Sambal Bajak is also known as Sambal Badjak among the Dutch and one of sambals that I miss from home. If anybody ever asked me what my favourite sambal was, I would have a hard time to decide. I love every sambal:

I couldn’t live without chili pepper.

My family helper used to make a big jar of sambal bajak for me to bring back to Bogor. Long short story, I moved to another city once I graduated from high school and moved out from my parent’s house. Whenever I was back for vacation, my family helper would pack some goodies that could be reheated and kept in a longer period such as sambal bajak and fish head and cassava leaves gulai (curry) since my hometown has more access to fresh ocean water fish than Bogor.

Speaking abut my family helper, she has more resources of my late mom’s recipes since she learned lots about cooking and baking from mom where mom used to cater foods for other people or organizations in town. She is a Madurese descendant but capable with Sumatran and Javanese cooking. Also, she used to speak Madurese with mom at home meanwhile I knew and used to understand what they talked about but couldn’t reply it back unless I used Indonesian or Javanese. Language is a thing that we need to practice once we don’t use it, it will be gone. By saying this, I now don’t understand Madurese, only some words I might remember.

Sambal Bajak is very likely to company fried foods such as chicken, fish or meat. This time, I served sambal bajak with ayam goreng kremes (Indonesian fried chicken with crunchy flakes). With the courtesy of my family’s helper recipe, I have to twist her recipe. Instead of double frying (fry the ingredients before grinding and the sambal itself), I used two methods. Roast all the ingredients, grind then fry the sambal. By changing the first method, I would use less oil but still had the capability to enhance the ingredients’ aroma.

Did you notice that I have more posts on Javanese recipes lately? Some of you might know or hear about Season with Spice. Season with Spice is a place where people from all over the world are sharing colourful recipes with spices and featuring their culture through their kitchen. Indonesia Eats has been chosen to be a representative of Java on the New Spice Route of Season with Spice. Please take a look two badges on the right hand sided. Thanks to Rene and Mark for the chance.

Sambal Bajak
Javanese sambal

150 grams Thai red chilies
75 grams cherry tomatoes
100 grams shallot
50 grams cloves garlic
5 candlenuts
1 tablespoon terasi (dried shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (gula merah, gula Jawa)
seasalt as desired
oil for stir frying

1. In a high heat, roast all ingredients except, coconut sugar, seasalt and oil in the oven about 15 minutes or until the aroma comes out to the air.

2. Grind the roasted ingredients until smooth but not too fine. It’s up to you to choose a traditional way for grinding the ingredients into spice paste. I chose to use my favourite helper, a food processor to do the job for me.

3. In a wok or skillet, heat up the oil and stir fry the spice paste in the vegetable oil for a few minutes, then add the seasalt and coconut sugar. The amount of coconut sugar can be added as some Javanese tend to have a sweeter taste than any other ethnic groups in the country. Keep stirring until the liquid evaporates and the colour turns darker (dark red).

Cook’s Note:
*I love using cherry tomatoes for sambal too. Cherry tomatoes have known as tomat sambal or tomat rampai in Indonesian.
* If you follow certain diets such as kosher or vegan, you can always omit the terasi. For kosher observers, use katsuoboshi or fish sauce for substituting it.


  1. When I’m back from home to my boarding house, my grandma loves to make me a big batch of this sambal. Then I can share my jar of sambal bajak with my housemates hehehe. Kulup and krupuk are the best companions ^^

    • LOL that was the same as I did back when I still lived in Bogor. They adored my iyuk’s gulai kepala ikan and sambal bajak 🙂

  2. Oooooh, that looks great! I can almost smell it. I plan to make a batch, is much better then the mail order stuff my wife gets from Holland.

  3. I never know that tomato cherry can be use as sambal too!!!
    well… as far as I know I the only one who use tomato cherry at my cooking, all my friend doesn’t want to use it, I think maybe because tomato cherry is rather more expensive than a “regular” tomato
    Tq for share the recipe and tips mbak pep! I making it right now fr together with the ayam goreng kremes from ur recipe! 😉

    • Cherry tomatoes are known as tomat rampai or tomat sambal in Indonesia 🙂 They are actually quite common to be used for sambal. Basically any tomatoes will do.

  4. my maid used to prepare this every day just for me…we’re pretty much alike…i fancy sambal so much…but my fav among all is sambal bajak…not many malaysian aware of this sambal…thanks fr d recipe :D. Cheers,


  5. Thanks for the post. I tried the recipe and the Sambal Bajak was superb!! I remember eating Ayam Goreng at a road side stall in Cirebon some twenty years ago and this recipe brings back memories of that meal. It was just plain Ayam Goreng, rice, a platter of salad (lalap) and probably this sambal…we were perspiring not only from the hot weather but the “dynamite” of the sambal. Thanks again. Andy – Singapore

  6. Hello Indonesia eats,

    I’ve read a lot of recipes in your blog and I would like to ask you, can I re-blog your post into my site (especially about sambal oelek recipe) and of course I’ll take a credit to your blog, thanks

  7. question, I have allergies to some foods, coconut is one, any suggestions on substitutions? Just found your site, my father grew up on Java, so sambal is glue. Best in 2015. john de Wit

  8. Thanks for the recipe. Only one question, I’m allergic to Coconut and don’t like garlic and tomatoes. Any suggestions what I can use instead?

    • That is kind hard to make sambal. But you can skip the tomatoes. In most sambal recipes, tomatoes are used as a filler so it wont be too spicy or hot. Skip the garlic and use shallot. You can use other sugars, preferably brown sugar

  9. I bought some from a local asian market a while back, thought there was fish sauce in it as I could taste a subtle fish flavor. Now I recognize that taste after reading the recipe here

    I doubt I can recreate it, so will just buy some more there. It is labeled as a sweet chili relish. I use it every time I make instant ramen along with hoisin sauce and some green onions. It makes something simply edible into something I really want to eat.


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