Grandma's Ikan Bilis Sambal for Nasi Lemak
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Malaysian
Serves: 4-6 as an accompaniment
  • 150ml vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 80g ikan bilis, cleaned
  • 200g red onions, cut into 3mm dice
  • 130g red onions, blended with garlic (below)
  • 8 garlic cloves, blended
  • 1 tbsp chilli boh (or substitute chilli paste, or sambal oelek)
  • 1-2 tbsp tamarind water
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • ikan bilis stock powder (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a heavy based pot over medium heat. Fry ikan bilis until golden brown - about 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add the sliced onions and fry until lightly browned at the edges - this can take up to 20 minutes. If needed, add more oil as necessary to cover the onions.
  3. Add the blended onion-garlic paste and stir through, then add the chilli boh, tamarind water, salt, sugar and ikan bilis stock powder (optional). Cook for a further 8-10 minutes.
  4. Taste for balance, making sure that the onions and chillies have lost their raw taste. The sambal should be slightly salty, soft and sweet from the onions with a bit of heat. Add more chilli paste, tamarind water, salt or sugar to taste - making sure to cook for a further 5-10 minutes to cook out the chilli paste if more is added.
  5. Allow to cool, then skim excess oil and reserve for cooking again, or use as a topping for curry laksa, or in Asian-inspired salads.
Recipe by A Kitchen Cat at