A Malaysian girlfriend of mine from Germany came over to visit early this month. We wanted to cook lots of much beloved and much missed Malaysian local dishes for each other. One of them was Sambal Ikan Bilis (a.k.a. Anchovies Sambal).
I had loads of dried anchovies in my freezer and we bought all the required fresh ingredients.. But…. In the end, we were too ambitious and too busy; we never got to make it.

So, several days later I decided to make a nyonya-style sambal ikan bilis anyway. I needed to use up the ingredients we bought. If I remember, I’ll bring some that I’ve stored in my freezer when I come visit.. 🙂


  • 100g dried anchovies or ikan bilis
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 5 dried chillies
  • 3 fresh red chillies
  • 3.5cm fresh young turmeric or galangal
  • 8 shallots
  • 3 pips garlic
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste or belacan
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • salt to taste


    1. Discard anchovy heads and stomach. Clean and drain.
    2. Discard ends of lemongrass and cut into slices. Skin turmeric. Peel shallots, garlic and onions.
    3. Soak dried chillies in warm water for 15 mins.
    4. Pound or blend lemongrass and dried chillies finely. Add turmeric and pound or blend further. Then add shallots and garlic and pound or blend some more till nearly fine.
    5. Dissolve tamarind paste in 1 cup water. Remove seeds and strain for liquid.
    6. Shred ginger.


  1. Add oil to heated frying pan or wok.
  2. Add pounded ingredients, shredded ginger and shrimp paste. Stirfey till fragrant.
  3. Add anchovies and sliced onion, stirfry for a min and add a little of the tamarind juice.
  4. Stirfry for another minute and add some of the remaining tamarind juice, let it bubble away till gravy is quite thick. Taste for sourness.
  5. Add sugar and salt to taste.
  6. Stirfry for a few more minutes.

Serve directly with steamed white rice, sliced cucumber and chicken curry or rendang. 🙂

Rate this post if you like:
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)