Fancy yourself as a chilli lover? Looking for your next spicy food fix? Then you'll want to try some of the best sambal in Bali... Selamat makan!
What makes Balinese cuisine so famous? Ask this to any local, and the answer will be the same: the fiery flavours from Bali’s favourite condiment, sambal! Sambal, or sambel, is a chilli-based sauce that often accompanies a traditional Balinese or Indonesian meal. And while there are countless sambal variations around Indonesia, we say that the Balinese versions are our faves. So whether you’re a spicy food lover, an adventurous foodie, or just up for an authentic food experience, your trip to Bali wouldn’t be complete without a taste of some sambal. But which sambal to try, we hear you cry? Fear not, fellow foodies: here we get to know some of the best sambals in Bali.
The top 5 sambal to try in Bali
1. Sambal Matah
Arguably Bali’s most famous sambal, it’s no surprise that sambal matah is one of the island’s culinary icons. Said to have originated from one of Bali’s original temples, matah or mentah, is an Indonesian word for raw. So, if you’re looking for a fresh heat, this sambal is the one for you. The main ingredient is actually shallots (rather than chilli peppers) which are mixed with lemongrass, garlic, torch ginger, kaffir lime, and of course, chilli. But you can find many varieties of sambal matah all over Bali. Pro tip: For something totally different, try sambal matah with a fusion of cuisines, be it on tacos, fish, or even pizza!
Where to find the best: Anywhere in Bali! But here are some of our faves:
For a traditional experience: Warung Ole Pork Ribs, Jl Mahendradatta no. 100, Tegal Harum, p. +62 361 490458 or +62 87712596958.
For a Japanese-Indonesian fusion: Red Dragon Ramen,Jl Dewi Sri no.47, Legian, p. +62 361 9342872.
Sambal matah on a pizza? Try here: The Hub Bali, Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai no. 66, Sanur, p. +62 821 4762 9142.
2. Sambal Bejek
Created over 40 years ago, sambal bejek simply has to make an appearance on the “best sambal in Bali” list! It has gained popularity amongst the island’s visitors over the past few years, and was even featured on CNN Indonesia. But what makes it unique? For starters, it has stayed true to its roots and can only be found at the creator’s home: Warung Nasi Belayu Sambel Bejek. The secret to its deliciousness is the addition of red ginger lily, and the fact that all the ingredients (like chilli, red onion and other spices) are mixed by hand. Sambal bejek is always made-to-order, and served with shredded chicken and a side of soto (soup!). Perfect for a rainy day!
Where to find the best: Warung Nasi Belayu Sambel Bejek, Jl Wisnu no.27 Marga, Tabanan, p. +62 81338456919.
3. Sambal Bongkot
Sambal bongkot is another iconic sambal in Bali. The ingredients are similar to sambal bejek (chilli, red onion and shrimp paste) but with a few little tweaks. Instead of using the flower from the red ginger lily plant, sambal bongkot owes its taste and aroma to the stem. Like sambal bejek, you can find sambal bongkot in one place only: at Warung Oky Bali. It pairs this one-of-a-kind sambal taste with sayur Gonde, a vegetable native to Bali.
Where to find the best: Warung Oky Bali, Jl Cok Agung Tresna No.11D, Denpasar, p. +62 85104648699.
4. Sambal Embe
Although not as popular as sambal matah, sambal embe is an authentic Balinese sambal and a must-try for any serious sambal enthusiast. In just one portion (100 grams of chilli paste), up to 20 chilli peppers are used! But don’t worry, the spice is tempered with crispy fried shallots, garlic and shrimp paste. Just like sambal matah, sambal embe can be found anywhere in Bali.
Where to find the best: Anywhere in Bali! But try these spots to start with:
Dapur Aneka Sambal, Jl Pulau Belitung No.10, Pedungan, p. +62 87855596767.
Bebek Tepi Sawah, BTDC Bali Collection, Nusa Dua, p. +62 361 770221.
5. Sambal Cabe Ijo
Cabe ijo means green chilli peppers in Indonesian. Aside from the green colour, sambal cabe ijo differs from other best sambal in Bali for a few reasons. For starters, the smaller green chilli peppers can be three times spicier than the red chilli peppers, so watch out for the heat! What’s more, green chilli peppers are said to be healthier due to the higher vitamin C content, topped off by the addition of tomatoes and lime too. If you think you can handle the heat, try the ayam cabe ijo at Kedai Emak!
Love this list of the best sambal in Bali? Check out Bali’s best local food too!