Crunchy Anchovies Sambal with Shallots

Anchovies in Malaysia are known as “ikan bilis” and it’s dried fish. It is so small but with good quantity, you can make a good soup base for noodles.

What I usually do with dried anchovies? I fry it. I love crunchy food and fried anchovies are my favourite snack. Today’s dish is Crunchy Anchovies Sambal with Shallots. What I am trying to achieve is to have two types of food texture which is crunchy and soft in this dish. You will have the soften and slight caramelised shallots lingered around the crunchy fried anchovies and both are lightly coated with the sambal sauce. When you taste it, you will first bite into the crunchy fried anchovies and the spiciness from the sambal and the sweetness from the caramelised shallots will follow after. This is what I call a wholly combination.

And then maybe you can try have it with some white rice, the white rice is like a medium that escalate this combination. Other than that, we serve it with bread too. Or you can have some exotic canapés which you can place the sambal on sliced cucumbers. Although I just eat it on its own. I am sorry. I am just obsessed. I am too obsessed with this dish because I love crunchy fried anchovies and I also love sambal.

So, here is the recipe:

To make the sauce, you will need to make a chilli paste and you will need 2 tablespoon of the chilli paste for the sambal sauce.

To make the chilli paste:


  • 5 dried chillies*
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of belacan (dried shrimp paste)*
  • A pinch of salt


  1. Remove the seeds from the dried chillies else it will be very spicy if you include the seeds.
  2. Bring the chillies to boil in a pot of water. Let it cook until the chillies turn soft.
  3. Strain off the water and place the boiled dried chillies into the blender/wet paste grinder.
  4. Add in the rest of the ingredients into the blender/wet paste grinder.
  5. Blend all into a paste. There, your chilli paste is ready. This paste is very versatile, you can make other sambal dishes with this paste too.

Crunchy Anchovies Sambal with Shallots.2

Crunchy Anchovies Sambal with Shallots

*Optional: Serves with white rice for 1-2 people but I would only serve for myself…all for myself


  • 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoon of the chilli paste*
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • A lot of shallots! 10 of them and sliced them up
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt and extra salt for adjusting the taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of fried anchovies*
  • *Serve with a bowl of white rice or maybe 2 bowls 


  1. Heat your pan with oil. Pour in the chilli paste.
  2. In low heat, fry your chilli paste until the color turns to darker orange. Be near to your stove and stir it occasionally to make sure it does not burn. The blended chili paste is orange in color when you started and when you fry the paste in low heat for long, the color will turn darker orange close to dark red color.
  3. Add in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and continue cook until you see red chilli oil surfacing the paste. The colour of the paste should turn into a beautiful dark red paste.
  4. Now you can add in all the 10 sliced shallots and give it a stir. Let it cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and stir it.
  6. Pour all the crunchy anchovies into the pan and stir it so that everything is mixed well.
  7. Take a spoon and try it!
  8. Adjust the salt and sugar to suit your tastebuds.


  • Dried chillies I used are bought from Indian store.
  • Belacan (Dried Shrimp Paste) is a Malaysian product. The smell may not be pleasant and it’s pungent but it is used in many of the Malaysian cuisine especially in sambal dishes. It creates a very special fragrance to the dishes. You can get this from the Asian groceries store.
  • Fried anchovies is fairly easy to make. Just wash the anchovies and mix with a bit of salt. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Fry the anchovies with oil. To achieve the crunchiness, you need to deep fry the anchovies. You may not get the crunch from pan fried anchovies. Imagine pan frying chicken and deep frying the chicken.

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