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Sambal Bajak: Ploughman’s Sambal

Sambal Bajak: Ploughman’s Sambal

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Sambals & Sauces
  • Method: Stir-fry
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


A flavourful cooked sambal from East Java, traditionally served to farmers who plough the fields, to stimulate their appetite during lunch. Also ideal as a base for stir fried dishes such as fried rice or noodles.


  • 5 big red chillies, chopped
  • 10 bird’s eye chillies 
  • 5 whole shallots, peeled
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 red tomato, halved
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemongrass, bruised, knotted
  • 2 salam leaves
  • 4 cm fresh galangal, sliced
  • I tsp tamarind (mix with 2 tbsp water, extract the juice)
  • I tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil


  1. In a saucepan, boil big red chillies, bird’s eye chillies, shallots, garlic and tomatoes with 1 cup of water over medium heat, for about 7 minutes. Drain and let it cool.Boil the ingredients together 
  2. Once the boiled ingredients are cool enough to handle, blend using a food processor or blender, into a coarse paste.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok on medium-high heat.
  4. Fry the sliced shallots until golden-brown, about 4 minutes.Fry the shallots until golden-brown 
  5. Add the blended paste, salam leaves, galangal and lemongrass. Stir well.Add the blended ingredients 
  6. Add salt, shrimp paste, brown sugar and tamarind juice, mix well.
  7. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated, and the sambal is thickened and beautifully glazed, around 20 minutes.Cook until sambal thickens 
  8. Transfer to a small serving bowl. 


  • Cook the sambal over low flame for the best result.
  • Adjust the level of spiciness by using more or fewer bird’s eye chillies.
  • Leftover sambal bajak can be used as a base for stir fried dishes and is great for fried rice. 

Keywords: Spicy, Shrimp Paste