Sambal Ikan Bilis for Nasi Lemak

I have been on a hunt for the perfect nasi lemak sambal for a while now…..perfect for my taste anyway and I think I can finally stop looking. Yay! This recipe is originally in Malay and was posted by Dayana Suri on YouTube. You can watch her video here.

For those of you who don’t know the Malay language, I’ve translated the recipe to English below. However, I did change a few of the ingredients to what are available in my pantry.

As translated by me:
5 large red onions
3 cloves garlic
1 handful dried anchovies
10 tablespoons chili paste
5 tablespoons chili sauce
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 small lumps palm sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (based on her response to comments)

What I used (these are regular items in my pantry):
25 dried chilies (1/2 ounce)
5 yellow onions (1 pound 4 ounces unpeeled), peeled and cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 handful dried anchovies (1-1/2 to 1-3/4 ounces)*
1-1/2 cups oil**
4 ounces palm sugar***
1/2 handful dried anchovies (3/4 to 1 ounce)
5 tablespoons Sriracha Chili Sauce
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

*If you can find cleaned anchovies, get those. If you can’t, prep the anchovies by removing the heads and guts with a metal skewer – see video below.
**I use extra light olive oil. I typically fry some anchovies to serve with our nasi lemak in advance and reserve the oil to make this sambal.
***Palm sugar usually comes in a big lump. Just use your chef’s knife to shave off what you need.

The following instructions are based on what I actually did and they vary slightly from the original instructions:

  1. Remove seeds from dried chilies and steep chilies in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain and place in a food processor bowl.
  2. Add onion chunks, garlic, and 1 handful of anchovies. Process until finely minced.
  3. In a large frying pan, heat 1-1/2 cups oil over medium heat until moderately hot. Add the minced aromatics/anchovy mixture and cook, stirring frequently until oil has separated from the mixture.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the palm sugar. Continue to cook and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  5. Next, add 1/2 handful of anchovies and Sriracha. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until oil has separated from the mixture again.
  6. Then, add tamarind paste, salt, sliced onion, and dark soy sauce. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until onion is translucent and oil has once again separated from the mixture. Taste to see if you need to adjust seasoning. Finally, turn off heat and transfer sambal to glass containers. Store in the fridge.

Recipe for the fragrant, rich coconut rice can be found in a previously published post – Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice).

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2 Replies to “Sambal Ikan Bilis for Nasi Lemak”

  1. Nice job! I’m glad you found the taste you were looking for!

    1. Another taste of home that I can now make myself. :)

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