Sambal Belachan Recipe

Whip up this Malaysian staple of chillis, lime juice, and toasted fermented shrimp paste (belachan).

| July 2019


Sambal belachan, an uncooked sambal made from fresh red chilies, shallots, shrimp paste, and fresh lime juice, is a staple on the Malaysian table. The mere mention of sambal belachan will get any Malaysian salivating, and without it, we would not feel the meal was complete. We enjoy the sambal as a dipping sauce that goes well with almost anything — steaks, fish, rice, noodles, and vegetables. It can also be used to begin your stir-fried dishes.

Belachan refers to a paste made from tiny dried shrimp, and this shrimp paste is the key ingredient in the sambal. Although it does have a rather strong pungent smell, the shrimp flavor delicately dissipates into the background, creating the fifth flavor — or umami — that is complex and lingers for a long time. In Malaysia, sambal belachan is made fresh daily the old-fashioned way, using a stone mortar and pestle. Although that is charming and traditional, this recipe is easier to make using an electric mini chopper or food processor. You can reduce the number of chilies for less spiciness. 

Makes 1 cup.


  • 8 fresh red jalapeño chilies, chopped
  • 5 shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste, toasted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


  1. Combine the chilies, shallots, shrimp paste, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Blend until smooth. The paste should be light orange when well blended.
  2. Transfer the sambal to a bowl, add the lime juice, and mix well. Serve at room temperature. Leftover sambal can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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Cover courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Sambal Belachan is excerpted from THE MALAYSIAN KITCHEN © 2017 by Christina Arokiasamy. Food Photography © 2017 by Penny De Los Santos. On-Location Photography © 2017 by David Hagerman. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.



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