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Sambal Tumis (Fried Chilli Paste)

Sambal Tumis (stir-fried chilli paste) is a versatile Malay/Indonesian condiment which is used for cooking spicy dishes such as sambal udang (prawns), sambal telur (egg) and sambal petai (stinky beans).

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Sambal Tumis Recipe

You can also use it as a side chilli condiment for hawker one-dish meals such as Hokkein Mee. Even though it is time-consuming to prepare, you can make a large batch at one go and store the excess in the fridge or freezer for later use.

Sambal Tumis Recipe
Store sambal tumis in disposable containers: 1 week in fridge, 3 months in freezer.

Tips for making sambal tumis

  • To prevent chilli burn, use disposable plastic gloves when handling chilli, especially dried chilli.
  • Don’t make your sambal tumis excessively hot, otherwise your guests may not enjoy it. You can always add chilli powder during cooking to up the heat level. Also, a delicious sambal tumis should be hot and mildly sweet at the same time.

dried chilli

  • Use regular dried chilli (made from finger-length chilli; pic above) rather than short dried chilli (made from chilli padi). The latter will probably be too spicy. For best results, remove most or at least half of the chilli seeds from the dried chilli.
  • Don’t use too little oil. A dry sambal tumis is not so nice. For healthier version, use olive oil.
  • If you are using sambal tumis for cooking other dishes and not as a condiment, under-season the sambal tumis by just a little (less salt, sugar and assam) so that when you cook dishes with it, you can still add other seasonings, such as fish sauce and ikan bilis powder, to flavour the dish.

granulated gula melaka (palm sugar)

  • For best results, use gula melaka (palm sugar; pic above) or brown sugar. They are more flavourful than white sugar.

Sambal Tumis Recipe

  • Since it takes quite a bit of work to make sambal tumis, I use short-cuts such as ready peeled shallots, garlic and a powerful food processor (pic above). A Malay friend at the wet market shared that you can use peeled red onions in place of shallots.
  • Depending on what food you cook, this sambal recipe can be varied in this way: add lemongrass, ginger and galangal for cooking fish; add dried shrimps for cooking petai; add ikan bilis powder for making nasi lemak chilli, etc.

dried chilli

  • Tip for de-seeding dried chilli (pic above): Place cut dried chilli, in a colander with a bowl beneath. Shake the colander, or swirl the cut chilli (wearing disposable gloves) in a circular motion. Discard the seeds which fall through the colander into the bowl.

red chilli

  • Tip for de-seeding finger-length chilli (pic above): Using kitchen scissors, snip off the top stalk and then cut lengthwise around the chilli. Discard the middle stem containing the chilli seeds.

27 comments on “Sambal Tumis (Fried Chilli Paste)”

  1. Looks delish esp when the hot sambal is placed on a banana leaf like that. Enhaces the taste and fragrance. Not sure if you’re aware of this, some shops at pasar sells belacan that are already toasted. Saves the house from the smell. :)

    • Hi Shariffa, I’m reminded that I have yet to try your mee soto recipe. I’m craving for it. Need to find a wet market which sells the rempah soup and also toasted belacan. Maybe I have to go Malay village one of these days. The market in my area don’t have the stall. You are right, the belacan toasting smell is so awful, I was about to buy a toaster oven just for toasting the belacan. Thanks for your tip :)

    • Hi Wiffy! Maybe you can try Geylang market to get the supplies? Weekend’s crazy though. I used to purchase my toasted belacan there. Lucky me, I don’t have to go too far after I moved, coz they have it here at the wet market near my place (Punggol). Let’s see if I can send you a picture of the belacan. :)

  2. This sambal tumis is just good for anything, isnt’ it?

  3. When you double the assam pulp, do you also double the water?

  4. So much hearty tips here, I wish I had accessed to such a good reference when I first tried to make this.

  5. Love sambal tumis, I love how you added the banana leave before storing your sambal tumis for extra fragrant.

  6. Hi, at step 3, after the oil separate, what should I do? Skim it off or just scoop everything into a container?

    Thanks in advance as I am really very interested to make the sambal.


    • Don’t discard the oil. Just scoop everything to store in the container for use.

    • Thank you for the reply. May I know what is the difference between this and the sambal belacan? Is it in terms of the usage? If I want to make sambal kang kong, should I be using this or the sambal belacan recipe?

      I love sambal kang kong and I also love the chiili for nasi lemak (which look like this recipe).

      Sorry to be so long winded.


    • for sambal kang kong, I have an old recipe at https://noobcook.com/sambal-kangkong/

      sambal tumis takes longer to prepare and can be used for variety of purposes (condiment and stir-frying). It can be used to cook kang kong as well, I will personally add some dried shrimps during stir frying.

    • Hi, I have made this and all my colleagues love it!!! But I added a lot more sugar and tamarind as it was too spicy for me. Thanks for sharing the recipe :)

  7. Hi Wiffy, I would like to get hold of the palm sugar. Can you tell me where about I can get it?
    Many thanks.

  8. Hi Wiffy
    One innocent question: When you said “75g dried red chilli” and “75g red chilli”, do I weigh both chilli with seeds or without seeds?

    What I did last Sat was: I weighed both chilli WITHOUT SEED, so you can imagine the large amount of Sambal Chilli I had! I distributed to my neighbours and they commented it was really good but not sweet enough.

    So, I presume we should weigh the chilli with the seeds on them? ;o).


    • oh my, Yes you should weigh the chilli in its raw form, i.e. with seeds-on (the instruction in italics in the recipe format is what you do with the raw ingredient after that). De-seeding is also optional and depending on how hot you would like the sambal to be. It won’t be easy to weigh them after de-seeding as it is usually a mess. For the sweetness, adjust and season to taste accordingly :)

  9. Hi Wiffy

    I am going to cook this Sambal Tumis again ;o). May I know if I could use this sambal to make your Hae Bee Hiam (Spicy Dried Shrimps Sambal) instead of using your previous Sambal Belachan? Please advise, thanks!


  10. Hi Wiffy,
    I try with 75 g dry and 75g fresh chili (both without seed), 250g shallots and 250g garlic.
    I feel that it is a bit bitter.
    do you have any idea what might have cause it?

    • possible reasons:
      – remove any shoots in each garlic clove, if any
      – make sure you stir the chilli regularly so that the bottom of the wok is not burnt
      – do not over toast the belacan

      The weight for the fresh and dried chillis are before de-seeding btw (much easier to weigh and prep the chilli)

      I used 8 cloves garlic for this recipe (not sure what that translate to in grams)

    • Hi Wiffy, thanks for the information.
      After some trial and error, I realise that my portion of chili is too much compare to the portion of shallots.
      Shallots could bring the bitterness of the chili down by a lot.
      thanks alot :)

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