Labor of Love: Indonesian Chilli Sambal

I know this is a kids’ food blog but sometimes all of us get bored of eating “spiced down” food and this fiery condiment is the perfect antidote to that issue.  We have been eating increasing amounts of this sambal, since we have been forced to spice our food mildly (post-Ria showing up).  This is the quintessential sambal in Indonesia (we make it minus shrimp paste) and we learned how to make it at a cooking class at Casa Luna in Bali.

It is a little bit of a time-consuming and injury causing (burning fingers, teary eyes if you touch your eyes post chilli slicing, you will regret it) cooking project that I usually manage to con my husband into working on. However, this last time I made it myself with my mother’s help because the hubby was busy and we were out of our stash of sambal.  The end product lasts a while, so it is well worth the effort.   Unless you are like our neighbor and friend, Chuck who adds it to everything he eats – his eggs, plain rice, chicken etc. – and finishes it in a hurry.

We are pretty generous when it comes to sharing food we make with others, except when it comes to this sambal.  If you have been lucky enough to receive even a small quantity of this “precious” condiment, be assured that you are on our A-List. 🙂

Indonesian Chilli Sambal – adapted from Fragrant Rice by Janet De Neefe


1 whole head of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

2 cups sliced shallots

1 cup sliced chilli of choice (serrano, thai bird’s eye, jalapeno or habanero (almost inedible with habanero, we tried it once.)  Red chilies are better in terms of color and presentation but tougher to come by in the US

1/2 cup vegetable oil and more to top off jars



  1. Slice shallots and garlic as thinly as possible.  Chop the chillies finely.  (All this take a while)
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan
  3. Fry the sliced shallots and garlic up 5-7 minutes till they are pale, golden brown color.  If you slice your ingredients a bit “thicker” it can take up to 10 minutes.  Season with salt as you fry
  4. Add the chillies and fry for another 2-3 minutes
  5. Once cooled transfer to a jar for storage.  Top with a layer of oil to keep longer.  We store ours in the fridge.  If you keep the top covered with oil and wipe the sides of the jar down, it will last up to a month

Try to make some and you will be hooked and will soon be eating this with non-Asian food as well.  I recently started using this with burgers and sandwiches!

You can make this sambal with red or green chiles.


12 thoughts on “Labor of Love: Indonesian Chilli Sambal

  1. Ohhh this looks so good. My mouth is watering! I’ve never came across this type of sambal before… only the scary red one which I love. I will definitely try this version soon … it sounds delicious 🙂

  2. These sounds so good. Unfortunately I’d be the only on in the family to eat it. Can you tell me how long it lasts in the refrigerator?

    I had a horrible experience with chili oil on my fingers from cooking and rubbing my eye. NOT something you ever want to wish on anyone!!! Now I am super careful and will even wear gloves when handling chilis!!

  3. sounds great…will make some…thanks for sharing…love chillies…reminds me of one I learnt a long time back from my aunt…she added whole mustard seeds and a little vinegar and sugar to this kind of recipe…and and I tried it with yellow peppers.

  4. I’m one of those people who can make something more complicated than it really is… so, I need some clarification please since I’ve gone and confused myself. 🙂

    1. A whole garlic means a head of garlic, correct, not a whole garlic clove?
    2. When you say “fry” do you mean over high heat? Or is it more a sautee, over a medium heat?

    This sounds so wonderful, and I think I’d be like your friend who uses this on everything in sight!

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