Recipes By Charlotte Mei

Sambal Sardines

Growing up, mum was kept busy with work and running the household, so I never saw her spending much time in the kitchen cooking. That said, when the occasion presented itself, she would go all in.

Some of her iconic dishes were Popiah, Laksa, Ayam Buah Keluak and it was quite the affair when she got down to it! These dishes were a labour of love and I remember that she would spend a full day shopping for ingredients, prepping and cooking; and we would only be able to eat the final result the following day.

I adored these exquisite dishes which would last us for several meals, but the one dish that reminds me the most of mum is her Sambal Sardines. It is no special dish, and it certainly is no secret recipe (although every family had their own version of it), but it reminds me so much of mum. Funny enough, I used to dislike this dish as a kid for being too ‘healthy’! Little did I know that firstly I would end up choosing to be a Nutritionist, and secondly, that this dish would turn out being one of my favourite dishes today!

I remember mum serving the sardines on wholemeal bread with lots of raw shallots and coriander (things I all did not like at that time!) – and she would tell me that the soft sardine bones were good for me as they were full of calcium. Isn’t it funny that this is what I’m telling my clients today?

Here is a quick and easy recipe for my version of Sambal Sardines which I hope will also evoke feelings of nostalgia for you and your loved ones!

The Recipe

Serves 3 


1 can of sardines in tomato sauce (425g)

3 garlic cloves

1 red onion

1 turmeric root

3 large red chilies

6 small red chilies

1 tbsp tamarind pulp, soaked in 4-6 tbsp water



Raw shallots, sliced


1. Make the spice paste by blending the garlic, onion, chillis, turmeric with a dash of water. Blend till a paste is formed.

2. In an oiled and heated pan, fry the spice paste till fragrant.

3. Add the tamarind water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add the sardines along with its tomato sauce and stir to cook.

5. Taste for seasoning, although the tomato sauce from the sardines has already been seasoned.

6. Turn off the heat and stir in the spring onion with the residual heat.

7. Serve and top with raw shallots and coriander.

Notes: If the dish is too sour for your liking, feel free to add about 1 tbsp sugar


Charlotte Mei

A Nutritionist by training, Charlotte Mei is a media personality, a self-taught cook, and an all-round advocate of sustainable living. Her mission is simple: to get more people into the kitchen and get them interested in what they eat!

Her content channel TheCharlotteMei shares fuss-free recipes, city food tours, and nuggets of tips for living and eating more mindfully. She has hosted food programmes such as ‘Crave’ on Channel 5, and helmed the evening drive time radio show ‘Your Evening Escape’ and food podcast ‘Crave’ on 938NOW (now known as CNA 938).

Today, she continues to create content on her social media platforms on food, health, and sustainability, and will be contributing to Breathe’s community too.  She enjoys Pilates, especially when it challenges her core and upper-body strength. Her favourite moves include rows on the Reformer and inversions on the Cadillac! Catch her latest news on and Instagram (@thecharlottemei).

Share   —   Facebook    Twitter