Sambal is such a versatile accompaniment and when you try this recipe, I’m sure you’ll never use a store-bought sambal again. It can be served hot or cold and is perfect served with just about anything. Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this sambal will keep for several weeks. You’ll need a good mortar and pestle, which are widely available.






Skill level

Average: 4.6 (32 votes)


  • 2 cm knob ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 stick lemongrass, white part only, chopped
  • 6-8 red birds-eye chillies, or to taste
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 50 ml white vinegar
  • coarse sea salt, to taste
  • 110 ml (½ cup) white sugar

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Place the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, chillies and half the lime zest into a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Gradually add the vinegar and pound until well combined- this will add sourness and bringing out many of the flavours.

Add a pinch of salt and continue crushing. The salt will assist to break down the other ingredients. Taste the sambal to make sure you’ve got a nice balance of sweet, sour, salty and hot flavours and adjust if necessary.

Place the mixture in a saucepan over high heat. Be careful not to let the flames come up around the sides of the pan as this will burn the edges of the sambal. Stir with a wooden spoon until heated through, then stir in the sugar. Reduce the heat to medium and stir for 10 minutes or until the mixture is pulpy. When the mixture is almost done, add the remaining lime zest and cook for another 90 seconds - you want to keep the lime flavour fresh, but not raw.


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