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How to Make Sambal Belacan

Alan has been an online writer for more than three years and enjoys sharing a wide range of ideas.

Simply mouth watering

Simply mouth watering

What is Sambal Belacan?

If you have ever travelled to southeast Asia, chances are high you have seen sambal served on the side as in the case with nasi goreng (fried rice) or stir fried into vegetables to add a kick to an otherwise boring dish. Sambal is a chili paste made from a mixture of chili peppers rubbed on a stone mortar. The more chilies you add, the spicier the sambal. In certain establishments they even fix in ghost peppers and put up a challenge for those who dare to take it up.

Belacan on the other hand is just a crustacean paste; either shrimp or prawn. You will deshell said crustacean and blend them in a blender with salt. Then you let it ferment for several weeks. It's an essential addition to many curries, and sauces you find throughout southeast Asia.

And so, sambal belacan is a mixture of the two. One would simply crush the chilies with a stone mortar, and once it's finely crushed, put it into a blender. Garlic, ginger, shallot, palm sugar and lime juice is added. Once all the ingredients are mixed well, we could heat up a skillet or a wok with vegetable oil and stir fry the paste to bring out an even stronger flavour profile. This step is purely optional as some may find the taste to strong and prefers to leave it as is.

Sambal can elevate a boring dish to a whole new level.

Sambal can elevate a boring dish to a whole new level.

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Belacan is typically sold in blocks.

Belacan is typically sold in blocks.

How Spicy Can You Make It?

That is completely up to you. My granny’s sambal belacan was always hot but not too hot. I don’t think she used chilli padi (bird’s eye chillies/Thai chillies), just your regular, cayenne or jalapeños. I’ve had some pretty hot ones and these are usually the ones made with just bird’s eye chillies.

My sambal belacan is a mixture of the mild jalapeños and bird’s eye chillies. If you happen to love your chillies, you can always go for any record breaking type you fancy. But always fresh chillies, not dried.

Sambal Belacan is traditionally made with red chillies but you can also go for a mix of red and green, which is not uncommon.

Instructions on Making Sambal Belacan


  • Jalapenos
  • Red Chillies
  • Any other chillies you want to add in (bear in mind, the more you add, the hotter the paste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of white sugar
  • 1 tbsp of belacan
  • 1 lime or 2 calamansi
  • zest from lime

  1. Wash the chillies under warm running water. Cut off the stems.
  2. Pound the chillies into a pastle/mortar/chopper until fragrant.
  3. When it's at a semi coarse stage, add in the belacan you purchased from the store.
  4. Pound the mixture until even mixed.
  5. Finally, add in lime juice along with some zest and mix well.
  6. Store in a mason jar for future use. Be sure to keep it refrigerated.

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