Spicy Sambal Ikan Bilis


malaysian style sambal

Spicy Sambal Ikan Bilis is one of popular dish in Malaysia. It goes very well with nasi lemak (coconut milk rice), cucumber slices and boiled eggs.  Just by making this sambal, we are done with a perfect meal for our family. The recipe can be prepared as vegetarian dish as well just by omitting the anchovies and shrimp paste but increase the onion slices qty.



Recipe serves 3-4 person

Ingredients :

  • 100gm peeled ikan bilis (anchovies)

To paste :

  • 10-12 pcs dried chili (unseeded)
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • Ginger – 1cm
  • 5 Shallots/bawang kecil

Other Ingredients :

  • 4 Tablespoon cooking oil (or more)
  • 1 large Onion (sliced finely)
  • 1 Serai /lemon grass
  • 1 Teaspoon belacan/shrimp paste
  • 1 Stalk curry leave
  • 1 Medium sized tomato(chooped)
  • 1 Teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 Daun pandan
  • 1 Tablespoon thick coconut milk (optional)
  • 2 Teaspoon sugar/gula merah
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup hot water

Let’ cook the sambal :

ikan bilis sambal ingredients

Prepare the ingredients as required. Peel the ikan bilis/anchovies, wash and drain the water. Pound the serai/lemon grass just at the top part. Slice the onion finely. Tomato to be chopped finely too. Usually tamarind juice will be used in sambal preparation, but in this recipe I replace it with tomato. If you are preparing for big qty of sambal, then you may use tamarind as well, but not much, 1/2 tablespoon (dilute with water).


fry this ikan bilis

In a wok, heat up some cooking oil. Once the oil is hot enough, start frying the ikan bilis. It will take about 4-5 minutes for the ikan bilis to turn into crunchy consistency. Slightly brown and the oil bubble will getting lesser, off the heat and transfer the fried ikan bilis to another bowl lined with kitchen tissue.



ikan bilis sambal preparations

Blend to paste ingredients : Dried chili (cut to smaller pcs to remove the seeds), soak it in hot water for 15 minutes first (close with lid). Drain the water and remove any remaining seeds. Use food processor to blend the soaked chilies, shallots, garlic, ginger and add little water. Blend them to a fine paste.



ikan bilis sambal sauteing

In a cooking pan/wok, heat up some oil (may use the same oil used to fry the ikan bilis earlier). Then saute the onion and serai for few minutes, till the onion turn to translucent and soft.

Add in the belacan and saute them well in the oil too.



sambal ikan bilis sauteingAdd in the chili-ginger paste, into the pan and continue fry them in the oil. This is most important step in making the sambal. The sambal color (deep red) is depending on this step. The more it’s fried/sauteed in the oil, the more deeper the color of the sambal will be.




sambal recipeKeep fry them and stir occasionally. It’s called “pecah minyak”, the oil will start to released on the surface of the sauteing ingredients. In low fire, cook for about 10-12 minutes.

Usually more oil will be used during sauteing step, so that sambal doesn’t gets burned or stick to the work while waiting for it to cook well. Add in the chili power, turmeric powder, sugar and little salt.


adding tomato into sambal

Add in chopped tomato, sliced curry leaves and knotted pandan leaves. Give a stir all together in a low heat for about few minutes, till the tomatoes becomes tender and soft. Pour in 1 cup of hot water into the dry sambal and let the sambal to boil well for further few minutes.



sambal ikan bilis recipe

Now can add in the fried ikan bilis. It’s option to crush the crunchy ikan bilis to tiny pieces before adding into the sambal. Stir them well in sambal paste. Coconut milk will make the sambal little creamier and thick, so adding it is optional. If we are preparing sambal in huge quantity, then the coconut milk will help to thicken the sambal.



add hot water into sambal

Let the sambal to boil and cook in a preferred thickness, either very thick or little liquid consistency. Add hot water and cook them accordingly to your preferences. Taste check, add salt or sugar if required. Once done, off the heat.




delicious sambal at home

Well, there were many version of sambal available. Some preferred to use raw anchovies in the sambal. The candlenut nuts/buah keras also been used in some off the recipes. Even we can add tiny slices of potatoes (cut as small as anchovies sizes) and together, it will increase the volume of the sambal yet it’s tasty and cost effective too.



nasi lemak recipe

malaysian style sambal

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