and blocky. There are a number of similar looking peppers which are much milder. These can be recognized by their shiny appearance.

Cabai Rawit (Bird’s eye chili): red or green (or combination) approx 10mm diameter by 50 mm long, known locally as cabe rawit (Javanese): extremely hot.

Chili peppers or lombok (Indonesian): These are elongated and have a red or green colour. These are relatively mild, the green ones being milder than the red ones.

Cabe Taliwang- near identical on Scoville scale as the naga jolokia, though they are unrelated. Legend states it was this wild chili which lent Lombok Island its name: Island of the Chili. Cabe taliwang is approximately twelve times hotter than cabe rawit. (source:

There are nearly 300 varieties of sambal in Indonesia from each islands, but here I will share the most popular sambal. They are:

1. Sambal terasiA common Indonesian style of sambal. Similar to the Malaysian belacan, but with a stronger flavor since terasi, is a more fermented shrimp paste than belacan. Sometimes, people omits the lime juice and have the sambal fried with pounded tomatoes. But Sambal terasi popularly eaten raw.



  •  5 or 6 Red Chilies
  •  Terasi (Shrimp Paste)
  • 2 shallots
  • half sliced of tomato (additionally)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or you can use sugar)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice (grind all of the ingredients and pour lime juice on it).

2. Sambal Bajak. It is traditional sambal from Java. This sambal is darker and richer of flavour than sambal terasi.


  • 5 red chilies, seeded and sliced
  • 5 red bird’s-eye chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 6 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped palm sugar
  • 2 Bay leafs
  • 2 Lemongrass, bruised
  • 1 cm Galangal, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Tamarind (Asem Jawa) juice
  • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Grind chilies, nutmeg, shallot, salt and palm sugar. mixture it well.
  2. Heat oil and saute ground ingredients together with bay leafs, lemon grass and galangal, stirring until the mixture changes color (darker). Add tamarind juice and simmer for another minute, then leave to cool.
  3. Remove Bay leafs, lemon grass and galangal before serving.
  4. It can stay for 1 week in normal room temperature.

3. Sambal Dabu-Dabu. It is a sambal speciality from Gorontalo (Nothern Sulawesi). Sambal dabu-dabu commonly served with grilled fish.


  • 2 big red chilies
  • 3 or more bird’s eye chilies (cabe rawit)
  • 4-5 small tomatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • lime juice
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 leafs fresh lime basil (daun kemangi)


cut the chillies, shallots, and tomatoes in tiny diced. Put them in a bowl, then add salt and lime juice. served together with grilled fish.



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