Foreign Flavours – Malaysia: Beef Sambal Tumis

Of all the wonderful dishes we sampled on our road trip through Malaysia this summer, the beef sambal tumis I had on Perhentian Besar was the one I was most anxious to try out myself once we’d made it back to Belgium. Lo and behold:

sambaltumis (Small)

It’s not much of a looker, granted, but to be honest, neither was the original:


I added the onion and peppers on the side, btw. And while my beef may not have been quite as crunchy as its (presumably deep-fried) Perhentian counterpart, I nailed the sambal tumis itself. Mine was even a bit spicier, but so, so good…

Enough dawdling! Let’s get cooking!

BEEF SAMBAL TUMIS (adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover)

Serves 2 (with some leftovers, but who doesn’t love leftovers)


  • 300g beef mince, divided into two portions and flattened
  • 15g dried chillies (deseeded, cut into 2 or 3 pieces and soaked in boiling water)
  • 100g fresh red chillies
  • 250g shallots
  • 1 large onion
  • 10g ginger
  • 15g galangal
  • 30g garlic
  • 15g belacan (shrimp paste; called terasi in Indonesia – toasted)
  • 1.5 cup groundnut oil
  • 40g tamarind pulp + 1/4 cup water (= assam water)
  • 100g palm sugar, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 yellow or red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, cut into small strips
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • white rice, to serve


  1. Blend dried chillies, fresh chillies, shallots, onion, ginger, galangal, garlic and belacan with 1/4 cup of water to a smooth paste.
  2. Pour chillie paste into a big wok and stir-fry (without adding any oil!) for 10 minutes over medium-low heat until slightly dry.
  3. Add oil and continue stirring over low heat for 30 minutes. (This is the long and boring but necessary bit, I’m afraid. The name “tumis” means “stirring”, or so I was told in Malaysia.)
  4. Add assam water, sugar and salt. Continue stirring for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat. This is what it should look like:sambalp
  5. Meanwhile, cook the rice. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions and peppers for a few minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes and fry for one minute more.
  6. Next, fry the beef over medium/high heat for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
  7. Top each slice of fried beef with some fried shallot, pepper and tomatoes and ladle over a good helping of sambal.
  8. Serve with steamed white rice.



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