Sambal Badjak (Indonesian Caramelized Hot Sauce)

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Sambal Badjak is a traditional Indonesian condiment that adds a fiery kick to dishes. This flavorful chili paste is made from a combination of red chili peppers, shallots or onions, garlic, shrimp paste, sugar, and various spices. The name “Badjak” refers to the cooking technique used to make this sambal, which involves frying the ingredients until they become fragrant and develop a deep, caramelized flavor.

Sambal Badjak is highly versatile and can be used in a variety of ways. It can be served as a spicy dipping sauce alongside grilled meats, seafood, or vegetables. It can also be used as a base for stir-fries, curries, or marinades, infusing the dishes with its intense heat and rich flavor or simply eaten as a dip with prawn crackers.

What sets Sambal Badjak apart from other sambals is its complex taste profile. The combination of chili peppers, shallots, and garlic provides a robust and pungent flavor, while the shrimp paste adds a savory umami element. The caramelized onions combined with palm sugar adds sweet notes, balancing out the heat of the chilies.

For spice enthusiasts, Sambal Badjak is a must-try condiment. Its fiery heat can range from moderately spicy to extremely hot, depending on the type and amount of chili peppers used. It offers a tantalizing sensory experience, awakening the taste buds and adding depth and excitement to any dish it accompanies.

Whether you’re looking to add a punch of heat to your meals or explore the vibrant flavors of Indonesian cuisine, Sambal Badjak is a delicious and versatile condiment that delivers an explosion of taste in every bite.

Sambal Badjak (Indonesian Caramelized Hot Sauce)


  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil, like rice oil or coconut oil
  • 6 large red onions or shallots, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, knotted
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 heaping teaspoon trassi (shrimp paste)
  • 25 cayenne chili peppers, or 10 tjabe rawit peppers, pureed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup ketjap manis
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)


  1. Add the onions to a pan with a little bit of oil and sauté at low heat for about 30-40 minutes until caramelized – if it starts sticking you can add tiny amounts of water along the way.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp paste, lemongrass, and lime leaves and cook for about 5 minutes at low heat until fragrant.
  3. Add the pureed chili peppers and continue cooking for about 15 minutes. If it gets to dry you can add a bit of water.
  4. Squeeze in the lime juice and add the ketjap manis, palm sugar, and salt. Add additional palm sugar and salt to taste.
  5. Fry for another 5 minutes and your sambal is ready. Best eaten at room temperature.