Tomato Sambal (Sambal Tomat)

October 22, 2020 Updated: October 22, 2020

Tomato Sambal (Sambal Tomat)

I think of this tomato relish as a beginner’s guide to sambal, as it works beautifully either spicy or mild, depending on your preference.

For those with chile-sensitive palates, like my Devonshire mother-in-law, Caroline, deseeding the chiles lowers the potency of the heat. The addition of tomatoes makes it a mellow and umami-rich relish that is irresistible drizzled over soups, added to stews, or used as a dipping sauce with wedges or fritters.

This is typically made with intensely flavored bush tomatoes in the parts of Indonesia where they are lucky enough to grow them, but in my home kitchen in London, I’m happy to use good-quality cherry tomatoes.

This sambal keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge covered with a thin layer of sunflower oil, or for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Origin: Popular all over Indonesia

Chile Heat: Moderate

Makes about 16 portions

  • 20 long red chiles, deseeded and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 2 small banana shallots or 4 Thai shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste (or 1 teaspoon lime juice mixed with 1 teaspoon brown sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Coconut oil or sunflower oil, for frying

Place the chiles, garlic, ginger, shallots, and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a semi-fine paste, retaining a little texture.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Add the paste to the pan and cook, stirring continuously, for 10–15 minutes or until the sambal darkens, is fragrant and reduces to a thick consistency. Season with the tamarind paste, sugar, salt, and pepper. Leave to cool.

Recipe reprinted from “Coconut and Sambal” by arrangement with Bloomsbury Publishing. Copyright 2020, Lara Lee.