Sambal Belacan is a popular spicy Malaysian chili condiment consisting of chilies, belacan (shrimp paste), and lime juice. It adds zest to all your rice and noodle dishes.
Sambal Belacan is an indispensable chili condiment in Malaysian cuisine. For many, a meal is incomplete without this spicy savory concoction as it whets one’s appetite and goes with just about everything. Like Nasi Lemak, Malaysians absolutely love and can’t leave home without it.
Sambal Belacan Using Only Three Ingredients
There are many versions of Sambal Belacan but 3 ingredients – red chilies, belacan (shrimp paste), and lime juice are essential. Salt and sugar to taste is optional. I have seen recipes on the web with shallots and tomatoes, although I have never personally tasted them.
In our family, we keep it simple and have for as long as I can remember. The same goes with Paul’s family. Only 3 ingredients – red chilies, belacan, and lime juice. Since belacan is already salty, there is no need to add any more salt. Definitely no sugar but the choice is yours.
Belacan (Shrimp Paste)
The quality of the belacan (shrimp paste) is very important when making Sambal Belacan. Always buy the best grade available because a little goes a long way. In my humble opinion, Penang makes the best belacan and my preferred brand is Cheong Kim Chuan from Air Hitam. This can be purchased in Kuala Lumpur and so I will buy a couple of pieces of the premium grade when I visit my parents.
Use belacan sparingly for a brighter tasting and more vivid colored sambal belacan. Too much and you will end up with a very salty and dark colored condiment. Too little and you might just be eating regular chili sauce.
When toasting belacan, be sure to open the windows and turn on the range hood or kitchen exhaust fan. The scent can be a little funky if trapped in the house. I usually toast my belacan in the summer when I can open the windows. A little peppermint and eucalyptus oil in a small candle lamp diffuser helps freshen up the place very effectively after the toasting.
Limau Kasturi (Calamondin) vs Lime
In Malaysia, limau kasturi/calamansi (calamondin) is often used in place of limes. I personally prefer limes as I think it is more fragrant and lends a “fresher” taste to the sambal. The closest thing to limau kasturi you can find here in the US are key limes but regular limes work just fine.
Apart from it being a condiment or relish, Sambal Belacan is also used as an ingredient in many kerabu (salads) like
A very popular fruit salad that has this condiment in it is Rojak (Malaysian Spicy Fruit Salad). You are missing out if you have not tasted Rojak. Make some Sambal Belacan today and try these recipes soon.
Similar Tools Used in Making This Sambal Belacan
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy here.
- ¾ inch cube belacan / shrimp paste
- 6 red chilies and a few bird's eye chilies (optional) for extra spiciness
- 1 large lime (about 2 to 3 tbsp lime juice) or 2 to 3 limau kasturi
- Toast belacan in a small pan until crumbly. This will take about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and allow it to cool.
- Remove seeds from chilies and cut into small pieces.
- Transfer the chilies to a stone mortar. Pound with the pestle until the pieces are broken. Add toasted belacan and continue to pound until desired fineness. Alternatively, chilies and toasted belacan may be place in a food processor and processed until fine.
- Squeeze in the lime juice and stir to mix. Transfer to a small dish.
- If not consuming right away, transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. Squeeze in the lime juice just before serving. Best consumed within 2 to 3 days.