Sambal Bawang Bu Santi


It has been seven years since I last visited Sambal Bawang Bu Santi in the city where I spent most of my time as a student. So, last month when I had the chance for a short visit to Yogyakarta, I made sure to have a sweaty lunch there.

My first encounter with their super-hot yet somehow super addictive and appetizing food was in 2004. It was still a small place and my friends and I had to sit on a mat on the floor for our dinner.

They were serving our order with a lot of coconut-milk- steamed rice in a heat-retaining container – it was all-you-can- eat rice warung style.


Imagine it was in the last days of the month as a student, when you need to be thrifty and make sure you can eat well until the next transfer from parents or the next side job paycheck comes through. It was one of the many life-saving food stalls for students who came from across the archipelago to study in Yogyakarta.

When I think about it, we managed to handle the heat from the sambal bawang by eating a lot of rice. Customers would order fried chicken which then came with two slices of cucumber, fresh basil and around two spoonfuls of sambal – and the free flowing rice.

Alas, they don’t serve it like that anymore, but for those who were lucky enough to have it that way, it became a loving memory.

The sambal bawang is as simple as it gets: red chili, garlic and some seasoning.

When I tasted it, the flavor was exactly the same as what I had years ago, maximum savory flavor with a special aroma, a whiff of it sure to water your mouth. The texture, however, has changed; they now use a food processor to grind the ingredients instead of the traditional mortar and pestle. The need for practicality, I guess.


For anyone who is interested in challenging their sambal, there are other options aside from chicken. There are fried catfish and tilapia fish, fried tofu and tempe, spicy chicken feet soup, and don’t forget the several choices of vegetables.

A word of warning though, the sambal is very hot, even for locals. What can be guaranteed is that you will enjoy tasty yet simple Indonesian comfort food. It may be a tongue burning dish, but it sure is heart warming.


Jalan Babarsari, Caturtunggal, Depok, Sleman, Yogyakarta.
OPENING HOURS: Daily, 8 am – 2 am
SPEND PER PERSON: Rp 20,000 – 40,000

Written by Yosua Yanuard Photographs by Yosua Yanuard June 25, 2017.