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Malaysian Prawn Sambal

Malaysian Prawn Sambal

Prawn Sambal (or Sambal Udang, Sambal Shrimp) relies heavily on one of Malaysia’s favorite ingredients, Sambal Sauce. The spicy sauce is a staple in Malaysian cooking.

The very basic sauce, Sambal Oelek, is a paste made with fiery red chiles and plus a little salt and/or vinegar.

Recipes for Sambal sauces vary widely from there, depending what they are being used to make.

Ingredients such as fish sauce, lemongrass, galangal, pungent shrimp paste, tamarind concentrate and palm sugar are common additions.

The other variable is, of course, the tastes of the chef who is making the dish.

The one ingredient that does not vary is the liberal use of chiles. This dish is meant to be spicy.

Whenever we ordered a Sambal dish while in Malaysia or neighboring Singapore, we’d be met by a brief pause, and a questions to the effect of, “You can take the heat, right?”

That said, the amount of spice can easily be adjusted when making the dish for yourself.

I recommend making Prawn Sambal along with Coconut Rice, which is basically white rice cooked in coconut milk instead of plain water.
The coconut milk adds creaminess and another layer of flavor, and can also cut some of the heat for those who are looking for a less fiery dining experience.

Malaysian Shrimp Sambal
Here are a few related recipes you might enjoy:


Prawn Sambal

Shrimp Sambal Recipe

Prawn Sambal - A spicy Malaysian shrimp dish flavored with lemongrass and fresh ginger.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 8  Shallots, peeled and diced
  • 4  Cloves Garlic, peeled
  • 2  Fresh Lemongrass Stalks (white part only), chopped
  • 3 - 5  Long Red Chiles *
  • 1  Tablespoon Fresh Turmeric (1" or 2.5cm square piece), or 1 teaspoon (1g) dried ground turmeric
  • 2  Tablespoons Fresh Ginger (2" or 5cm square piece), or 2 teaspoons dried ground ginger
  • 4  Kaffir Lime Leaves or Zest of 1 lime Lime, remove stem and center rib from lime leaves
  • 4 Tablespoons (60ml) Vegetable Oil
  • 2  Tablespoons (30ml) Tamarind Paste
  • 2 Teaspoons (9g) Light Brown Sugar
  • 1  Tablespoon (15ml) Thai Fish Sauce **
  • 2  Teaspoons (10ml) Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 1/4 Pounds (.52kg) Large Prawns (Shrimp)***, peeled and deveined
  • 1 1/2 Cups (225g) Snake or Green Beans Cut into 2 inch sections
  • 1/2 Cup (118ml) Water or low salt seafood stock
  • 4 Cups (1000g) Cooked White Rice or Coconut Rice 
  • Serve over steamed rice or coconut rice (nasi lemak) Lime Wedges, Fresh Cilantro or julienned Kaffir Lime Leaves as a garnish


  1. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, chiles and Kaffir limes leaves to a blender or food processor with 2 tablespoons (30ml) of vegetable oil. Blend until smooth. Add additional oil in small amounts if the ingredients are not blending well. 
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons (30ml) of vegetable oil to a pan or wok over medium heat. Add the paste and sauté for about 5 minutes until it becomes aromatic. Do not burn or the paste may become bitter. 
  3. Add the shrimp and coat thoroughly with the paste.
  4. Crush 2 Kaffir limes in your palm to release the flavor and add to the dish. Discard the leaves before serving.
  5. Add the tamarind paste, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and the beans. Add enough water or stock to create a rich sauce, starting with 1/4 cup (60ml) and adding more if needed. The sauce should be the consistency of a thick ketchup.
  6. Allow the dish to continue to simmer for 2 -3 minutes until the shrimp are completely pink and cooked through.
  7. Serve with rice on the side, and garnish with lime wedges, fresh cilantro and julienned Kaffir lime leaves (optional).


* Indonesian Cabe Merah peppers are used in traditional Sambal pastes, but they can be challenging t find. You can substitute Birds Eye Peppers, Cayenne pepper, Cihie de Arbol, Guajillo chiles (which will result in less heat). For milder heat overall, remove the seeds and membrane of the chiles. You can also used dried chiles. If using dried chiles, heat water to boiling and cover the peppers for 10 minutes to revive their texture.

** I have opted to use oyster sauce or Thai fish sauce instead of traditional shrimp paste in this recipe. The shrimp paste can be difficult to find, and can have a strong fishy flavor which can be off-putting if you're not used to it. If you opt to use the traditional shrimp paste, substituted 1 teaspoon of the paste for each tablespoon of oyster or fish sauce.

*** Large shrimp or prawns are a count of about 31-35 per lb.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 292Total Fat 14gCarbohydrates 21gProtein 29.6g

See other recipes and food inspiration from our travels to neighboring Singapore.

What to Eat in Singapore

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