Fried Fish With Sambal Sauce Recipe

Fried Fish with Sambal Sauce Recipe

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Marinate Time: 40 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Yield: 1 fish
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
731 Calories
49g Fat
15g Carbs
57g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 731
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 49g 63%
Saturated Fat 10g 52%
Cholesterol 170mg 57%
Sodium 7238mg 315%
Total Carbohydrate 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 4g 13%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 57g
Vitamin C 69mg 346%
Calcium 74mg 6%
Iron 10mg 55%
Potassium 2384mg 51%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

A great traditional Malay dish that is easy to prepare: perfectly fried whole fish with crisp skin and moist flesh smothered with sambal sauce. 

To get the fried fish to that perfect stage, however, two things are required: seasoning the fish and frying it correctly. For the seasonings, the fish is rubbed with salt and turmeric powder. To fry the fish, use enough oil to make sure that at least half of the fish is submerged. Make sure, too, that the oil is extremely hot before lowering the fish into it. 

The spicy sauce, or sambal in Malay, is excellent not just with fish but also with other seafood, meats, and even hard-boiled eggs. Make a whole tub and freeze extra portions for later use—then get the neighborhood talking when you serve this memorable dish at your next dinner party.

This dish is perfect with newly cooked rice.

"My fried fish was excellent—moist and flaky with crispy skin. I deep-fried my 1-pound red snapper submerged—except for the tail—in the oil (375 F), and it took around 6 minutes. Plan on more time for a larger, thicker fish. " —Diana Rattray

fried fish with sambal
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 pound mackerel, tilapia, or red snapper, gutted and scaled

  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • Neutral oil, for frying

  • 2 cups sambal, store-bought or homemade

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Fried Fish with Sambal Sauce Recipe ingredients

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  2. Score the flesh of the fish by making 2 to 3 slashes on both sides, the depth of the slashes midway between the skin and the flesh.

    Score the flesh of the fish by making two to three slashes on both sides

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  3. Mix the salt and turmeric powder. Rub the mixture all over the fish including the cavity.

    fish covered with salt and turmeric powder

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  4. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, for 30 minutes.

    cover the fish on a plate with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  5. About 10 minutes before cooking, take the fish out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Fill a large wok or skillet 1/3 way with oil.

    pot with oil, fish on a plate

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  6. When the oil reaches 375 F, it is time to put the fish in. Very hot oil helps keep the skin and flesh together and prevents the skin from sticking to the wok.

    pot with oil

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  7. Gently place the fish in the hot oil. A pair of long tongs and a spatula will help you keep a safe distance since moisture from the fish may cause the oil to bubble and splatter.

    place fish into a pot with oil

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  8. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to fry until the skin begins to turn golden. If the fish is completely submerged in oil, you won't need to flip it. If the fish is partially submerged in oil, flip and continue to fry until both sides are golden brown and the skin is crispy, 6 to 10 minutes total depending on the size of the fish.

    fish frying in oil

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  9. Drain the fish on a paper-towel-lined-plate.

    fried fish on a paper towel line plate

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  10. Transfer the fish to a serving platter and smother with sambal sauce. Serve at once.

    Fried Fish with Sambal Sauce Recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck


  • Choose a neutral flavor, high smoke point oil, such as avocado, peanut, canola, safflower, or sunflower oil.
  • Ask your fish monger to gut and scale the fish for you.

How to Store

  • If you have leftover fish, remove it from the carcass and refrigerate it in an airtight container. Consume leftover fish within 3 to 4 days.
  • To reheat leftover fish, place it in a baking dish and reheat it in a low (275 F) oven for about 15 minutes, until hot.
  • Don't discard those fish heads and bones! Keep them in a resealable bag in the freezer for up to 6 months until you have enough to make fish stock.