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Balinese Shallot and Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)This condiment, Sambal Mahtah, is spectacularly delicious.  It’s spicy, sweet, a little hot and just slightly crunchy.  This came to my attention via Trader Joe’s™.  They sell some amazingly delicious products, but they discontinued their Sambal Mahtah.  Well, what’s a girl to do?  She needs to come up with her own version.  Trader Joe's Sambal MatahTrader Joe’s™ version is cooked, but when I looked at recipes on-line, I found out this is usually served raw.  Well, who knew?  So, I read the list of ingredients off the jar and took a bit from here and a bit from there.  This is what I came up with.  I’m pretty surprised how close the flavors are to their version.  The Balinese God’s are smiling!

LemongrassLemongrass is very tough, unpleasantly so, if you wanted to eat it raw.  Removing the outer “leaves”, using only the base and more tender inner core, solves this problem.  Whatever I trim, I cut into pieces, put them in a plastic bag and toss into the freezer.  When I’m making broth, stock, a sauce (or even cooking rice), I toss a couple of pieces into the mixture.  I boil it up and let it steep for a bit, then just pitch out the lemongrass and continue on with life!  LemongrassVery, very thinly slicing the lemongrass stems, allows for the pieces to soften more easily as they cook.

Because the lemongrass is tougher than the other ingredients, I thought it should cook longer.  Heat the oil; add the lemongrass and Lemongrass and Oilsimmer over very, low heat for about 5 minutes (you don’t want the lemongrass to brown at all).  Turn off the heat and let stand for about 20 minutes.   Most of the on-line raw recipes indicated that you should slice everything, but the TJ’s version was diced, so that’s what I went with.  Balinese Shallot and Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)I diced things up more to the coarser side rather than too fine.  I wanted the finished product to be chunky.  I used shishito peppers, baby bell peppers and dried bird’s-eye chiles.  The heat level was perfect for me.Balinese Shallot and Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)Add the remaining ingredients, except the sweet soy and fish sauce.  Cover; return to the simmer over very, very low heat and cook for 6-8 minutes.  Balinese Shallot and Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)Turn off the heat, stir in the sweet soy and fish sauce, if using.  I don’t use the fish sauce, but most recipes call for it, as well as dried shrimp.  Which I didn’t use, either.  Sweet soy sauce reminds me of molasses, but a little bit saltier.  It even looks like molasses.  I think, you could absolutely use molasses as a substitute, if you can’t find sweet soy sauce.  Let the mixture set until completely cool.  Balinese Shallot and Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)Pour (or spoon) into a glass jar, top up with oil, if needed.  Store in the fridge. This will keep for several weeks, but use it.  Use it a lot.  I’ve use it over a fried egg…YUM!  I put some over a fish fillet…YUM!  Are you seeing a pattern?  YUM!

Balinese Shallot-Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah)

  • Servings: 3-4 cups
  • Difficulty: Easy Enough
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  • 6-8 shallots, peel and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons very finely julienned fresh ginger
  • 7 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup or more)
  • 4-6 dried bird’s eye chiles, very thinly sliced (part of the seeds removed)
  • 2 shishito peppers, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 baby bell peppers, seeds removed and coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, tender part only, very, very thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (you may need more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black peppercorns
  • Zest of 1 lime, cut into very, very fine julienne
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (see NOTE)
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional—I don’t use it)

Place all the ingredient, except the sweet soy sauce and fish sauce, in a medium saucepan.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Heat over medium-high heat, until you hear the mixture just begin to sizzle, about 3 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat; stir well.  Stir in the sweet soy and fish sauce, if using.  Pour into a glass container(s). Cool to room temperature; refrigerate.  Return to room temperature before using.  Excellent with fish and chicken.


  • This condiment is normally prepared and served raw, but I wanted to store it for a longer period of time.
  • This cooked version will keep almost indefinitely in the fridge.  If you can find kaffir lime leaves, very finely shred 5 leaves and use instead of the lime zest.  They are remarkably tasty and can be frozen.
  • If you have a gluten issue or can’t find sweet soy sauce, substitute 2 tablespoons molasses for the sweet soy sauce.
  • Most of the on-line recipes include fish sauce.  I’m not crazy about it, so I omit it, but feel free to add it at the very end of cooking, you wish.

Balinese Shallot-Lemongrass Matah (Sambal Matah) Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017.  All rights reserved.