How To Make Indonesian Sambal Tomat – #1 Balinese Sambal

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Indonesian cuisine is known for its vibrant and diverse flavors, and one of its most beloved condiments is sambal. Sambal is a spicy chili-based sauce that adds a fiery kick to any dish. It is a staple in Indonesian households, and its popularity has spread far beyond the archipelago. In this article, we will delve into the rich history of Indonesian sambal, focusing on the spicy condiments from the archipelago and offer what we think is number one, hailing from Bali.

The Origins of Sambal

While the exact origins of this spicy chili sauce is unclear, it is believed to have originated in the Indonesian archipelago centuries ago. The word “sambal” itself is derived from the Javanese word “sambel,” which means sauce or condiment. Over time, it has become an integral part of Indonesian cuisine, with each region developing its own unique variations. Even on smaller islands within the archipelago you will find massive variation and incredible flavor variations.

Indonesian Sambal From The Archipelago.

Archipelago Indonesia is home to a wide variety of sambals, each with its own distinct flavors and ingredients. One of the most popular mainland sauces is “sambel terasi.” Made with red chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lime juice, and shrimp paste (terasi), this sambal boasts a rich umami flavor that pairs well with grilled meats and vegetables.

Another famous Indonesian sambal is “sambal bajak.” This sambal is made by frying a mixture of chili peppers, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste. The result is a slightly sweet and tangy sambal that is often used as a dipping sauce for fried snacks or as a condiment for rice dishes.

“Sambal matah” is a sambal that hails from Bali but has gained popularity throughout Indonesia. It is made with shallots, lemongrass, chili peppers, lime juice, and coconut oil. Sambal matah is known for its fresh and vibrant flavors, making it a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

Of all Indonesian sambal dishes one of the most well known is from Lombok, “Sambal ulek.” Made with red chili peppers, garlic, shallots, and salt, sambal ulek is a versatile and fiery condiment that adds a punch of heat to any dish.

how to make indonesian sambal

Balinese Sambal

Bali, known for its rich culinary traditions, has its own unique sambals that are distinct from those found on the archipelago. One is “sambal matah.” While the name may be the same as the mainland sambal, the Balinese version is quite different. Balinese sambal matah is made with shallots, lemongrass, chili peppers, lime juice, and coconut oil. It is often served with grilled seafood or used as a topping for traditional Balinese dishes.

The Differences Between The Archipelago and Balinese Sambal

While both archipelago and Balinese sambals share a common base of chili peppers, garlic, and shallots, the differences lie in the additional ingredients and flavors. Most Indonesian sambal incorporates shrimp paste (terasi), which adds a distinct umami flavor, while Balinese sambals focus more on the use of lemongrass and coconut oil.

Additionally, archipelago sambals tend to be more varied in terms of heat levels, with some being milder and others packing a fiery punch. Balinese sambals, on the other hand, are generally known for their intense spiciness. The use of different chili pepper varieties also contributes to the variations in heat levels between the two.

The Number One Sambal (according to us)

how to make indonesian sambal tomat - #1 balinese sambal
The mother of all Sambals and found across the Indonesian archipelago.
This recipe focuses on the Balinese Version with lime and coconut.

How To Make Indonesian Sambal Tomat – #1 Balinese Sambal

5.0 from 1 vote
Recipe by HolisticJB Course: CondimentCuisine: IndonesianDifficulty: Easy


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Known as the “Mother of all sambals”, Sambal Tomat is common across Indonesia. The flavor a balanced mix of sour, sweet and spicy. It doesn’t contain any root spices, which is distinct among sambals from Bali. What makes this different to other Indonesian Sambals is the Balinese addition of coconut and lime.

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  • 5 5 shallots, sliced

  • 3 3 cloves garlic, sliced

  • 3 3 tomatoes, cut into wedges

  • 6 6 red chilis, large, seedless, cut into slices

  • 5 5 bird eye chili

  • 1 tbsp 1 tbsp palm sugar

  • 1 tsp 1 tsp shrimp paste

  • 1 tsp 1 tsp salt

  • 50 ml 1/5 cup coconut oil

  • 1 1 lime, juiced


  • Using a heavy based saucepan heat the coconut oil. Fry the sliced garlic and shallots for about 1 minute until browned.
    onion and garlic
  • Add both types of sliced chili, fry until wilted. Add the shrimp paste and fry for 1 minute. Then add the tomato wedges and cook until all the ingredients are softened.
  • Add the palm sugar and fry for a further two minutes.
    palm sugar
  • Grind the mixture to a smooth paste in a mortar or a blender.
    blend sambal
  • Heat the paste and add the lime juice just before serving. Season with salt to taste.


  • For vegetarian and vegan sambal substitute shrimp paste with tamarind paste.

Nutrition Facts

  • Serving Size: 1g
  • Total number of serves: 4
  • Calories: 371kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 53.7g
  • Protein: 12.5g
  • Fat: 14.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 12.9g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 11991mg
  • Potassium: 1072mg
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugar: 13.7g
  • Calcium: 193mg
  • Iron: 4mg

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Indonesian sambal is a versatile and flavorful condiment that has captivated taste buds around the world. Whether you prefer the rich and savory Indonesian archipelago or the fiery and aromatic Balinese, there is one to suit every palate. The history and diversity of Indonesian sambal reflect the rich culinary heritage of the archipelago, making it a must-try for any food love

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After living in Malaysia and Brunei, and travelling throughout South East Asia, I fell in love with the countries, the people and the amazing cuisine. Now I want to share that passion through the recipes that deliver Hawker Style, authentic flavors of Asia.

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