Do you want to spice up your life? Well, try to do it literally by your palet, tasting some of the typical spicy sauces from Indonesia, the spiciest, and also the tastiest, known as “sambal”, the essential condiment to accompany any local cuisine.

Many Indonesians have a steel puck because each region of Indonesia cannot live without sambal and each with its own style. Depending on the region, the sambal may be sweeter, more salty, more sour or simply stronger. The list below gives you some examples of the strongest and spiciest sambals that can be found in the archipelago.

Prepare a glass of hot water or hot tea, as you will definitely need this to offset the effects of these fiery delights. Cold water is not an antidote.


It is a typical sambal which is found almost everywhere in the archipelago without any particular roots. Each region has its own version, of course, but the “Sambal Kecap” consists mainly of fresh Asian shallots, sweet soy sauce and, as you would expect, a lot of chili!

Anyone can prepare it because none of the ingredients need to be cooked. It is best to prepare the sambal a few hours before eating it so that the soy sauce has time to absorb some of the flavors of the other ingredients. However, it is also nice to taste it right away. This sambal is ideal for light weights who want to strengthen their resistance to stronger sauces. Best served with: rice and grilled meats (especially chicken) or grilled fish.

Why include it in this list ?: it contains raw and whole peppers, seeds included. If you only eat soy sauce, it’s nice and sweet. But, if you bite into the chopped chili, beware! It’s like a mine exploding in your mouth.


Originating from Solo in Central Java, this sambal is made up of only four ingredients: tons of little red peppers, Asian shallots, garlic and salt. The ingredients are then chopped and bound using a mortar and pestle, then mixed with hot oil before serving. The name Korek literally means scraping, this is how people eat this very spicy sauce. They gradually “scratch” the sambal because too much of a blow would be too much to bear. Best served with: rice and duck or fried chicken

Why include it in this list ?: Beginners should be wary of it because even the kings of chili peppers feel their tongues burn from the first contact. The small red peppers are among the strongest in Indonesia and this sambal uses an abundance of them. However, after a few tries, the spicy and salty combination is addictive, which establishes between you and this sambal have a somewhat abusive relationship: leaving on your tongue on fire a taste of come back.


Sambal Matah is a Bali sambal, spicy and refreshing at the same time. Composed of raw and fresh ingredients, including red peppers, green peppers, Asian shallots, green tomatoes, lemongrass, terasi (shrimp paste), leaves and lemon juice of combava. This cheerfully spicy preparation is one of the most popular in Bali and can be found in any Balinese restaurant. Best served with: rice and grilled fish or seafood

Why include it in this list ?: This sambal is interesting because it is spicy but refreshing at the same time. The hot fire of chili peppers can be suppressed simultaneously by other fresh sambal flavors, such as tomatoes and shallots. The ingredients of this sambal are not mixed, each natural and fresh flavor remains strong and separate, giving the option of tasting them individually or in combination.


Sambal Roa is a typical Manado pepper sauce, in the North Sulawesi province, made from Roa fish (galafea). Roa is a type of smoked fish that comes from the North of Manado. It is basically roa fish sautéed in extremely hot chilli, although some commercial products produced outside Sulawesi reduce the level of chilli so that it can be eaten by more people. Many consider it a main dish or companion for rice, as it already contains fish. If you manage to get your hands on its original version, be sure to taste it with caution.

Why include it in this list ?: Besides being spicy, this type of sambal is delicious with rice and nothing else. It has such a lovely fishy flavor and a strong smoky scent that it could actually make a dish on its own.


It is also another type of sambal which has different versions in most regions of the archipelago, the sweetest type being that of Central Java (recommended for light weights of chili). There are two versions, the raw sambal terasi and the cooked sambal terasi. Its ingredients sometimes differ, but still contain red peppers, terasi (shrimp paste), Asian shallots, garlic and salt. The fresh raw version is generally more intense than the cooked version.

Best served with: fresh vegetables known as lalapan in Sundanese for raw sambal terasi, rice and almost all types of meat and vegetables for cooked sambal terasi. Raw is, of course, also delicious with rice and most types of meats and vegetables.

Why include it in this list ?: Most Indonesian houses have their own type of Sambal Terasi available daily, especially among chili lovers. This is probably the first type of sambal you should try to get used to before exploring the other versions, as it is the basic flavor of sambal.


This fresh sambal also from North Sulawesi is similar to Sambal Matah from Bali with its raw ingredients and explosive flavors. It consists of green tomatoes, peppers and coarsely crushed shallots with a pinch of salt and lemon juice. Like the one from Bali, this sambal is not mixed with a mortar and pestle and retains the natural, raw flavors of the ingredients. Best served with: rice and grilled fish or seafood

Why include it in this list ?: it’s like a party on your tongue. The salty, tangy and spicy sensation leaves a delicious and lingering sensation in your mouth.

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