Recipe: Cape Malay dried red chilli blatjang

Cariema Isaacs delves into her Cape Malay heritage in her lavish new cookbook Spicy Odyssey which chronicles her love of spices.

She grew up cooking and baking in her grandmother’s kitchen in Bo-Kaap, the Cape Malay quarter in Cape Town and from an early age has always used spices.

Try her recipe for this rich red chutney, which has the name blatjang drawn from the Javanese sambal blachang.

Isaacs says there are two typs of blatjang: the fruity kind which South Africa knows from Mrs Balls, and a spicy, tangy version which is what this recipe makes. It is an essential accompaniment to fried fish in teh Cape Malay quarter.

Her recipe makes about 375ml (one and a half cups).

Cape Malay dried red chilli blatjang
Cape Malay dried red chilli blatjang

Cape Malay dried red chilli blatjang


  • 1 T vegetable oi
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 t crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup brown vinegar
  • 2 T tamarind, soaked in 1/2 cup water then strained
  • 1/2 t salt or to taste
  • 1/2 cup smooth apricot jam
  • 3 T dried chilli flakes


Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat and sweat the onion for about five minutes or until it is translucent.

Add the garlic and sweat for a further three to four minutes.

Add the vinegar and the tamarind-infused water, salt and jam and reduces to form a luscious but slightly runny sauce. this should take 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat but don’t switch off the stove.

Use a hand blender to blitz the sauce until it is completely smooth and then return the saucepan to the stove.

Add the chilli flakes and simmer ever so gently for about 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and decant into hot, sterilised jars.

Secure the lid and turn the bottle or jar upside down, then allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, the chutney is ready to eat and will last up to three months, stored in the refrigerator after opening.

  • Spice Odyssey by Cariema Isaacs is a new cookery book published by Struik Lifestyle, an imprint of Penguin Random House, and retails for R350