Sambal Terong: Eggplant in Tomato Chilli Sauce

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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.

Terong is the Indonesian word for eggplant (also known as aubergine in the UK or brinjal in South Asia). It is a fruit of the Solanaceae plant, whose identity is often mistaken as a vegetable. Eggplant is low in calories and it absorbs oils and flavour like a sponge, making it suitable for many varieties of dishes. This spongy and absorbent fruit is quite popular all over the world. This has led to eggplant being prepared in many different ways in different cuisines.

Eggplant thrives in Indonesia and you can find it easily all over the country. You can make it into a sambal, put in soups or stews or stir fry it on its own or with other ingredients. You can enjoy raw, steamed or boiled eggplant as a side dish with sambal.  

Raw eggplant is slightly bitter and the flesh becomes very tender and delicate when cooked. To remove the bitterness, sprinkle it with salt and let it sweat, and then rinse it under cold running water. Personally, because I enjoy bitter vegetables such as bitter gourd or papaya leaves. I don’t really find that eggplant has a bitter taste. That’s why I usually skip the sweating process unless the recipe instructs me to do so for a specific reason.


Cooking technique

Sambal terong calls for purple skin eggplant, and you can use any variety of purple skin eggplant for this recipe. Pay attention when frying the eggplant so as not to overdo it. When done correctly, the eggplant should be soft, but not mushy.

The sambal base for this recipe is similar to sambal balado, as used in dishes like telur balado, but with the addition of roasted shrimp paste to add more depth. To make a vegan version, omit the shrimp paste. Either way, it is still delicious. 

Sambal terong is pretty mild compared to other sambal dishes, and like anything else, tastes great when enjoyed with plenty of steamed rice. 


Some people have reported that one plate of rice is not sufficient while having the dish. The majority needs an extra plate or more to satisfy their appetite. This dish is so dangerous it needs to be eaten cautiously to avoid overeating.

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Sambal Terong: Eggplant in Tomato Chilli Sauce

Sambal Terong: Eggplant in Tomato Chilli Sauce

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Sambal terong, or eggplant with sambal, is a delicious dish found in many restaurants throughout Indonesia. The eggplant is deep fried, and then stir-fried in sambal balado.


  • 500 gr eggplant
  • 100 gr big red chillies
  • 4 bird’s eye chillies
  • 5 shallots, peeled, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 1 red tomato, chopped
  • 0.5 tsp roasted shrimp paste
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 50 ml water
  • Oil for frying


  • Cut the eggplant about 1 cm thick, and then deep fry until golden (about 3 minutes each side). Set aside.

    Deep fry the eggplant

  • Blend into a coarse paste the: big red chillies, bird’s eye chillies, shallots, garlic and tomato.
  • Heat 3 tbsp oil over medium heat, and saute the chilli paste and shrimp paste until fragrant, around 4 minutes.
  • Add kaffir lime leaves and salt.

    Add the lime leaves

  • Add water.
  • Cook for around 10-15 minutes until the liquids evaporate.
  • When the sambal is done, add the fried eggplant, mix well, and turn off the heat.

    Add the fried eggplant

  • Transfer to a serving plate.

    Serve the sambal terong


  • Slice the eggplant just before frying to avoid oxidation.

Keywords: Spicy, brinjal, aubergine, balado,

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