Prawn sambal

A bowl filled with boiled eggs, sliced cucumber and prawns in a chilli sauce

Try this recipe for prawn sambal, then check out our Malaysian prawn curry, healthy prawn stir-fry, chilli prawn spaghetti and more prawn recipes.

This prawn sambal recipe is adapted from Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook, Mandy Yin (£25, Quadrille). Mandy says: “My mum made this dish often for our dinners. It’s redolent with shrimp paste, lime leaf and lemongrass – it’s a very Peranakan dish. The sauce is stupendous and pairs incredibly well with the hard-boiled eggs served on the side. Ideally, make the base sauce at least an hour before you want to eat it, as it improves dramatically once it has been allowed to cool down.”

For more information on this vibrant cuisine, read our guide to Malaysian food.

  • 100
  • Total time 40 minutes
  • Note + soaking + cooling
  • Difficulty Easy


  • ground turmeric 1 tbsp
  • ground coriander 1½ tsp
  • ground cumin ¾ tsp
  • flavourless oil 3 tbsp
  • ginger 5cm, finely chopped
  • sambal tumis 285g, (recipe below)
  • tomato ketchup 3 tbsp
  • coconut milk 200ml
  • lemongrass 2 stalks, halved and bruised
  • makrut lime leaves 4
  • ground white pepper ⅛ tsp
  • lemon ½
  • hard-boiled eggs 4
  • tomatoes 1-2, thinly sliced
  • cucumber ½, thinly sliced
  • dried red chillies 10, or dried chilli flakes 2 tbsp
  • onions 200g, roughly chopped
  • garlic 2 cloves
  • red chillies 8, roughly chopped
  • flavourless oil 200ml
  • lemongrass 1 stalk, halved and bruised
  • soft dark brown sugar 1 tbsp
  • tamarind paste 1 tbsp
  • shrimp paste 1 tbsp


  • Step 1

    To make the sambal, soak the dried red chillies or chilli flakes in just enough just-boiled water to cover. Leave for 15 minutes then drain. Blitz the onions, garlic, chillies and rehydrated dried chillies to a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over a medium heat. Stir-fry the onion mixture and lemongrass for 10 minutes, stirring often – make sure your windows are open as the chillies will start to smoke!

    Step 2

    Add the sugar, tamarind and shrimp paste. Continue stir-frying for 5 minutes until fragrant and the oil separates. Remove the lemongrass and it is ready for use. To make the prawns, mix the ground spices with 2 tbsp of water. In a medium pan, warm the oil over a medium heat then stir-fry the ginger and ground spices for 1 minute. Add 200ml of water, 1 tsp of salt, the sambal tumis, ketchup, coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves and white pepper, and bring to the boil over a low-medium heat. Turn off the heat as soon as it comes to the boil and leave for at least 1 hour for the flavours to fully develop.

    Step 3

    Just before you want to eat, reheat the sauce and, once it starts to steam and bubbles appear at the sides, add the prawns and stir-fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes before tipping out into a large serving bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice before serving with the egg halves, tomatoes and cucumber slices around the dish.

Nutritional data

  • kcals 611
  • fat 50.1g
  • saturates 11.4g
  • carbs 16.2g
  • sugars 12.4g
  • fibre 3.3g
  • protein 22g
  • salt 2.9g

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