Sambal Kelapa ~ Fish with grated coconut

Sambal KelapaFish with grated coconut is not a direct translation of Sambal Kelapa. Sambal in Malay is usually a spice based condiment and Kelapa means coconut. This dish is mainly made of fish flakes, grated coconut and chillies. Fish and coconuts were abundant in these regions which were dotted with fishing villages back then.

Sambal Kelapa gives a special flavor to your rice just like salt and spices do to your dish. It can be made wet or dry. If made wet, it will only last for about two days but when made dry it can last for almost a week in an air-tight container. The wet version of this dish simply means the grated coconut is usually steamed instead of toasted.

The following is a dry version of Sambal Kelapa. You can add more chillies if you like, I always do. Adjust the seasoning to your preference.


  • 1 whole fish, gutted, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 shallots, minced finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 cups or 200 grams of grated coconut, toasted or fried dry until brown
  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and sliced thinly
  • 1 fresh bird’s eye chilli, deseeded and sliced thinly (optional, only if you like it spicy)


  1. Grill or bake the fish in the oven for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.
  2. Flake the flesh of the fish with a fork and set aside. Remove and discard all bones.
  3. Using the mortar and pestle, pound the shallots and chillies together first, add the fish flesh last and pound. You can also use the food processor but use the pulse mode.
  4. Add  pepper, salt and sugar and mix or pound until well combined.
  5. Transfer the pounded ingredients to a mixing bowl and add the toasted grated coconut. Mix well until all combined.
  6. You can store in an airtight container.

Simply sprinkle this condiment over your warm rice or porridge.