• David

Sambal Matah Recipe

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

As mentioned in one of my previous posts about sambal there are several fresh sambals, next to the wide range of fried sambals. One of those fresh sambals, 'Sambal Matah', originates from Bali and is gaining popularity throughout the Indonesian archipelago because of its freshness and spicyness.

Fresh Balinese sambal matah
Fresh Balinese Sambal Matah

This fresh sambal shows similarities with Mexican salsa's but has its own distinct flavor because of lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves and trassi shrimp paste. Traditionally, after finely chopping the ingredients the sambal is mixed using your hands and then lightly kneaded. Last step of the traditional recipe is to add fried vegetable oil to the mixture, but I am not a big fan of adding fried oil because in my opinion it reduces the freshness of the sambal.

Sambal matah ingredients such as Spanish chillies, rawit chillies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and limes
Sambal Matah ingredients

Most of the ingredients as pictured above can be bought in regular Dutch supermarkets. You can find Kaffir lime leaves at Asian supermarkets or smaller Indonesian toko's. The first step - and this will take most time - in preparing this sambal is to chop the chillies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves. You can remove the seeds and membranes of the chillies according to your desired level of spicyness. I removed the seeds and membranes from half of the Spanish chillies and from all of the Thai bird's eye (rawit) chillies. The heat is actually in the membranes of the chillies so if you don't like seeds but do like it spicy you can choose to only remove the seeds.

Chopping up chillies for sambal matah
Chilli chopping

Before chopping up the lemongrass you need to cut both ends of the stalks and remove the outer layers until you see the tender white inner part. This is the only part of the lemongrass we use. The veins from the Kaffir lime leaves must be removed as well before chopping up. Before squeezing juice from the lime make sure you grate it first. Only grate the green peel of the lime and not the white-colored peel, this will taste too bitter. I like to chop really fine but obviously you can chop the ingredients less fine.

Now that the chopping is done add half a teaspoon of trassi shrimp paste and sugar to the lime juice. Trassi can be bought at regular Dutch supermarkets, Asian supermarkets or Indonesian toko's. I actually like Surinam trassi from 'Faja Lobi' brand best because it's less smelly and more convenient to use than regular Indonesian trassi.

Last step of preparing this fresh Sambal Matah is to mix all fresh ingredients, preferable by hand (wash them first!), and knead them lightly. You could also use a mortar and pestle to knead the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, add lime-sugar-trassi mixture and combine. You can serve this Sambal Matah with about everything but it tastes particularly good with seafood dishes such as Ikan Bali or chicken curries like Ayam Rica Rica. Selamat makan (enjoy your meal)!

Sambal matah, fresh Balinese sambal with a lime and a kaffir lime leaf
Sambal Matah, fresh Balinese sambal


  • 10 Spanish chillies (lombok)

  • 5 Thai bird's eye chillies (cabe rawit)

  • 5 shallots

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 2 stalks lemongrass (tender white inner part only)

  • 4 Kaffir lime leaves

  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

  • zest from 1 lime

  • 1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (trassi)

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar


  • Finely chop Spanish and Thai bird's eye chillies, shallots and garlic cloves.

  • Cut the ends of the lemongrass, remove outer layers until you see the tender white inner part and chop finely.

  • Remove the veins from the Kaffir lime leaves and chop finely.

  • Grate zest of 1 lime and squeeze 2 tablespoons lime juice.

  • Add shrimp paste and sugar to lime juice, stir well until it forms a smooth mixture.

  • Combine all chopped ingredients in a mortar, mix well, and bruise the mixture with a pestle.

  • Remove from mortar, place in a bowl and mix with lime-sugar-trassi mixture.

  • Serve with seafood or chicken and white rice (nasi putih).

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