Homemade ikan bakar makes for a real family treat

Grilled fish is one of those hawker favourites that are available everywhere with everyone having their own special recipe.

But there are constants – the fish is usually wrapped in layers of banana leaves, marinated with a spice-laden sambal and grilled over charcoal fire.

Homemade ikan bakar always hits the spot. (Rasa Malaysia pic)

This is probably one of the best grilled fish recipes ever, using a juicy, tender, moist fish with complex flavours.

The banana leaves impart an intense aroma and earthy fragrance to the fish.


  • 500 g fish filet or whole fish (for example, red snapper)


  • 170 g fresh red chillies, seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 100 g shallots
  • 1 tablespoon toasted belacan
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce or to taste
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar or to taste
  • Juice from 1/2 lime or 1 calamansi lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 4 tablespoons oil

Sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment

  • Tamarind pulp (ping pong ball size)
  • 8 tablespoons water
  • 3 fresh red chillies, seeded
  • 2 cili padi, seeded
  • 1 teaspoon toasted belacan
  • Sugar to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced


Grilled fish sambal

  • Grind the chillies, shallots, belacan and lemongrass in a food processor until well blended and smooth.
  • Heat up a wok and stir-fry the sambal paste until it is aromatic or when the oil separates from the paste.
  • Add the seasonings: salt, fish sauce and sugar and do a quick stir, dish out and set aside.

Sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment

  • Soak the tamarind pulp in the water for 15 minutes and extract the juice.
  • In a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound/blend the red chillies, cili padi and toasted belacan. Add tamarind juice, sugar, salt and sliced shallots. Stir well and set aside.

Grilling the fish

  • Lay out a few banana leaves and grease the surface with some oil.
  • Lay the fish on top of the banana leaves and evenly spread two to three tablespoons of sambal on the fish.
  • Place the fish on top of the barbecue (upper rack with indirect heat) and close cover.
  • Wait for eight minutes or so (depending on the heat) and flip the fish over to the other side.
  • Spread two to three more tablespoons of sambal on the other side of the fish and grill for another eight minutes or until the fish is done.
  • Transfer the fish and the banana leaves to the lower rack and grill for a couple of minutes over direct heat, or when you smell the sweet aroma of burnt banana leaves.
  • Serve immediately with sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment.


  • Stingray wings or skate wings are the best fish to grill. You can also use white fish filet such as sole.
  • Fresh whole fish such as red snapper is also good for grilling. Spread a little sambal on the inside as well.

This recipe can be found in Rasa Malaysia.

By : Low Bee Yinn (Food blogger) – FMT

Low Bee Yinn – December 12, 2020 9:00 AM

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