Deyana’s Sambal Dabu-Dabu Lilang: Manado Chopped Chilli & Lime Sambal (Vegan)

Sambal dabu-dabu is a popular recipe from Manado, North Sulawesi. Here, chillies, tomatoes and shallots are chopped and mixed. Hot oil and lime juice are then poured over the mix.

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Deyana Goh
Deyana Goh
Deyana was born in Singapore and lives there. She is half-Chinese, half-Arab, with a grandmother who was born to an Arab family in Bogor, Indonesia. Deyana grew up eating Indonesian food as it is cooked in Arab-Indonesian households, and has fond memories of the festive whole chicken stuffed with lamb.

Sambal dabu-dabu lilang is a refreshing sambal from Manado in North Sulawesi. It means “chopped sambal” in the local language, and is made by mixing chopped chillies, shallots, and tomatoes, and pouring lime juice and sizzling hot oil over the mix.

In Manado, there are many types of sambal dabu-dabu, including those that use fish roe or fermented fish. But this particular variety, sambal dabu-dabu lilang, is tasty and easy-to-make, and has spread like wildfire all over Indonesia, where it’s known simply as sambal dabu-dabu.

In fact, it’s so popular that it’s a dish contestants like to make on Masterchef Indonesia (Season 8 is airing right now!), which is what inspired me to make the dish. Quite coincidentally, Nunuk made sambal dabu-dabu on the very same morning, proving that telepathy is real. Stay tuned for her version of the dish, which will no doubt be spicier and more fiery.


Sambal dabu-dabu has often been compared to sambal matah, a Balinese sambal that also consists of hot oil being poured over chopped chillies and other ingredients. Indeed, the cooking techniques of both are similar. However, sambal dabu-dabu includes tomatoes, whereas sambal matah doesn’t, but instead incorporates other ingredients, like finely-chopped lemongrass and lime leaves, and terasi or roasted shrimp paste. 

Both sambal dabu-dabu and sambal matah are great with fried or grilled dishes, eaten as a condiment or with the sambal poured all over the dish. They add a refreshing, slightly sour/acidic flavour to temper the greasiness or smokiness of the fried/grilled dish.

To really bring out the taste of the sambal dabu-dabu, the ingredients should be chopped small enough such that a spoonful of the sambal is able to hold all the different ingredients, and they can be eaten in one mouthful. They should also be well-mixed. A good indication of this is when the shallots start to sweat and coat all the other ingredients. The oil should also be very hot.

As always, adjust the number of chillies according to your preference. Rule of thumb: bird’s eye chillies add spiciness, big chillies add flavour. To decrease the level of spiciness, reduce the number of bird’s eye chillies or omit them altogether.

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Deyana’s Sambal Dabu-Dabu Lilang

Deyana’s Sambal Dabu-Dabu Lilang: Manado Chopped Chilli & Lime Sambal (Vegan)

  • Author: Deyana Goh
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Sambals & Sauces
  • Method: Tempering
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


Sambal dabu-dabu is a popular sambal from Manado, North Sulawesi. Here, chillies, tomatoes and shallots are chopped and mixed. Hot oil and lime juice are then poured over the mix.


  • 3 bird’s eye chillies
  • 2 big red chillies
  • 3 big green chillies
  • 5 shallots, peeled
  • 1 medium-sized tomato
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste (optional)

    Sambal dabu-dabu ingredients


  1. Chop all the chillies, shallots, and tomatoes, and put in a big, heat-resistant bowl.

    Chop and mix the ingredients

  2. Mix all the chopped ingredients thoroughly with the salt and sugar, preferably by hand, until the onions start to sweat. About 5 minutes.
  3. In a wok or a pan, heat the vegetable oil over very high heat, until it starts to sizzle. About 3-4 minutes.
  4. Turn off the stove and immediately pour over the chopped ingredients.
  5. Pour the lime juice. Mix well and serve with fried/grilled dishes.

    Mix well and serve


  • Instead of the usual Southeast Asian big green chillies, I used Indian green chillies. These are slightly smaller and thinner, and slightly spicier – somewhere in between green bird’s eye chillies and big green chillies.

Keywords: Spicy, Common ingredients, Quick and easy, tomatoes

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