Sambal Cibiuk: Sundanese Basil Sambal

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

All over Indonesia, it’s common knowledge that the Sundanese of West Java love eating raw or boiled vegetables, known as lalapan, with fresh, fiery sambal. This passion is often the butt of many jokes. “The Sundanese can’t live a day without sambal”, or “Don’t leave a Sundanese alone in a garden because he or she will eat all the leaves”, etc. 

Mockery aside, the Sundanese are smart for consuming raw vegetables so consistently. These contain numerous vitamins and nutrients. Thanks to that, Sundanese people are known to have smooth and healthy skin. 

Fresh lalapan and sambal are often served in Sundanese restaurants to accompany the meal. There are many sambal varieties with different ingredients, cooking methods and levels of spiciness. Sometimes, different regions serve different sambal specialties. 


Origins of Sambal Cibiuk

Today’s sambal recipe comes from Cibiuk Village in Garut, West Java. If you go there, chances are, you’ll be served a fresh green sambal made of green chillies, green tomatoes and a handful of kemangi leaves (Indonesian basil) while having a meal. This sambal is a specialty of Cibiuk, but is becoming increasingly popular outside the region. 

Sambal Cibiuk is always freshly made using fresh ingredients. That is what makes it special. All the ingredients are coarsely crushed before adding the basil leaves, then tossed together to make a mouthwatering salad-like sambal. The sambal can be red or green, depending on the type of chilli and tomatoes used. The red one uses red chillies and red tomatoes, while the green one uses green chillies and green tomatoes. The rest of the ingredients are the same, which are shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, lesser galangal and kemangi or Indonesian basil. Lesser galangal gives a very unique taste, and combined with fresh garlic, increases the level of spiciness.

This is not a “beginner’s” sambal. But although this sambal is very hot, village folklore has it that no one will ever get a stomach ache after eating it. I dare not validate it. The best is to try and see whether it is true or just a myth.

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Sambal Cibiuk: Sundanese Basil Sambal

Sambal Cibiuk: Sundanese Basil Sambal

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Sauces & Sambals
  • Method: Pounding
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Low Fat


A Sundanese chilli sambal that comes from the village of Cibiuk, West Java. It’s a mix of chillies and Indonesian basil leaves (kemangi), eaten with raw or boiled vegetables.


  • 10 green bird’s eye chillies
  • 2 small shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cm lesser galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp sugar (optional)
  • 2 small green tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup Indonesian basil leaves (kemangi)

Sambal Cibiuk Ingredients


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely pound the chillies, shallots, garlic, lesser galangal, shrimp paste, salt and sugar.

    Pound the ingredients together

  2. Add the green tomatoes. Gently press them and mix with the coarse paste.
  3. Add the basil leaves.
  4. Toss everything together until well-mixed.
  5. Serve immediately.


  • Fresh Ingredients are crucial to make this sambal and always prepare it just before serving.
  • This sambal cannot be kept too long as the taste will be altered.
  • Enjoy the sambal with fresh raw or boiled vegetables, along with fried tempeh or fried chicken.

Keywords: Spicy, Healthy, Chilli, Garlic, Galangal, Shrimp Paste, Shallots

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