Few Malaysian meals are complete without sambal, a broad term for a range of chilli-based condiments and sides. Sambals served with rice can also constitute a standalone meal, such as this spicy squid sambal.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (33 votes)


  • 8 dried red chillies
  • 2 tsp shrimp paste (belachan) (see Note)
  • 2 red bird’s-eye chillies, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped ginger
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, roughly chopped
  • 10 (150 g) Asian red eschalots (see Note), roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tamarind pulp (block form) (see Note)
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 800 g whole squid, cleaned
  • 80 ml (⅓ cup) vegetable oil
  • 250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • lime wedges and nasi kunyit, to serve

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.


Soaking time 30 minutes

Soak dried chillies in boiling water for 30 minutes or until softened, then drain. Meanwhile, wrap shrimp paste in foil and cook in a small, heavy-based frying pan over medium-low heat for 4 minutes each side or until fragrant (open foil to check). Transfer to a food processor with bird’s-eye chillies, ginger, lemongrass, eschalots and garlic, and process to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile, soften tamarind pulp in 60 ml boiling water in a bowl for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Add soy sauce and sugar, and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Cut squid into 5 cm x 2.5 cm pieces. Cut tentacles in half if large.

Heat oil in a large wok or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved chilli paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add squid and stir-fry for 3 minutes or until almost tender, then add tamarind mixture. Cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes or until liquid comes to the boil and squid is tender. Remove squid with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl. Bring liquid to the boil, then cook for 3 minutes or until reduced and very thick. Return squid to wok with tomatoes, toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Serve with lime and nasi kunyit (turmeric rice).



• Shrimp paste (belachan) and Asian red eschalots are available from Asian food shops.
• Tamarind pulp (block form), available from Asian food shops, is a block of tamarind including the pulp and sometimes the seeds. This requires soaking to soften the pulp.


Photography by Steve Brown. Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman Lloyd.