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Chilli Sambol

Chilli sambol

So good with dosas and hoppers.

While in Sri Lanka with Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts, I loved going down for breakfast or dinner and ordering a freshly made hopper. Hoppers aren’t served for lunch as a rule. My hopper recipe is here.

They were always made in front of me and there was always a selection of sambols and chutneys to accompany them. This red chilli sambol was one of my favourites.

I got to watch it being made on a couple of occasions. As you will see in this recipe, it isn’t difficult to make. Dried chillies are pounded with a little water into a paste. Then the rest of the ingredients are added until nicely combined.

I’m not sure if the chefs over there toasted and soaked their chillies as I did here. This is just something I’ve always done when working with dried chillies so why stop?

You could probably leave the roasting and soaking steps out without affecting the flavour too much. I used dried shrimp instead of Maldive fish as they use in Sri Lanka. Maldive fish is available at specialty shops and online but as I had some dried shrimp on hand, I used it instead.

Making chilli sambol

Toasting the dry chillies until warm and fragrant.

Making red chilli sambol

Grind your red chillies into a paste.

Making chilli sambol

Add the onions and keep grinding and pounding.

Making chilli sambol

Add the maldive fish or dried prawns.

Chilli sambol

Once all pounded into a paste, add salt and lime juice to taste.

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Yield: 250ml

Sri Lankan Red Chilli Sambol

Sri Lankan Red Chilli Sambol
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes


  • 50g dried red chillies (the kind shown)
  • 50g red onion - finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Maldive dried fish or dried shrimp
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Roast your chillies for about three minutes until fragrant over medium heat in a dry frying pan.
  2. Soak the chillies for half an hour. Remove the stems and place in a mortar or food processor.
  3. Using your pestle and mortar (or food processor) grind the red chillies with just a little water until you have a paste.
  4. Add the onion and dried fish or shrimp and continue grinding until combined.
  5. Squeeze a little lime juice over it all and add salt to taste.

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Disclaimer: I was a guest of Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts. If you are going to Sri Lanka, I highly recommend checking this place out!

I was flown round trip from Heathrow to Colombo courtesy or SriLankan Airlines. I couldn’t recommend this airline enough. Excellent service.

Chilli sambol

Quick and easy. Worth a try if you like it hot.

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