PEPES IKAN – FISH IN BANANA LEAVES WITH A RAW CHILLI SAMBAl
This dish uses the same basic spice paste as a chicken satay, so make twice as much at the outset, or even a few times as much, and freeze the extra. By the time you’ve collected all the ingredients, and endured the (considerable) chopping, you’ll be glad you did!
The raw chilli sambal is fresh and colourful, but not so strongly flavoured as a typical sambal due the omission of prawn paste. I think that just a touch of fish sauce gives enough of a hint of this without being over-powering… But beware nonetheless, because what this sambal lacks in the way of prawn, it more than makes up for in the way of chilli! The fresh spicy flavours really work well with the grilled fish however, a kind of a chilli sambal-salsa!
4 fillets firm white fish of your choice - bass, bream, or whiting for example all work well
2 large banana leaves
/ Bali Spice Paste
2 cloves of garlic
1 small bird’s eye chilli
4cm piece of galangal
4cm piece of ginger
2 stems of lemongrass
1½ teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt & pepper
/ Raw Chilli Sambal
2 banana shallots - finely chopped
1 clove garlic - finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chillies - finely chopped
Half a teaspoon fish sauce
Half a teaspoon fresh lime juice
Drizzle of peanut oil
Slice each fish fillet in half lengthways, rub with the spice paste, and leave to marinate for up to 6 hours in the fridge.
To make the chilli sambal, combine all the ingredients together, then drizzle over enough peanut oil to just lightly dress. Season with salt to taste. The sambal can be stored at room temperature until you are ready to use.
Prepare the banana leaves by trimming into a rectangular shape, approx. 25cm wide x 30cm long. (If your banana leaves are smaller than this, you’ll have to trim the fish to size as opposed to the leaf!).
When you are ready to cook, wrap the fish by positioning a banana leaf in front of you so that its striped veins run vertically away, then place two slices of fish into the centre of the leaf. Fold in the sides, first one, and then the other, so they overlap in the centre, and then secure each end closed with a toothpick to form a little parcel. Do the same for the other three fillets.
Grill on a hot BBQ or cast iron plate, turning the parcel over once to cook the other side. The fish should be done after 15 minutes, but take a sneak peek inside if you are unsure – the parcels tend to open up a little naturally whilst cooking anyway.
To serve, place each parcel on a dish, parting the leaves a little more to show the cooked fish. Don’t forget to spoon over some of the raw chilli sambal, if you’re brave!