23 Feb2012

Sambal Belacan

by Marketman

It’s been a while since we’ve had freshly made sambal in the house. We lived in Jakarta and Singapore for several years, and LOVED the condiment in many of its forms (there are dozens of variations of sambal), but since moving home, our food has become less spicy as the years have passed. But when I found the block of belacan or belachan in the previous post, I immediately purchased several handfuls of chili to make some sambal…

Start with some fresh chilies, de-seed and chop roughly. Personally, I don’t de-seed all of the chilies, leaving say 20% or so with seeds, so the sambal has SERIOUS heat. Sometimes it is TOO SPICY, but it seems to mellow a bit over time… :) Meanwhile, toast a tablespoon or so of the belachan in a pan over medium heat and keep breaking it up and stirring until it is a powder like substance… do NOT burn it.

Place the sliced chili in a mortar, add some salt, and mash it up until you reach a semi-paste like consistency. Add the belacan, some kalamansi juice and a bit of sugar and keep mashing until you get to the consistency you prefer. Some folks do this in a mini-food processor, but I find that makes TOO FINE of a sambal… I like it more roughly mashed than the blitzed version.

I put too many chilies WITH seeds into this batch, and a mid-mashing taste was incendiary… Add a bit more de-seeded chilies, sugar and salt to taste if necessary. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to a week. Enjoy as a condiment, or use as an ingredient for fish, meats or vegetables. Make sure you wash your hands VERY WELL before you touch your face or any body parts, the capsaicin can cause serious irritation… :) If you want a less fiery sambal, try this version that I featured years ago.

Wondering how else to use sambal? Check out these previous posts:

Soto Ayam – That classic Indoensian Chicken Noodle Soup, heat it up with sambal
Gourmet’s Spicy Crab Spaghetti with Preserved Lemons and Sambal
Sop Buntot, Part I
Sop Buntot, Part II, Indonesian oxtail soup, excellent with sambal!
Sambal Prawns a la Marketman
As a condiment for Hainanese Chicken Rice
Nasi Goreng – Indonesian Fried Rice
Yam Tua Pluu – Thai Sigadilyas Salad



  1. betty q. says:

    I usually wear those surgical gloves when I handle any hot peppers!

    Feb 23, 2012 | 7:34 am

  2. anne says:

    I LOVE sambal belacan ! Mine’s a more of a bastardized version as I fried the belacan in minced garlic and shallots before adding it to the chilies :D

    Feb 23, 2012 | 9:05 am

  3. millet says:


    Feb 23, 2012 | 9:09 am

  4. millet says:

    the closest thing that we have to belacan is the ilonggo bagoong, which is dry as a bone, and comes in bricks and mounds in the iloilo markets.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 9:10 am

  5. Marketman says:

    millet, yes, binayo or guinamos, an example here from the Murcia market outside Bacolod… it’s close indeed…

    Feb 23, 2012 | 9:15 am

  6. Footloose says:

    Belacan, Japanese miso and Tabasco are the three common denominators in my fridge. They stay there for years on end without spoiling. I use belacan for sambal tumis and satay peanut sauce both of which can only be cooked here in fair weather and in the open air without provoking the neighbors to violence. Sambal tumis is a close cousin of your preparation but also involves scallions and a whole lot of oil. They say tumis means fried in Malay and that’s probably what it originally meant too in Tagalog although it has undergone radical transformation in our tinumis.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 9:48 am

  7. PITS, MANILA says:

    we like sambal seriously hot. hot like really on fire, hahaha! there’s almost nothing in the house for one to eat if one does not like “fired” food. my sister, to her husband (husband initially not used to “anghang”) said, “wala ka kakainin dito kung ayaw mo ng ma-anghang …”.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 10:42 am

  8. jakespeed says:

    i love sambal in my bee hoon and laksa. it brings the flavor up a notch.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 11:50 am

  9. Eileen says:

    I love sambal, will have to try making my own. I don’t like it too hot, I like it too be spicy and a bit sweet.

    Feb 23, 2012 | 2:22 pm

  10. Michelle says:

    Always wondered how sambal is made. Thanks MM!

    Feb 24, 2012 | 9:38 am

  11. wil-b says:

    I love sambal belacan and when i made it here at home in pinas, everybody likes it a lot. . . A Malay auntie taught me her version of it when i was working in Singapore. . . would like to share it you MM :) . . . she uses 2 kinds of chili the long red ones commonly used in Singapore and chili padi (bird’s eye chili) . . . she sautes this 2 kinds of chilis with tomato wedges and onion along with the belacan and some sugar then blitz it in the food processor ( well, we usually do a large batch so using mortar and pestle would be a pain in the ass LOL) and lime/kalamansi is added as served :D really good for anything grilled . . .

    Feb 24, 2012 | 10:19 am

  12. Marketman says:

    wib-b, that sounds delicious, will have to try that for myself… now if only I can find the longer chilies they use in Singapore… and does she totally remove the seeds?? Thanks!

    Feb 24, 2012 | 11:36 am

  13. GT says:

    Hi MM, do you know where to get the right type of chili here in Manila? It quite hard to find cayenne.

    Feb 25, 2012 | 8:10 am

  14. Marketman says:

    GT, you are right, the longer chilies ARE HARD to find… but I sometimes see them at weekend markets, perhaps 2-3x a year…

    Feb 26, 2012 | 6:25 am

  15. wil-b says:

    MM. . . she never removes the seeds, since the long chili in sg is quite mild, and we even have to add bird’s eye chili to give it more kick . . . .

    Feb 27, 2012 | 10:33 am

  16. Angelo says:

    MM, will this recipe work/taste the same if I use regular bottled bagoong alamang instead of belacan blocks

    Apr 25, 2013 | 2:10 pm

  17. Marketman says:

    Angelo, the belacan is drier, more pungent, less fresh tasting, so the overal sambal is influenced by this. Bottled bagoong will yield a slightly different result. If searching for belachan, I just bought some in the international section of the Metro Grocery in market!market! the other day… it’s wrapped in paper.

    Apr 25, 2013 | 2:24 pm


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