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Blog / Summer Side Dish

A Taste of Africa: Sambal - A Fresh Tasting Side Dish

Getting to know Africa includes experiencing the vastly different - and yummy - expressions of each culture through food.

Sambal is the perfect summer side to accompany almost any dish. Fresh and flavourful, this lovely combination is easy to prepare. Grated carrots and apples pair up with garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar to produce a tasty slaw. 

There are many varieties of Sambal, showing up from Sri Lanka to South Africa, incorporating different ingredients - cucumber, tomato, onion and even pineapple! Most Sambals have a common trait - they are crisp and fresh versions of a slaw salad. We love sharing our family recipes with you but please remember you can search online and find lots of variations on this dish and other terrific African recipes. An online recipe site we use over and over again is The Congo Cookbook. My East Africa Journal is also a great source for recipes. South African Tours and Travel is a good resource for South African recipes. As always, we've tried to approximate our family method of preparing this recipe. This one is from a favourite Auntie. We recommend having a good look online as well for different types of sambal recipes.


  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups grated apples (we like a tart apple rather than a sweeter variety)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped broad leaf parsley (many people use cilantro but we don't like the flavour)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped red chilies
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

Just toss the carrots and apples along with the lemon juice and the salt and let it sit for about a half an hour. Carefully pour off the excess liquid and then combine all the other ingredients. Cover with saran wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before dinner. As with all our recipes, this is just sort of the basics. We have both experimented and substituted when an ingredient wasn't at hand. For example, if we don't have chilies, we've chopped up some bell peppers and used a bit of hot sauce for heat. You can adjust the seasonings to your own tastes. We like a bit more ginger than most recipes call for. If you have any of this delicious slaw left over (and you probably won't), we find it to be very tasty on chicken sandwiches.  

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