Try this recipe for prawn sambal, then check out our Malaysian prawn curry, healthy prawn stir-fry, prawns pil pil and more prawn recipes. For another Malaysian-style dish, try our Hainan chicken rice.

This prawn sambal recipe is adapted from Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook, Mandy Yin (£25, Quadrille). Mandy says: “My mum made this dish often for our dinners. It’s redolent with shrimp paste, lime leaf and lemongrass – it’s a very Peranakan dish. The sauce is stupendous and pairs incredibly well with the hard-boiled eggs served on the side. Ideally, make the base sauce at least an hour before you want to eat it, as it improves dramatically once it has been allowed to cool down.”

For more information on this vibrant cuisine, read our guide to Malaysian food.


  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp flavourless oil
  • 5cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 285g sambal tumis, (recipe below)
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, halved and bruised
  • 4 makrut lime leaves
  • ⅛ tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ lemon
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ½ cucumber, thinly sliced


  • 10 dried red chillies, or dried chilli flakes 2 tbsp
  • 200g onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 200ml flavourless oil
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, halved and bruised
  • 1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste


  • STEP 1

    To make the sambal, soak the dried red chillies or chilli flakes in just enough just-boiled water to cover. Leave for 15 minutes then drain. Blitz the onions, garlic, chillies and rehydrated dried chillies to a smooth paste. Heat the oil in a wok or large pan over a medium heat. Stir-fry the onion mixture and lemongrass for 10 minutes, stirring often – make sure your windows are open as the chillies will start to smoke!

  • STEP 2

    Add the sugar, tamarind and shrimp paste. Continue stir-frying for 5 minutes until fragrant and the oil separates. Remove the lemongrass and it is ready for use. To make the prawns, mix the ground spices with 2 tbsp of water. In a medium pan, warm the oil over a medium heat then stir-fry the ginger and ground spices for 1 minute. Add 200ml of water, 1 tsp of salt, the sambal tumis, ketchup, coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves and white pepper, and bring to the boil over a low-medium heat. Turn off the heat as soon as it comes to the boil and leave for at least 1 hour for the flavours to fully develop.

  • STEP 3

    Just before you want to eat, reheat the sauce and, once it starts to steam and bubbles appear at the sides, add the prawns and stir-fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes before tipping out into a large serving bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice before serving with the egg halves, tomatoes and cucumber slices around the dish.

This prawn sambal recipe is adapted from Sambal Shiok: The Malaysian Cookbook, Mandy Yin (£25, Quadrille). Photographs by Louise Hagger.

Find more prawn recipes

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