Ikan bakar – grilled fish in banana leaves

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Ikan bakar means grilled fish in malay. It’s a favourite dish in malaysia or indonesia and you will find many stalls selling their ikan bakar. The secret to making a really good ikan bakar is the making of the chilly (sambal) paste itself. The more pungent and tasty the fish gets infused, the better the taste.A lot of people shy from making Ikan Bakar coz they think it’s so complicating to prepare. But it’s not. No ikan bakar is what it should taste like without grilling it over banana leaves. ;-)

4 small filets grouper or alaskan pollack
4x  Banana leaves (washed!)

1 whole red snapper
1x 30x20cm Banana leaf (enough to cover the fish completely)

Sambal paste:

2 onions
1 stalk lemon grass
2 kafir leaves
3 cloves garlic
3cm ginger
3cm galangal
1 tbsp tumeric powder
2 tsp grounded coriander
1 chilly padi (optional, depending on how hot you’d like your dish) or
4 dried chillies
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp belachan
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

1 lime juice



1. Clean the banana leaf with running water, and blot to dry. Clean the fish too, under running water.

2. Lay the fish on the piece of banana leaf, making sure that the leaf is 3x longer than the fish. Slice the body of the fish so that the spices would infuse the fish better this way. Squeeze the lime and pour some of the lime juice over the fish.

3. Put all the ingredients for the sambal paste in a mixer and blend to a smooth paste. Add the sambal paste now on top of the fish.

4.Taking the 2 upper and lower ends of the banana leaf, cover the fish and secure the left and right ends with a toothpick.

5. Bake the fish in a preheated oven for 30 – 50 mins 200°c, or grill this on a charcoal grill (without thoroughly burning the banana leaf!) for ~8-10 mins on each side. Use a fork to test if the fish is cooked. The meat falls easily apart from the bones once cooked.

6. Unfold the fish package on the table. Serve the fish together with the banana leaf together with steamed rice and cucumber slices or acar.