This spicy chicken with a hint of lime and coconut is one of my favourite dishes

What’s for Dinner? Chicken sambal is hugely popular in Malaysia, whatever the occasion

Chicken sambal is spicy a Malaysian dish flavoured with lemongrass and fresh ginger and traditionally served with coconut rice. It is hugely popular in Malaysia and is eaten as part of big celebrations such as weddings and Mubarak, but can also be eaten daily for dinner, or even breakfast.

It is one of my favourite dishes as it is sweet, spicy and tangy with a hint of lime. Making the sambal paste yourself isn’t hard and you can customise the heat to your liking, just adjust the amount of chillies you use. Most of the ingredients are easy enough to find in a supermarket these days, but if you can’t get kaffir limes you could use the zest of a lime instead. If you wanted to make more in one go, the paste will keep well in the fridge for a few weeks, or you can even freeze it.

Sham Hanifa is chef-proprietor of the Cottage restaurant in Jamestown, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

Sham Hanifa’s chicken sambal

Serves 4


400g diced chicken, thighs or fillet
8 shallots, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 fresh lemongrass stalks (white part only), chopped
3-5 red chillies
1 tsp dried ground turmeric
2 tbsp fresh ginger
4 kaffir lime leaves
6 tbsp vegetable oil (plus more if needed)
2 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
3 tsp light soy sauce
100g green beans, chopped
200ml water (plus more if needed)
Lime wedges and fresh coriander to garnish


1 Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, chillies and two kaffir lime leaves to a blender or food processor with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Blend until smooth. Add additional oil in small amounts if the ingredients are not blending well.

2 Heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a pan or wok over medium heat. Add the paste and sauté for about five to seven minutes until it becomes aromatic. Do not burn as the paste may become bitter.

3 Squeeze the remaining two kaffir lime leaves in your palm to release the flavour and add to the dish.

4 Add the tamarind paste, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce and beans. Add enough water or stock to create a rich sauce, starting with 100ml and adding more if needed. The sauce should be the consistency of a thick ketchup.

5 Add the chicken and coat thoroughly with the paste. Allow the dish to continue to simmer minutes until the chicken is cooked.

6 Serve with rice on the side, and garnish with lime wedges and fresh coriander.