KitchenTigress: Sambal Ikan Bilis (II)

Sambal Ikan Bilis (II)

Sambal ikan bilis is a Malay dish in Singapore. Dried anchovies, aka ikan bilis in Malay, are deep-fried till crisp and brown, then mixed with sambal.

Deep-fried peanuts may be tossed with the spicy mix. They add to the fragrance, taste and texture of the anchovies. They also lower the cost since peanuts are much cheaper than ikan bilis.

Sambal ikan bilis is great with coconut rice. In a simple nasi lemak, it may be the only main topping for the rice. It also goes well with plain rice and plain porridge.

Having a beer? Want some munchies? Sambal ikan bilis is great for "emergencies". It keeps well with or without refrigeration.

How to make sambal ikan bilis

Step-by-step guide

Peanuts and dried anchovies (ikan bilis) are fried, then tossed with sambal. Spicy, crisp, fragrant and slightly sweet, sambal ikan bilis is very moreish.

sambal ikan bilis

  • 40 g lemongrass, white part only
  • 150 g shallots
  • 75 g garlic
  • 20 g ginger
  • 50 g red chillies
  • 15 g dried chillies – trim stems, cut 2 cm long, soak in warm water till soft (about 30 minutes), squeeze dry, discard water
  • 15 g belachan – roast at 150°C or dry-fry over medium-low heat till dry and crumbly
  • 80 ml vegetable oil
  • 20 g tamarind paste – mash with 2 tbsp hot water, drain and discard seeds
  • 30 g palm sugar, roughly chopped

  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 150 g peanut
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 250 g ikan bilis, gutted and split
  • 4 tbsp sugar

  1. Rempah (spice paste): wash, trim, peel and roughly chop lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger and red chillies as appropriate. Grind or pound with dried chillies and belachan till smooth. Set aside.

  2. Peanuts: Deep-fry in warm vegetable oil over medium-low heat, stirring, till light brown. This should take 4 minutes or so. Turn off heat. Remove peanuts from oil. Immediately season with salt. Set aside.
  3. Anchovies: Rinse briefly and immediately dry with paper towels. Heat oil till just smoking. Add anchovies and deep-fry over high heat, stirring, till lightly golden. Push anchovies to side of wok. Let oil reheat to just smoking. Stir anchovies into oil and fry till almost golden brown. Turn off heat. Continue stirring till residual heat dissipates. Place anchovies with peanuts.
  4. Sambal: Remove excess oil from wok, leaving about 80 ml. Stir-fry spice paste over medium-low heat till fragrant, colour darkens and oil separates. Add palm sugar. Stir till melted. Add tamarind water. Stir till evaporated. Turn off heat. Remove to a bowl.

  5. Mix: Remove oil from the wok. Over medium heat, stir sugar till melted. Reduce heat to very low. Add peanuts and anchovies. Toss till evenly coated. Add sambal. Toss thoroughly. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn off heat. Remove to a plate to cool down completely.

  6. Serve sambal ikan bilis once it's cool, or store airtight.