Sambal Belacan

It is spicy. It is tangy. It is aromatic and pungent at the same time. This condiment packs a punch and is a beloved addition to many Singaporean and Malaysian dishes.

I’m talking about the sambal belacan – a beautiful concoction of chilli, lime and dried fermented shrimp paste packed into a block called belacan that is unique to this part of the world.

Singaporeans seem to take pride in pairing our condiments to specific foods, concocting unique condiments for our beloved dishes. Garlic chilli sauce is anonymous with Hainanese Chicken, sambal with ikan bilis paired with nasi lemak, bean paste and chilli for fish soup, cincalok and lime for BBQ stingray and the list goes on. Top on my list as a condiment to add that extra kick to my meal is the sambal belacan!

Growing up, this spicy condiment never fails to add that kick to anything I pair it with! I’ve paired it with my fish soups, zi char hor fun, steamed okra, potato chips and most recently I found that it taste great with cheeses too!

It seems like this simple condiment just lifts the flavours of whatever I add it to. And because it is a personal favourite, it shall be the first recipe to be shared!

I like my chilli condiment really spicy, so I am using chilli padi (bird eye chilli) here. If you are unable to take the kick, then temper it down by swopping the chilli padi with the normal big red chilli. Chilli padi is small but like baby groot, it packs a punch!

I will usually make a batch and share the yield with loved ones. As there are no added preservatives, storing them in smaller bottles lengthens the longevity of each yield, as it limits the exposure to the elements, every time I reach for it. Recycled leftover peanut butter or jam jars can be used for storage. If you don’t have those, small jars from IKEA are great too!

This is a simple recipe that I found useful. If this amateur home cook can make it, so can you! Until next time!


Sambal belacan


Prep time 10 min
Cook time 24 min
Yields 2 x 750ml bottles



Things you need


62.5 grams Belacan
500 grams Chilli padi (bird eye chilli)
500 grams Red chilli
500 grams Lime (squeeze for juice)
keep squeezed limes for blending (200 grams)
60 grams Sugar



Here’s how


  • Remove stems from chilli padi
  • Slice limes open, squeeze and extract juice.
  • Remember to keep 200 grams of squeezed limes for later!
  • Cut belacan block into half.
  • Thinly slice one half of the block.
  • Add oil to pan (optional)
  • Heat pan on low heat (for amateurs) or medium heat (for seasoned cooks)
  • Add sliced belacan into pan
  • Heat the belacan until it cooks and dries into a powder like texture
  • Add cooked belacan, lime juice (without seed), red chillis, chilli padis, squeezed lime and sugar into food processor.
  • Blend everything together until consistency is fine.
  • Serve or bottle it up for later use



Helpful tips


  • Be careful not to burn the belacan when heating it.
  • Burnt belacan will cause the sambal belacan to have a bitter taste
  • Store the batch of sambal belacan in small bottles to maximise the longevity of yield
  • Freshly made sambal belacan can be kept up to 2 weeks for safe consumption when stored in the refrigerator.

Regina is an actress, educator, writer and amateur home cook. Her friends think that she is not a bad home cook, her brothers on the other hand, think she is terrible. In her defence, growing up in a family of fantastic chefs, she had always left the cooking to them. Her mantra – they cook, she eats. She is FINALLY learning some of her family recipes and has not harmed anyone with her cooking thus far (fingers crossed.) Now, if she can cook, anyone can cook too!