Embracing the plant-based lifestyle in Malaysia

Pineapple Sambal

Pineapple Sambal

I have to admit, I’ve done some pretty crazy things in my life.

I’ve scaled the wall of a building,

Flown halfway across the world to meet a guy I met online,

Worked for the military in Myamnar,

Quit my job to learn kungfu,

Danced on TV,

Swum oceans,

Gone vegan.

And even after all that, the idea of SAMBAL




Staring at death in the face. Call me a wuss. I’ll take that over eating this.

I was never one to gravitate towards spicy food, and the mere thought of it makes my upper lip bead up with sweat. I enjoy mildly spicy things – for example, whenever I had some Peri Peri chicken back in the day, my go-to sauce was Heat Level 1… Or was it Level 3? I can’t remember. Oh well. Whatever Level it was to be chicken s**t, I chose that.

Whenever I do have something much spicier than expected, like some crazy Tom Yam soup made by some crazy person, it’s quite a spectacle. Fluid steadily flows out from my eyes, my mouth, my nose, and if anything ever comes out of my ears it would most likely be blood. The post-meal toilet visit is also fairly dramatic. Safe to say my tolerance for spice is not worth bragging about.

So when a friend of mine suggested that I come up with a recipe for Sambal, which is Malaysian chili paste, I thought to myself No Way. How does a non-sambal eater make sambal? And how do I taste the darn thing to make sure it’s fit for sharing?

Enter my saviour… PINEAPPLE.

To support some lovely old aunties doing a food sale at a Buddhist temple, I bought a sambal they lovingly made with chilis, pineapple, and mushroom stalks. I asked if it was spicy, to which they answered, “No”. I was skeptical, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a Malaysian, is to never trust another Malaysian when they claim that something is not spicy.

But this time, the aunties were right. It was just mildly spicy. And mind-blowing.

What I have discovered is that capsaicin, the compound in chilis that creates the burn, is (surprisingly!) an alkaline substance. And one way to tame the heat is by adding an acidic ingredient, like lime or lemon juice, or in this case, pineapple.

This recipe is more about the flavour than the spice, and that’s what I appreciate. If a meal is spicy to the point where I can’t taste my food at all, for me it’s a waste of a meal. This sambal will not trigger a Vesuvius-like reaction, rather it offers the taste of chili with casual level of heat and a fun tropical twist.

This would go especially well with my Nasi Oo-Laa-Lam, and other dishes like Beetroot Fried Rice, Quinoa Goreng and Tempeh Fingers. It’s also awesome to mix into Nyonya Rojak sauce, and maybe even blend into my Perfect Bolognese Sauce.

An easy way to ‘Malaysianize’ even the most Western of dishes, the recipe for this versatile condiment can be doubled up for a bigger batch, and can keep in the fridge for up to a month.

5 from 1 reviews

Pineapple Sambal

April 13, 2018
: 4-6
: 15 min
: 20 min
: 35 min
: Easy - Moderate

An outstanding element of Malaysian cuisine, the classic sambal (chili paste) receives tropical treatment with the addition of sweet, fresh pineapple. Perfect to eat with rice or noodles and to add into stir-fries.


  • 10 red chilis
  • 3cm ginger stem
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple cubes (or 1 quarter of a whole pineapple)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • Step 1 Remove stems from chilis and with a knife, slice one side of each chili and open them inside out, removing and discarding all the seeds.
  • Step 2 In a pan, heat the oil on medium to high.
  • Step 3 Blend all other ingredients together in a blender until it becomes a smooth puree.
  • Step 4 Pour the puree into the wok and heat it until the puree starts to bubble. Once it does so, continuously stir for another 10-12 minutes, until the puree turns into a paste.
  • Step 5 Turn off heat and allow to cool before storing in a glass jar.
  • Step 6 Makes about 1/2 a cup of sambal.

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