Caramelized Shallot Sambal Bawang

This sambal is one of the simplest to make and is beautiful in appearance as well as taste. It is also one of the hottest. The coarsely ground shallots, garlic, and chiles caramelize as they cook down in the fragrant oil, producing a sambal that is as delicious as it is vibrant, and it tastes incredible with anything that loves a drizzle of ketchup or chili sauce.

Sambal Bawang
Photo: Louise Hagger
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
30 mins


  • Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying

  • 16 long medium-hot red chiles, such as cayenne or Holland red, sliced (deseeded if you prefer less heat)

  • 3 small shallots, peeled and sliced

  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

  • Palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste

  • Sea salt and ground white pepper, to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the chiles, shallots, and garlic and fry for 5 to 10 minutes until fragrant and softened, then remove from the heat. Transfer to a food processor and pulse to a coarse texture.

  2. Return to the pan with another 2 tablespoons of oil over a medium heat. Continue to cook the sambal for a further 10 minutes or until nicely caramelized, then season with the sugar (start with about half a teaspoon and add to taste), salt, and pepper before serving.


Reprinted from Coconut & Sambal by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright © 2020, Lara Lee.

Related Articles