Sambal Udang a Traditional Dish

Malaysians really love sambal, the village-style cuisine. There is one word that suits it best to describe the sambal: ‘pedas’.   

Pedas is the Malay word to explain the taste of sambal.  Another word referring to sambal is hot taste.

Sambal is a basic gravy and we may add it with seafood to make as side dish. Sambal with prawns gives a real kick eating with hot rice.

Sambal Udang (Prawn Sambal) is traditionally cooked in Malay households. It is a favourite side dish for my family members. 

Sambal Udang also known as Prawn Sambal
The colour of well-cooked sambal udang.

When to have sambal

The best way to have sambal is to eat it with rice. Normally, the Malay cook sambal for lunch dishes as a basic gravy to put any seafood inside.

This Sambal Udang is a favourite for many and was prepared years ago from generation to generation till today.

This dish has made its way into many households and becomes a choice to serve for the bride and groom serving at wedding receptions.

The sambal udang does not serve the guests as it is an expensive selection.

It is expensive if you choose sambal udang whenever you eat in a restaurant. That is why I cook sambal udang at home for my family.

For one kilogram fresh prawn cost me RM24 at Selayang market and I can have about 45 medium sizes prawns. 

The restaurant charges RM5 each for the medium size prawn. 

We can see the different it makes when you eat prawn in restaurant compare you cook at home. 

How to cook Sambal Udang

This Sambal Udang recipe is prepared using simple ingredients and the preparation does not require a long time. 

Use fresh prawns because the sweet taste of fresh prawns makes the sauteed sambal gravy more delicious.

A delicious family meal is eaten with rice or nasi lemak.

You can use either sea prawn or farm prawn. Sea prawn colour is lighter and from the ocean, while farm prawn is darker and grown in the pond. 

The price of a sea prawn is more expensive than a farm prawn but in cooking, I prefer sea prawn. 

Other ingredients are dried chilli, onion, garlic, tamarind juice, belacan, cooking oil, sugar and salt.

Cook the sambal gravy until reddish in colour.  The colour of sambal can determine if it is well cooked.

The well-cooked sambal may be kept for three days at room temperature.

The good sambal must have a sweet taste and oily texture.

How to make sambal that last three days

Sambal like some sort of food to increase the awesome of certain dish.

Sambal has a ‘pedas‘ taste that turn your simple rice or as dip for bread melt in the mouth.

The ‘pedas‘ taste is a must have element in our daily meal either at home or travelling.

Sambal tumis as it also known by other name for the very basic gravy suitable to carry while travelling. I use to make sambal when I on interstate travelling in Malaysia.

The different in the cooking style and time can make the sambal either last longer or easy to stale.

To make the sambal well cook is by using plenty of cooking oil.

Sauté the sambal gravy over slow heat for half and hour.

The longer period is needed to drain the water in sambal gravy.

Without the water the sambal can last longer while the extra cooking oil being used to protect the sambal from burnt.

The sambal well cook if the oil raise to cover the gravy on the surface. Let it cool and keep in the air tight bottle if you wish to bring it while travelling.

Sambal Udang


  • 500g shrimp, cleaned
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 onion
  • 10-12 stalks of dried chillies, discarded seeds
  • 3cm belacan
  • ½ cup cooking oil
  • ⅓  cup tamarind water
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Cut the dried chillies and soak for 10 minutes. Drain the water and finely grind with garlic, onion and belacan.

In a skillet, heat ½ cup of cooking oil and then sauté the ground ingredients, cook until fragrant and bursting with oil.

Pour the tamarind juice. 

Then add the shrimp, salt and sugar to taste.

Cook briefly in approximately five to seven minutes or until boiling. Pick up and serve.


  • Make sure you don’t cook the shrimp for too long as the shrimp can become hard.
  • When sautéing the ground ingredients, make sure the oil raise to the surface otherwise, the sautéed sambal gravy will not cook perfectly.

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