Fried fish with fresh and cooked sambal… What’s not to like?
Ikan bakar is a delicious fried fish that is first smothered with a spicy sambal and then wrapped in banana leaf to cook. Cooking ikan bakar in this way makes the fish deliciously moist. The flavour and aroma are to die for. What’s more, this fried fish recipe can all be made in one pan!
About this ikan bakar recipe…
Ikan bakar is popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. When you taste it, you’ll see why.
This is the fried fish version but it is equally popular cooked over fire. In fact, the fried version is often cooked over a live fire at food stalls and restaurants.
Although ikan bakar can be pan fried or grilled, the fish is always prepared in the same way. A spicy and aromatic sambal is prepared and rubbed into the flesh of the fish. Then the fish either wrapped in a thin piece of banana leaf or completely wrapped up.
By wrapping it in a thin strip of banana leaf, you get more char on the skin. Completely packaging it in banana leaf steams the fish and it becomes so juicy.
Which fish is best for this Malaysian fried fish recipe?
In Malaysia, it’s hands down stingray! It’s so good.
In the UK, stingray is a bit difficult to come by so I use other fish just as they do for ikan bakar in Malaysia.
Other types of fish you can use are tilapia, sea bass, cod and halibut. All these are delicious cooked this way.
You can either use whole fish as I did or use fillets.
What ingredients go into the sambal marinade?
This fried fish recipe only calls for one sambal, which is a fried sambal. If you look at the photos you will also see a raw sambal which is called sambal matah. Although the raw sambal is amazing, you can leave it out but I suggest making it!
For the fried sambal you will need…
Garlic: Of course! Garlic makes the world go round
Ginger and galangal: Galangal is found a lot in Thai food. It’s different in flavour to ginger and it is usually added to recipes instead of ginger. Many Malaysian recipes use both. Why not? They both taste amazing and add their own special flavours to the dish.
Red chillies: These are important but can be added to taste. They colour the sambal and give the fried fish (ikan bakar) a nice spicy hit.
Shallots: These are used a lot in Far East curries and pastes. They add flavour but also bulk up the baste.
Ground spices: Turmeric, cumin and ground coriander add delicious flavour and are also an Indian inspiration for the dish
Sweet soy sauce (ketchup manis): Although not every ikan bakar recipe includes
Unsalted butter:: Butter is good. Enough said.
So how to you make the sambal matah for this fried fish recipe?
It’s really easy and so good on ikan bakar.
8 green bird’s eye chilies, chopped finely
2 red jalepenos
8 shallots, sliced thinly
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 lime leaves, stems removed and sliced thinly
1 tbsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
2 lemongrass, peeled white part only
½ tsp shrimp paste (optional)
3 tbsp coconut oil
Sugar to taste
Place chillies, shallots, garlic, lime leaves, lime juice, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil to a pan over medium high heat and fry the lemongrass to soften some. Then add the shrimp paste and fry for another 30 seconds. Pour this over the chopped veggies. Taste it and add more salt and/or sugar to taste.
Step by step photographs of ikan bakar – Malaysian fried fish
What is ketchup manis?
Ketchup manis is a thick and sweet soy sauce. It is available from Asian grocers and also online.
You can also make it. Take equal amounts of soy sauce and light brown sugar. Place both in a pan and simmer until the sugar melts and the soy sauce thickens.
It should be really thick, like sauce consistency.
- 2 fish such as bass, snapper, mackerel or tilapia
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 x 5cm (2 inches) ginger
- 1 x 5cm (2 inches) galangal
- 3 red chillies
- 5 shallots
- 5 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- 80ml (1/4 cup) sweet soy sauce (katsup manis)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Banana leaves for frying
- Make three shallow incisions with a sharp knife on both side of each fish and set aside.
- Using a spice grinder, food processor or pestle and mortar, grind the garlic, ginger, galangal, chillies and shallots to a paste.
Heat at pan over medium high heat and half of the oil. When the oil is visibly hot, stir in the sambal and fry it for a couple of minutes.
- Add the ground spices and stir it all up to combine. Then add the butter and fry, stirring regularly until the butter melts into the sambal.
- Transfer the sambal to a mixing bowl and add the katsup manis. Stir it all in until smooth and quite dark in colour.
- When ready to cook the fish, rub the fish all over the surface, in the cavity and in the slits with the sambal and wrap tightly in a strip of banana leaf. Any leftover marinade can be used for basting while you cook.
- Heat a pan over medium high heat and add the remaining oil. When visibly hot, place the fish in the pan and fry on one side until cooked through and then flip it over to cook the other side.
- Baste the fish from time to time with the remaining marinade. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your fish. It’s ready when the exterior is nicely charred and the meat flakes away from the bones easily with a fork.
- Serve as is or with the optional sambal matah which I highly recommend doing.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 367mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 59g