Sambal Belacan
Start pounding with a mortar and pestle
Start pounding with a mortar and pestle pictures (7 of 8)

Following my recent post on sambal asparagus, I thought I would show you how to make sambal belacan from scratch–a must-have Malaysian condiment and the basic building block for many delicious Malaysian recipes.

Sambal belacan consists of chilies, belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste), kalamansi lime (limau kasturi), and salt and sugar (to taste or optional). In the US, kalamansi lime is scarce so lime can be used as a substitute. However, in reality, kalamansi lime is made for sambal and lime is inferior when it comes to sambal belacan. So, if you have access to kalamansi lime, please use it, or if you have some, please give them to me.

Sambal belacan as a condiment is something that I can’t do without. I eat my rice and noodles with it, and some Malaysian dishes such as my favorite sweet and sour eggs (masak belanda), Penang char hor fun, grilled fish with banana leaves are total awesomeness with sambal belacan.

Anyway, learn how to make sambal belacan with my recipe below and click on the gallery above to learn the step-by-step guide.

RECIPE HERE: Sambal Belacan
Tagged as:

75 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Cynthia says:

    This looks and sounds deliciously fiery-hot! The way you describe how you eat this is very much the same way we eat hot pepper sauce in the Caribbean.

    I noticed that you did not include the seeds, was that deliberate or are the seeds not generally used? Also is there any particular chile that should be used to make this wonderful sambal?

    • Cynthia – despite our origins, I guess the food culture and principle stay the same. :)

      I discarded the seeds because they are very hard to pound using a mortar and pestle, plus I think there is a belief that they are not great for the digestive system. I don’t mind some of the seeds in my belacan actually because it gives some extra “texture.” I guess it’s personal preference.

  2. KNizam says:

    check this sambal belacan picture featured in the rasa magazine –
    so tempting. ehe :)

  3. David says:

    I am from New Zealand and recently had a chance to try out sambal belacan while traveling in Penang. I have to say that it tasted strong for my palate at the first taste, but then very quickly, it won me over. I agree that sambal belacan is a perfect dipping sauce for ikan bakar. It was probably the best grilled fish that I had ever tasted in my life. The aroma of burnt banana leaves and the sambal are simply perfect. Thanks for this great post!

    • David – I am glad that you tried the ikan bakar with sambal belacan. One of the many best dishes you can try in Malaysia! Yes, I love sambal belacan with fish, without it, it’s just not the same!

  4. I think I could quickly become addicted to this, and it could be used in so many ways. Can’t wait to try it.

  5. Kent says:

    I’ve been reading the blog for a long time – I’m a Chinese-American, and lived in Singapore for a year. Really miss the sambals from Singapore/Malaysia. Glad to finally see a recipe.

    Just wondering – in US grocery stores, I can find key lime, which looks like calamansi lime. Are they the same?

  6. sydneyfoodie says:

    Hi, I live in Australia and have been reading your blog for awhile now. My mum does her sambal belachan in bulk and it keeps in the freezer for ages. She divides them up in ice cube containers. The only difference in her recipe is after cooking the belachan she adds in the pounded chilli, salt and sugar and cooks it. She does this to kill all the bacteria etc so that it will keep in the freezer. She doesn’t add the lime…..only when she’s brings it out of the freezer to use, will she then add the lime juice.

    • Right, that’s the way to freeze sambal but I usually make some to last me for a few days. Adding lime when serving is right, but I don’t always have lime juice in my fridge so I add everything first. ;)

  7. tigerfish says:

    Those kumquat trees in CNY not kalamansi lime tree hor? …….
    hmmm….remember “kalamansi’ drink bring made from those limes from kumquat trees before…..

  8. Sambal Belachan…my favorite too. Sad to hear the kalamansi is rare in US. Must find a way to preserve it. By the way,…nice mortar & pestle. Can hardly find a nice one nowadays.

  9. The fresh red chilies look really cheerful. Interesting to see it goes into yummy Sambal Belacan.

  10. rachel ong says:

    Great post!!! when u show the pic step by step… very neat. love it!!

  11. rachel ong says:

    kalamansi leaves it is same as kaffir leaves? how can i find all types of leaves for perut ikan.. i miss that! thank you

  12. Oh my, what lovely, lovely colors! You know, I’m planting some chili seeds for the winter so I can make fresh sambal from my loot hehehe *keeps fingers crossed*

    Your sambal looks yummeh…I’d like to dip a cucumber into it.

  13. david says:

    I’m pretty sure the Kalamansi you are talking about is the same as the ones Filipinos use, spelled Calamansi/calamondin though. It isn’t that hard to find if you know of a Filipino market in your area such as seafood city, or island pacific, you can purchase a whole bundle for a good price.

    • David – yes, it’s the same. Not sure about the actual spelling because I have seen it spelled with k and also c. Anyway, where can I find a Filipino market in southern CA? Please let me know.

      • david c says:

        Yup spell it with a k, or a c all the same haha. You can try Seafood City or Island Pacific Both markets have branches in [Cerritos,Carson, LA, West Co., & Panorama] addresses are on their sites. I’m from LA & calamansi can thrive perfectly in Socal weather. We used to have a tree that bore fruit year round, so if you can try buying one for yourself go for it! The seafood city I work in sells calamansi trees, so im sure you can get one for a good price at the one nearest to you.

  14. joey says:

    Hi Bee! Thanks for sharing your recipe – we have tons of kalamansi here and it is also very popular to use as a condiment, or part of condiment sauces. I’d love to send you some but I don’t know if it would survive the trip there — or get caught on the way! What chilis do you use here if not bird’s eye?

    • Joey – thanks so much but David above told me I can get them at some Filipino stores. I used regular Mexican chilies. I didn’t add bird’s eyes, only use them if I want them spicy.

  15. Hah, I need to stock up my belacan the next time I go home. I am running out. I don’t trust the belacan sold in the Asian stores here in the US. ;)

  16. You are making me mouth water looking at the samban belacan. It’s my all-time favourite!!

  17. Nishi says:

    Yum…it’s a good thing I made instant noodles before coming across this page. You’re really making miss home right now. I always bring about three bottles of sambal belacan back to AUstralia when I’ve gone home

  18. Verdegrrl says:

    Great topic! Thanks! My FIL eats fresh sambal with almost every meal.

    My fav is the stuff served up by a small restaurant chain in Singapore called Sanur. It packs a wallop that doesn’t immediately strike – instead building gradually until you’re almost crying. But it’s so good you just need one more bite! And another. And another.

    If anyone has an approximation of that recipe, please share!

  19. Mel says:

    Your recipe call for seeded chillies. What type of chili do you use? I have been searching for red chilies (like the one we have back home in Malaysia) for a while now but I just can’t find them!

    Your recipe looks simple and can’t wait to try it!

  20. amira says:

    Thank you for posting this lovely recipe…I haven’t had sambal belacan for few years now, thus I decided to make sambal belacan today to accompany it with some vegetables. Although I had to substitue kalamansi lime for normal lime juice it turned out great. Wonderful!

  21. Anna says:

    You can buy frozen kalamansi from any Filipino store.

  22. I love Belecan! Do you usually buy it or can you make belecan from scratch?

  23. Pingback:Lily Yeoh « KL Hokkien Mee

  24. melit says:

    What brand of belacan do you use?

  25. Pingback:Djeroek limo [小檸檬] « Tokowijzer – wegwijs in de toko

  26. Pingback:Chai Buey | Nyonya Food & Recipes

  27. Pingback:Nyonya Stewed Pork Ribs | Nyonya Food & Recipes

  28. Jayne says:

    I came across another sambal belacan recipe that required cooking the sambal until the oil separates. Yours doesn’t require cooking. Is it a different kinda sambal belacan?

    • Jayne – this is a uncooked sambal for eating with rice and dipping purposes. I have another cooked sambal recipe which is more like a spice paste, for cooking, that’s why you need to cook until the oil separates.

  29. Pingback:Bar Reggio – fishinacar studios

  30. Pingback:What's your diet

  31. Shu says:

    Hi thank you so much for your awesome recipes!(:

    In this recipe, I noted that you wrote 1 tbsp shrimp paste, does that mean you aren’t using the block form type of belachan?

    I have a jar of Lee Kum Kee fine shrimp sauce, it’s kind of purplish in colour, and of puree consistency, made of fermented shrimps. Is that alright to use? Do i still need to toast till it’s dry then?

    Please help, thank you!!!

    • Yes, belacan (Shrimp paste) is in a block, but I used 1 tablespoon of it. I have to measure it somehow so I cut out a small piece and measured it precisely with tablespoons. No, LKK fine shrimp paste is not for this recipe, you have to use Malaysian belacan.

  32. atheniancat says:

    Please cafirm that the smell of toasting dry belachan is not pretty on the nose
    We just came back from KL and we used to eat Kangkong Belachan
    But we cant replicate it at home in Perth
    My husband grows his own Kangkong, but we buy the sambel belachan in a jar. Can you give me a good recipe for Kangkong belachan so I can make it from scratch please.

  33. chacha says:

    i adore sambal belacan. Your recipe is very good except for the sugar bit. I do have to say something as i feel very strongly about this. I find even a hint of sugar in a sambal belacan is horrifyingly disgusting and wrong.

  34. nazreena says:

    ginger garlic paste three tbalespoons and onion paste the tablespoon pepper powder one tablespoons

  35. Christine Loo says:

    I am a fan of your website. Thank you for sharing. May I ask where did you buy your mortar here on this picture? I plan to get the same one as it looks really nice!

  36. Rob says:

    Wow, looks really spice. I’ll try it.

  37. Hi, thanks for your recipes! Just a question, can this sambal belacan preparation be frozen?

  38. Pingback:Sambal Terasi | Indonesian Food

  39. Don says:

    Can I use Thai shrimp paste in this? (it is called gkapee) It is a solid block like belacan and will dry out when toasted in a pan. It is the same color and texture too.

  40. sambal belacan has a unique flavor and makes people addicted to eat again

  41. Valerie Kuan says:

    Hi Bee, where can I get belacan in the US?

  42. samantha cameroon says:

    What type of chili did you use

  43. Your weblog seems to be having some compatibilty issues in my chrome browser.
    The text appears to be running off the page pretty bad.
    If you want you can e-mail me at: and I’ll shoot you over a screen grab of the problem.

  44. elizascott says:

    Thank you so much Bee for the greats pictures and wonderful recipes. I am Malaysian who moved to SF for 12years now. I am grateful to found your website. Will get your cook book next.

    Terima Kasih!

  45. Pingback:Djeroek limo [小檸檬] | Tokowijzer

  46. sharon yang says:

    What brand of sambal do you use?

  47. Lynn says:

    Hi, I notice that you don’t cook the sambal belacan. Will it be acceptable to cook or boil it?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Thanks for visiting Rasa Malaysia, #9 most popular cooking blog. Please like Rasa Malaysia on Facebook, join email or RSS for new recipes!

Facebook  |  Email  |  RSS