Ingredients

  • Serves 4 people
  • 1 kg lala/clams

  • 1 yellow onion - sliced

  • 6 red chilis

  • 11 cloves garlic (9 to be blended, 2 sliced)

  • 60 g ginger

  • 8 shallots

  • 100 ml tomato ketchup

  • 80 ml fish sauce

  • 60 ml oyster sauce

  • 80 g palm sugar

  • 50 ml white vinegar

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil - or as needed

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Recipe Courtesy of
Asian Food Network

Sambal Chili Lala

Typically found in hawker centres, and restaurants along the seaside of Southeast Asia, the Sambal Chili Lala is a spicy and tangy dish that is cooked with chilies, spices and a pungent shrimp paste. The tanginess comes from the sauce –a beautiful mix of tomato ketchup, fish sauce, and white vinegar. Eat like a local and scoop up bits of chillies, onions and sauce with the shell using your hands.
  • Easy
  • 10 min
  • 20 min
  • 15 min
  • 3 steps
  • 12 Ingredients
  • Easy
  • 3 steps
  • 12 Ingredients
  • 10 min
  • 20 min
  • 15 min

If you absolutely LOVE sambal lala, why not try making it at home? Believe it or not, this dish is actually pretty easy and suitable for beginners. All you need is the right ingredients, a detailed recipe as well as a few pointers to get that bold taste. 

Perhaps the best part about cooking at home is that you can customize a dish to your preference. If you are not a fan of spicy foods, feel free to reduce the amount of chilis used in the sambal lala dish and add more oyster sauce for that rich umami taste. 

Working with shellfish might seem a bit daunting especially since clams get stale pretty easily and you would need to scrub the dirt off thoroughly to remove all the grainy bits, but we have some tips and tricks to help you nail the sambal lala dish. Read on for more.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions about Sambal Chili Lala

What is Lala?

The term “lala” is commonly used in various countries like Malaysia and Singapore to refer to clams. Not to be confused with mussels, scallops or cockles, clams have a flat shell and are usually light brown with dark brown stripes. 

 

Are clams bad for health?

Most foods, if eaten excessively, pose some sort of health risks. Enjoy the sambal lala in moderation and you would not have anything to worry about. 

 

How do you differentiate fresh clams from stale ones?

Ah, perhaps one of the biggest challenges when cooking with shellfish, stale clams usually have a sour and ammonia odour. If you detect any of these smells when looking for clams at the grocery store, do not buy them. 

Seafood spoils fairly quickly. Buy your clams on the day that you intend to cook them. 

 

How can you tell when the clams are cooked?

The shells of the clams should open up when they are cooked. 

You should discard any closed clam shells as this indicates that they were not alive when being cooked. 

 

Can I use readymade sambal?

If you want to save time, of course! Bear in mind that the taste of the sambal differs from brand to brand. 

However, if you want a strong shellfish flavor or you find sambal too spicy, you might want to follow the recipe and cook the sauce from scratch so that you can control the amount of condiments used. 

 

Can I use black vinegar instead?

Black vinegar would give you a darker colour and smokier flavor as it is more aged than white ones. If you want a cleaner taste, you might want to stick with the latter. 

 

Could I replace the clams with other shellfish?

You could definitely use the seasoning for other shellfish. Just note that the flavor might differ from the distinct taste of clams. 

 

Tips to Cook a Mouth-watering Plate of Sambal Chili Lala

  1. Scrub the clams thoroughly: to avoid getting any dirt or sea salt in the dish, soak the clams in some water for about 30 minutes. After that, use a stiff brush to scrub the dirt off 

  2. Do not shuck the clams: as tempting as it is to remove the flesh from the shell before cooking, you would want to leave them intact, as doing so helps you differentiate the live ones from the dead clams when they are cooked 

  3. Cook the dish in a wok with a wide surface area: what’s even worse than stale seafood is eating overcooked clams. Cook your sambal lala evenly in a wok and make sure the clams are not stacked on top of one another.

  4. Add more sugar and oyster sauce to neutralize the spice from the sambal: if you can’t handle your spice, add more condiments to give the dish a pop of flavor 

  5. Use large chili peppers if you prefer mild spice: however, if you are a huge fan of spicy foods, feel free to use chili padi (bird's eye chili)

  6. Cook the clams a little longer if they do not open: while you would want to avoid overcooking seafood, you wouldn’t want to deal with an undercooked mess. If most of the clams do not open within 2-3 minutes of cooking, feel free to let them simmer a little longer until the open

Instructions

  1. Blend & fry spice paste

    • In a blender, add chili, 9 garlic cloves, ginger, shallots and 1 tbsp vegetable oil. 
    • Blend into a paste, adding more vegetable oil to keep the blender going, if necessary.
    • In a pan on medium heat, add spice paste and fry until caramelised and dry, about 10-15 minutes.


  2. Cook sambal

    • In the same pan, add 100 ml tomato ketchup, 80 ml fish sauce, 60 ml oyster sauce, 80 g palm sugar and 50 ml white vinegar. 
    • Stir well, and cook for 5 minutes. 
    • Remove from heat and set aside.

    Get Some Cookware!


  3. Cook sambal chili lala

    • In a separate pan on medium heat, add 2 tbsp vegetable oil. 
    • When the pan becomes hot, add sliced onion and remaining garlic, and fry for 30 seconds.
    • Add lala and sambal chili. 
    • Mix well and cook for 2 -3 minutes until clams open, then remove from heat.
    Cook sambal chili lala


Plate and Serve!

| Works well with sotong and other shellfish like mussels.

Plate and Serve!

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Ingredients
  • Serves 4 people
  • 1 kg lala/clams

  • 1 yellow onion - sliced

  • 6 red chilis

  • 11 cloves garlic (9 to be blended, 2 sliced)

  • 60 g ginger

  • 8 shallots

  • 100 ml tomato ketchup

  • 80 ml fish sauce

  • 60 ml oyster sauce

  • 80 g palm sugar

  • 50 ml white vinegar

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil - or as needed

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