Almost every Malaysian dish comes with some kind of spicy sambal sauce. This sambal ikan bilis recipe starts with 1/2 cup dried anchovies that are rinsed, patted dry, then pan-fried until brown.
Remove them from the pan and set them aside to cool.
While the ikan bilis are cooling, make a spice paste from chillies (about 8 dried chillies that have been reconstituted in water), 4 shallots, 1 clove garlic and a little piece of roasted belacan (less than 1/2 tsp)* and grind them up in a food processor, using a little oil to get the blades moving if needed. Fry the spice paste in the pan until it becomes fragrant. Add a red onion, sliced and cook until the onions are tender.
Add 2-3 tbsp tamarind juice, some salt and sugar to taste. Add the anchovies back into the chile/onion mixture and combine.
*In a pinch, you can substitute belachan with shrimp paste (harm ha) which can be found in most Asian grocery stores.