Authentic Sambal Goreng Recipe

Sambal Goreng is a delicious, aromatic and protein rich side dish that’s made with green beans, tempeh and tofu. It is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, both in the homes and hawker centres and food stalls. It can be made with or without meat/seafood.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Sambal Goreng
Sambal Goreng

What is Sambal Goreng?

Let’s take a look at the name first, shall we?

  • Sambal – there is no direct translation for the Malay/Indonesian word sambal. It usually refers to a spicy dish, and that can be in the form of a spicy condiment, like the dry sambal here, fresh salsa type of condiment like sambal matah or a side dish like today’s sambal goreng.
  • Goreng – simply means to fry or fried. 

Sambal Goreng = fried sambal (in the Malay language, the adjectives are postpositive, as in they come after the nouns).

Fun fact: there are no tenses in the Malay language, we use words to denote past and future.
For eg:
fried = sudah goreng (sudah means done)
haven’t fried = belum goreng (belum means not yet)
bonus: not fried = tidak goreng (tak goreng, for short)

Easiest language ever!

This recipe is courtesy of my younger sister in Kuala Lumpur, inspired by the way my granny used to make it, I believe. But my sister’s idea of giving me a recipe is without any measurements! She also adds chicken or prawns (shrimps) to hers, which I’ve omitted, although I remember my granny’s sambal goreng always had prawns.

If you want to add meat, just fry it before adding with the tofu and tempeh.

What’s in a Name?

Why is it called sambal goreng?

That’s easy. Traditionally, it is a spicy dish, hence the word, sambal. The second part of the recipe name refers to the fact that each ingredient (the beans, tempeh and tofu) are individually fried before it’s all brought together.

But don’t fret, we’re not going to be using too much oil! And if you have an air fryer, by all means, use that to pre fry the filling for our sambal goreng.

And I’m also not pre frying the beans, preferring to add them in the last stage of cooking.

The Recipe

The recipe card below may look like it’s going to take a while, but it’ll only take you about 30 minutes! I’ve also broken it all down in steps to make it easy to follow.

This is what we’ll be doing:

  1. All the prep work which will include chopping and slicing, and also soaking our tamarind pulp for tamarind paste.
  2. We then shallow fry the tofu and tempeh with only a little oil before we dish them out.
  3. The paste is then fried, followed by the tamarind paste.
  4. The fried tempeh and tofu are added back to the wok (or frying pan), followed by everything else. At this stage, it resembles a stir-fry.

That’s it. Easy, right?

you can make it as spicy, or not, as you like

The Ingredients

Let’s take a look at the main ingredients we’ll need to cook authentic Singaporean sambal goreng, the way my family makes it.

Tempeh (or Tempe)

Tempeh is a fermented soybean product that originally came from Indonesia, sometime in the 18th century. But it has long been a local ingredient in Singapore and Malaysia, particularly in Malay dishes.

The West has only in recent times caught on the the benefits of tempeh, especially its viability as a vegan protein.

The soybeans are essentially soaked, cultured and bound together in a controlled environment to create blocks of the stuff.

You shouldn’t need specialist shops for tempeh. Here in the UK, it is easily found next to the tofu and in plant based aisles in the cold section.

The Green Beans

Long beans are the beans of choice in sambal goreng. Also known as yardlong beans, asparagus beans and Chinese long beans, they are a staple vegetable all across South East Asia, and slightly longer than a foot.

But I am not a fan. Which is just as well, because they can only be found in stores that sell Asian produce. Having said that, I am very fortunate in where I live now, a 10-minute walk to a Pakistani grocer, a Korean supermarket, Chinese mini market, an Eastern European grocer and a Caribbean one.

And I bet there are others I haven’t discovered. We moved here at the end of 2019, a mere months before we all had to stay at home, remember? Consequently, I only discovered the Pakistani shop a year and a half after the fact!

Anyway, what beans to use in the absence of long beans? French beans or the common green bean are the perfect substitute.

The Spice Paste

The spice paste or rempah, as we’d call it in Malay,  consists of onion, red chillies, garlic, lemongrass and optional galangalYou need a chopper, or pestle and mortar to chop/pound the paste, in batches, if neither is big enough.

My granny was using the chopper in the 70s, there is nothing wrong in moving with the times!

Some people will add shrimp paste (belacan in Malay, terasi in Indonesian, kapi in Thai). I don’t think it’s necessary, but if you do want to add it, just 1 tsp in this recipe will suffice.


Tamarind is a souring agent used in many cuisines around the world. Click here to read more about it.

In paste form, it is easily found in supermarkets here in the UK. Just be sure to look for one that has the least number of ingredients.

If you work with the pods or the wet block, like I do, instructions are given in the recipe card below on how to extract tamarind juice from them.

Best substitute for tamarind? The humble clear vinegar. However, depending on the recipe itself, you could also use lime or lemon juice. The citrus isn’t always idea, it rather depends on what you’re cooking.

Coconut Milk

My family uses coconut milk in our sambal goreng. I’m assuming that like me, you only have access to the canned variety. Always look for the one that only has as few ingredients as possible, ideally, only coconut and water.

A little guar gum or other natural stabiliser is fine, in fact, it’ll also help to stabilise your coconut milk and stop it from splitting. Shake your coconut milk to mix it all up before using, as cans and cartons will have the semi solid fat floating at the top.

If you do have access to freshly grated coconut, we want the second pressing, or dilute the first. Freeze any extra coconut milk for later use.

How to Serve it?

Sambal goreng is a side dish, and is always served with rice, alongside other “wetter” dishes like curries or soups, like our Sayur Lemak on this site.

However, you can always just have it on its own with your choice of grain, whether that’s rice or anything else you fancy. A green salad on the side makes a fresh contrast to the heat and depth of the sambal or a fried egg, if you are not vegan.

Sambal goreng also makes a great sandwich or wrap filling.

And there we have it, a long overdue recipe for many of my readers on LinsFood. Shall we get cooking?

Recipe Ideas to Serve with Sambal Goreng

Bayam Masak Lemak (Spinach in Coconut Milk)
Bayam Masak Lemak is a quick and easy delicious Malay side dish of spinach cooked coconut milk, from Singapore and Malaysia.
Check out this recipe!
Spinach in coconut milk in blue bowl
Sayur Lemak Recipe (Vegetables Cooked in Coconut Milk)
Sayur lemak is a quick and easy Malay and Indonesian dish of vegetables cooked in coconut milk and flavoured and coloured with turmeric.
Check out this recipe!
sayur lemak yellow vegetable curry in a bowl
Vegetarian Rendang Recipe (Rendang Sayur)
Vegetarian Rendang recipe, completely vegan and based on my mum's beef rendang recipe. Made in 45 minutes, click here for the recipe!
Check out this recipe!
Vegetarian Rendang photo

♥ If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you! ♥

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Sambal goreng recipe

Sambal Goreng Recipe

Azlin Bloor
Sambal goreng recipe, a quick, easy and nutritious vegan protein-rich side dish that is popular in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
5 from 35 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indonesian, Malay
Servings 6 (4-6)
Calories 279 kcal


  • knife
  • chopping board
  • chopper (or pestle and mortar)
  • wok or large frying pan
  • ladle
  • kitchen paper
  • plate


  • 2 Tbsp tamarind pulp
  • 60 ml hot water for the tamarind
  • 200 g tofu
  • 200 g tempeh
  • 200 g long beans or green or French beans
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp chilli powder (cayenne powder in the US) keep it mild, if you like
  • 125 ml coconut milk if using a can or carton, shake it up to mix
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
Paste (Rempah)
  • 1 small onion
  • 10 red chillies (you can use less, if you like) birds eye, or something mild, like jalapeños
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 2.5 cm galangal optional


Soak the Tamarind (skip if using shop bought paste)

  • Put the kettle on and place the tamarind pulp in a bowl.
  • Pour about 60ml (¼ cup) boiling water over the pulp and cover with a saucer. Leave to soak while you get the other ingredients going.

Prep Work

  • Cut up the tofu and tempeh into 2.5 cm (1") cubes.
  • Slice the beans into 5 cm (2") lengths.
  • Peel, then quarter the onion. Drop into your chopper.
  • Halve or roughly chop the chillies and add to the chopper. If using really small birds eye, just detach the end, no need to chop.
  • Peel the garlic and add to the chopper.
  • Lemongrass – you have 2. One, we'll be using whole, the other is going in the paste. Slice off the tough bottom end (the root end) of both the lemongrass. And cut off the top part, leaving about 10 cm/4 inches of stalk. Peel off the top layer, if it's particularly dry or dirty, or looking a little yellow. If not, leave it alone. Rinse your lemongrass and dry.
    Whole – place your lemongrass on a chopping board and bash hard on the thick end with the back of your knife. This is called bruising your lemongrass. Set aside until cooking time.
    Second lemongrass – slice into thin rings and add to the chopper.
    You can read more about how to prepare lemongrass for use in this post.
  • Cut off the tough outer layer of the galangal and discard. Slice the galangal into thin rounds and drop into the chopper. Skip if you can't find galangal.
    If using shop bought paste, just add 1 tsp to the chopper.
  • Now, chop all the ingredients in the chopper to a fine paste. Add a tiny amount of water if you need it.

Let's Cook our Sambal Goreng

    Fry the Tofu and Tempeh

    • Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a wok or frying pan on medium-high heat. Fry the tofu for 2 minutes, flipping and stirring as you go along. You want to brown the tofu pieces, so don't worry about brown ends.
      Tip out onto a plate lined with kitchen paper. A slotted spoon would work very well here, especially if you're using more oil than what I've listed.
    • Heat the other 2 Tbsp of oil and brown the tempeh, still on medium-high heat. 2-3 minutes should do. Tip out onto the plate with the tofu.

    Cooking the whole thing together

    • Add the last Tbsp of oil into your wok/pan and fry the paste, the bruised lemongrass and the chilli powder for 2 minutes.
    • Mash the tamarind with your fingers (it should be cool enough now). Then fish out the seeds and pulp, discard, and pour everything else into your wok/frying pan. Or use a sieve with a large mesh. Stir to mix.
    • Tip the fried tofu and tempeh and the green beans and give it a good stir to mix.
    • No add everything else: the coconut milk, sugar and salt and bring it up to a simmer. Leave to cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes until the beans are done. If you fancy a drier sambal goreng, cook a little bit longer.
      Check seasoning and add more salt if you want.
    • Serve immediately, as described above. Will keep in the fridge, covered, for 2 days. Can also be frozen for up to a month.


    If you want to make this non vegetarian/vegan, just add about 100g (3.5 oz) of fresh prawns (shrimp) or chicken (chopped up small), in step 1 of “Cooking the whole thing together”.
    Cook the seafood/meat until it’s almost done, then proceed with the rest of the steps. You may need to double up on the oil.


    Calories: 279kcalCarbohydrates: 14gProtein: 11gFat: 21gSaturated Fat: 14gSodium: 208mgPotassium: 379mgFiber: 1gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 483IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 110mgIron: 3mg
    Keyword sambal, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian
    Tried this recipe?Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!
    Made it? Upload your Photos!Mention @azlinbloor or tag #linsfood!

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