Sambal Tomat: Tomato Sambal

A tangy Indonesian tomato-chili condiment with onions and garlic — possibly a long-lost cousin of the red Mexican salsa.

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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.

This sambal is one of my all-time favorites. The smell of the fried chillies, shallots, tomatoes and shrimp paste never fails to distract me from all other matters. By the time it’s done, I’m drooling over the thought of eating a big plate of white rice, salted fish and sambal!

In my younger days, there was something I loved doing everytime I finished making this sambal. After pounding all the ingredients using a mortar and pestle, I would transfer the paste to a small serving bowl. But I’d purposely leave some of it on the mortar.

I would then add steamed rice to the mortar, mix it with the sambal and secretly eat it like a savage! I’d use my hand when nobody was looking. I wouldn’t care that in Javanese tradition, it was taboo to eat rice directly from the mortar. This supposedly causes heavy rain on your wedding day. Sometimes I wonder why eating it that way felt different. Perhaps, precisely because it was taboo, it made the experience more exciting. I knew that I shouldn’t be doing it, but I did it anyway! It felt like proof of my courage and bravery, which made the food taste all the more delicious.

But even setting aside my little rebellion, this sambal is fantastic! It’s easy to make and goes well with almost everything.

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Sambal Tomat

Sambal Tomat: Tomato Sambal

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Vegan, Spicy
  • Method: Pounding
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


A delicious Indonesian tomato chilli sauce with onions and garlic, similar in ingredients and preparation methods to cooked red Mexican salsa such as salsa cocida, and also served as a condiment.


  • 20 bird’s eye chillies (or you can use 5 bird’s eye chillies and 5 big red chillies to reduce the spiciness)
  • 5 small shallots
  • 2 medium-sized red tomatoes, remove the seeds, quartered.
  • Salt to taste
  • ⅓ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp roasted shrimp paste (optional)
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil

Sambal Tomat ingredients


  1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.
  2. Fry the chillies, shallots and tomatoes for about 5 minutes. Cover the wok to avoid splatter.
  3. When done, put all the fried ingredients in a mortar. Add salt, sugar and shrimp paste.
  4. Using a pestle, pound all the ingredients into a coarse paste.

  5. Serve the sambal directly from the mortar or transfer it to a small serving bowl.


  • Adjust the amount of bird’s eye chillies according to your preference. If you can only handle the lowest level of spiciness, use only big red chillies in place of bird’s eye chillies.
  • Shrimp paste is optional. Including it will lend to a more intense flavour.

Keywords: Sambal, Spicy, Tomatoes, Chillis

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