Vaughan Thomas' sambal matah

Indonesian sambal matah
I do love a good chilli sambal and there are as many different sambal recipes across Asia as there are days of the year. Oh where to start? (Although in my case . . . where to stop!)

But I should really start at the beginning. I had started to follow a blog by an ex-pat Welshman, the eponymous Vaughan Thomas, who now lives in Indonesia and who charmingly blogs at Tales from Paddyview about life in the Far East. He very kindly offered me this authentic Balinese sambal recipe, which includes both shrimp paste and lemongrass.

As you know, a sambal is a chilli condiment originating in Indonesia, the matah bit in the name means that it is raw. This means that while you can use it as a marinade; it is also delicious served on the side, with fish or chicken.

The reason why I particularly wanted to make a fresh and fragrant sambal was because I had recently made Yotam Ottolenghi's hot and sour mushroom soup. There was some of the mushroom broth leftover and by now my taste buds were roaring back into life and I felt that the next batch of soup needed a bit more of a kick, which is why I wanted to make Vaughan's sambal matah. The matah sambal included both lemongrass and shrimp paste and I thought it would complement Ottolenghi's mushroom broth which had been steeped in cinnamon and lemongrass. It turned out I was right! Gorgeous!

Vaughan says:

As promised, a sambal from Indonesia. This one - sambal matah - was taught to me by a restaurateur in Bali, though I don't know whether it is an original Balinese sambal. Anyway, enjoy! Combine the following ingredients in a deep bowl and mix well for five minutes or until your arm starts aching.
Skill level: Easy

15 x small shallots, finely sliced
4 x garlic cloves, very finely chopped
15 x Birds Eye chillies, roughly chopped
5 x kaffir lime leaves, very finely chopped
1 tsp finely grated terasi (shrimp paste)
4 x lemongrass stalks, bashed and bruised, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
a little ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
80ml coconut oil


  1. Less authentic but easier for my arthritic hands, I made this in a blender rather than using a pestle and mortar!
  2. Firstly, I prepared the shrimp paste. Wrap the paste in a piece of kitchen foil and dry fry over a medium heat for a few minutes to release the pungent flavours!
  3. Add all of the ingredients except the lime juice and coconut oil to a blender and give them a bit of a whizz. Scrape down the sides of the blender and whizz again.
  4. Scrape down once more before adding the lime juice and coconut oil. Blend again. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  5. My version was quite smooth but a quick check on the internet has sambal matahs which are far less refined looking and a lot more rustic!


  • Sambals can be the building block of many dishes. It is fabulous with rice and noodles, a great seasoning for soups; it is delicious with stir-fried or baked fish and meat.
  • Personally, I love a dollop of sambal on fried or poached eggs for breakfast or in a sandwich!
  • Stir a small amount of sambal into a vinaigrette or mayonnaise dressing for salads.
  • Add to marinades for an extra kick!

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