Sambal Udang Recipe (Prawn Sambal Recipe)

by Nyonya Food on July 19, 2009 · 36 comments

in Recipes

Sambal Udang (Prawn Sambal)
Sambal Udang (Prawn Sambal) pictures (2 of 2)
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Sambal udang (prawn sambal) is a much celebrated recipe in my family and everyone loves it. My late mother made a killer dish of sambal udang…it was always the most popular dish on my family’s dining table. Whenever she made sambal udang, everyone would be waiting in anticipation for a great meal.

Sambal udang is quite easy to make and you need only a few key ingredients–prawns/shrimps, sambal, belacan, and tamarind. In our family, we use shredded kaffir lime leaves to infuse the sambal udang with its exotic and citrusy flavor; it also adds a lot of depth and aroma to this dish. My late grandmother loved sambal udang with petai (stinky beans), and I remember vividly the after smell of her eating petai. Personally, I am not a fan of petai. I like my sambal udang (prawn sambal) really simple, with plenty of shrimps and the right balance of spicy, sour, salty, and a tint of sweetness from the freshness of shrimps/prawns.

Sambal udang is great with steamed white rice. In fact, the sambal sauce is so good that I can drench dollops of it with  rice and eat it plain. It’s really appetizing and the shrimps are simply delicious.

Here is my family’s recipe of sambal udang. Try it and let me know what you think!

Sambal Udang Recipe (Prawn Sambal Recipe)

5 tbsp cooking oil
500g shrimp(shelled and deveined)
2 cups water
2 tbsp tamarind pulp (mixed with 1/2 cup water & strained)
3 kaffir lime leave (sliced thinly)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Spice paste

10 dry red chilies (soak in water before grinding)
10 shallot (skin peeled and sliced)
30g belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)


1. Combine all spice paste ingredients in a blender and blend well.
2. Heat up cooking oil, add in the blended spice paste and stir-fry until fragrant.
3. Add in shrimp & continue to stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes.
4. Add in water, tamarind juice, bringing it to a quick boil. Add in salt, sugar & kaffir lime leaves. Dish out & serve hot.


Bon Vivant July 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm

lovely! i hope you are going to make more photos ;)


Nyonya Food August 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Bon Vivant – this recipe is created by my sister-in-law. She is learning how to take food photography now. You will see more pictures in the future. :)

Julie July 31, 2009 at 11:01 am

LOVE the photo! it looks fantastic – I must make some. Even have lime leaves and tamarind kicking around.

Nyonya Food August 1, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Julie – this is a great recipe. I love it. I can eat so much rice with this sambal udang.

luke July 31, 2009 at 11:12 pm

hey there :D i m loving those dishes that you posted here :D
i m a BABA myself . i was wondering if it’s dried chillies or (dry)red chillies that you are talking about. got it a bit confused ^^

Nyonya Food August 1, 2009 at 12:21 am

Hey Luke – yes, dried chilies mean dry red chilies. Typos.

luke August 1, 2009 at 3:26 am

ah i see. thanks alot. must try it one of these days ^^

kl_changs August 1, 2009 at 7:31 am

One of my favourites too. And i like to add kaffir lime leaves as well.

Your sambal looks very yummy, Bee!

Nyonya Food August 1, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Yes, kaffir lime leaves add the exotic flavor to the sambal udang.

Wizzythestick August 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

I would love to make this but what is belacan? I am not familiar with this ingredient .

Nyonya Food August 1, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Hi Wizzythestick – belacan is Malaysian prawn paste, and it looks like this:, and comes in a block. If you are in the US, you can find them at Asian stores.

debbie August 2, 2009 at 1:17 am

Can a vegan try same recipe but instead of the real shrimp, to use alternative , just vegetable sambal too should be just excellent right?

Nyonya Food August 2, 2009 at 10:20 am

Debbie – I think that would work, but belacan is made of prawns…FYI.

paula pacheco August 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

I never tried this kind of mix: tamarindu and shrimp…but I will…the pictures make me feel like to eat.
I’m from Brasil, but I loved chinese food, I would like to invite you to visit my blog in portuguese, but there’s a translator in the beggining page.

Alex August 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

Love your new blog, will cook this sambal today.
By the way, in ingredients you’ve listed two cups of water, but in method you don’t mention any.

Nyonya Food August 11, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for noticing it, I have updated the recipe. Good luck!

Alex August 11, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Sambal was fantastic!
Cooked a lot of your “Rasa” recipes, love your work.

Alex August 13, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Nyonya Food,
I have a question-I cooked this sambal and the taste was just great.
The question is-on your photo sambal is of a very nice red colour, mine was not so nice. And I doubled the quantity of chilies. So, what’s the secret here?

Nyonya Food August 14, 2009 at 8:57 am

Alex – there is no secret. Just use dried red chilies, and the red from the chilies will help with the color. Also, using oil to “tumis” the chili paste helps to bring the color out. I am glad you liked this sambal udang recipe.

Quinn August 15, 2009 at 7:12 pm

Do we need to soak the dried chilies first before blending?

Nyonya Food August 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

Yes, you will have to soak them in water before blending.

vivienne September 1, 2009 at 10:01 am

Love going thru you recipes n blog. Will be trying your this recipe soon as i have the ingredients handy and petai too! When do i add in the petai and do i have to prepare them in any way? Thanks in advance

Sui September 16, 2009 at 10:08 pm

Hi Bee, I just stumbled across your website as was looking for a recipe for sambal udang. Your site is amazing…I’m a Malaysian chinese who has lived in Sydney for 23 years. My dad still lives in KL and I grew up on nyonya food since my grandfather is a baba. My late grandmother (who was not of nyonya descent) made the best nyonya dishes and I promised to honour the tradition and the legacy she left behind. Unfortunately nyonya food is not well-known here in Sydney and hence there are no such cooking classes offering this cuisine. Thankfully, with your help, it seems I can ‘virtually’ learn how to cook nyonya food!

As an aside, I cooked chicken pongteh last night using my late grandma’s recipe and it brought back so many great memories.

Can you tell me how many people this recipe for sambal udang can serve? Will it be enough if I am hosting a dinner for 5 people?

Thanking you in advance.

Nyonya Food September 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

Hi Sui,

I think it’s good for 5 people if you have other dishes to go with. If not, you need to add more portion. Thanks for your comment and your background. Good luck in making and learning Nyonya Food. :)

Melissa September 26, 2009 at 3:18 am

Hi Sui

By looking at the photo, it’s going to tell me how fabulous this dish would turn that my mum would be delighted for her 82th birthday over this weekend. As she could not take prawns, I’m going to replace it with ‘petai’, would there be any issue? Instead of 10 dried red chillies, can I use a combination of 7 red dried + 3 red fresh?

Appreciate your thoughts..

Nyonya Food September 26, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Melissa – well, this sambal udang dish is only great with prawn I am afraid. You can do it with petail but it will not taste the same!

The Sudden Cook October 24, 2009 at 7:35 am

Am not a fan of petai as well but my husband is – horrors!! Gosh I can just imagine eating this with some steaming hot white rice…lovely!

Nyonya Food October 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Yeah, I am not a petai fan either, my late grandmother loved them though.

Nancy October 25, 2009 at 5:38 am

Hi. I’ve seen more complex versions of this recipe that involve lemongrass, candlenuts, etc. in the sambal recipe. When I’ve had this dish in Malaysia, it had a pronounced shrimp flavour but also a fair bit of sweetness. Is that from the sugar or the onions?

Nyonya Food October 25, 2009 at 9:51 am

Yes, there are many versions of sambal udang but this is my mother’s recipe, which is always great. Sweetness is from the shrimp, shallots and sugar.

warrington November 20, 2009 at 2:27 pm

I’d like to try your sambal udang, but am unsure what to serve it with. Considering Nonya chicken, peanut sauce, green beans and coconut, and of course white rice. Any thoughts or suggestions? Also do you have a grilled chicken, Nonya style recipe to share?

Thank you (from Quebec)

Nyonya Food November 20, 2009 at 3:29 pm

You can serve it with curry chicken (just posted). Green beans sound good. Good luck.

sassyp December 29, 2009 at 2:17 am

I love this recipe! I haven’t tried it yet, but I can imagine the yumminess of it once I make it!! Can’t wait to try it out! Thanks :)

Nyonya Food December 29, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Yes, you must try this sambal udang recipe.

Magdalene January 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful recipes and all the others also.

I miss my late Peranakan Grandma’s cooking and your contribution to this blog will enable me to replicate my favourites.

Well-done and congratulations once again.

sonny March 6, 2010 at 4:27 am

The sambal prawn looks yummy. I like my curry sauce to be a bit thick so can I add suntan to the sambal? Cheers

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