Ikan Bakar: Indonesian and Malaysian Charcoal Grilled Fish

Ikan Bakar: Indonesian and Malaysian Charcoal Grilled Fish

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 2 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
1146 Calories
71g Fat
73g Carbs
68g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving
Calories 1146
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 71g 91%
Saturated Fat 7g 33%
Cholesterol 135mg 45%
Sodium 1206mg 52%
Total Carbohydrate 73g 26%
Dietary Fiber 12g 43%
Total Sugars 26g
Protein 68g
Vitamin C 46mg 229%
Calcium 188mg 14%
Iron 11mg 59%
Potassium 2276mg 48%
*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.)

Ikan bakar is charcoal-grilled fish in Indonesia and Malaysia. The fish is seasoned with a spice marinade then wrapped in banana leaves before being laid on the hot grill. The banana leaves keep the fish from sticking to the grill, keep the moisture in and give the food a distinct sweet herby aroma. While charcoal grilling gives the dish a wonderful smoky flavor, it is also possible to use a gas grill or even a stovetop grill.

Grilled skate is a common hawker food found in the street stalls of Malaysia. Look for the ikan bakar sign if you are visiting. These stalls normally serve a variety of fish for grilling but, by far, the most popular is skate.

This is a recipe from Kuala Lumpur’s famous Bellamy Road ikan bakar stalls which are cozily tucked away in a green corner behind the King’s palace.

Ingredients

For the Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon belacan

  • 4 shallots, sliced, or 2 small onions

  • 2 medium onions, sliced

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced, use only the bottom 3 inches

  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, sliced fresh or 1/4 tsp ginger powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon galangal, sliced, fresh

  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil

  • 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the Fish:

  • 1 pound skate or a fish, such as grouper, which doesn't flake easily when cooked

  • Kosher salt

  • 8 tablespoons oil, cooking

  • 4 pieces of large banana leaves

  • 1 thinly sliced shallot or small onion for the dipping sauce

  • 1 lime or lemon for the dipping sauce

Steps to Make It

Make the Marinade

  1. Gather the ingredients. Pre-heat oven to 450 F.

    Marinade ingredients

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Place chili powder in a small bowl, and add some water to the chili powder to make a thick paste.

    chili paste in a bowl

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Chop the belacan into small pieces.

    Chop the belacan into small pieces

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Place the belacan slices slightly apart from each other on a roasting pan.

    belacan slices on a baking sheet

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Roast for about two minutes or until the edges start to brown. Let it cool down before blending. Note that roasting belacan this way will leave your kitchen smoky and with a strong smell for some time. Leaving the windows and doors open will help to clear out the odors.

    belacan slices on a baking sheet

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. Place chili paste, roasted belacan, and all other marinade ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. If it is too dry, add a bit of water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until everything blends well.

    paste made from chili paste, roasted belacan, and all other marinade ingredients

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Preparing the Fish

  1. Gather the remaining ingredients.

    fish ingredients

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Cut the fish lengthwise into 1 1/2 inch widths—the length of each piece is dependent on the overall size.

    cut the fish into long pieces

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Rinse each piece and pat dry with kitchen towels.

    wash and dry the fish with a paper towel

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Sprinkle some kosher salt on every piece making sure that they are evenly coated.

    salted fish on a plate

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Rub on the blended marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to let the marinade do its magic.

    fish and marinade in a baking dish covered with plastic wrap

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Grilling the Fish

  1. Preheat a flat pan or grill. A wok may also be used.

    preheat the grill

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Oil the pan lightly with the cooking oil.

    oil the grill

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Cut a piece of banana leaf to fit the pan. If the banana leaf is a small one, cut a few pieces and place them side by side. Make sure the leaves are able to sit flat on the pan.

    banana leaves on a grill

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Place the marinated fish slice by slice onto the banana leaf. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of oil over each piece of fish. Let them fry for a total of about 10 to 15 minutes, turning the fish so that each side gets cooked evenly (especially the side with the skin if your fish has it). Halfway through, you may want to drizzle another 1/2 tablespoon of oil so that the fish doesn’t dry up, but rather gets nice and crispy.

    fish cooking on a banana leaves on a grill

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. The fish is cooked when the flesh comes off easily from the bone. Use a fork or spoon to test.

    Ikan Bakar: Indonesian and Malaysian Charcoal Grilled Fish

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Serve With the Sambal Belacan

Serve the fish on a fresh piece of banana leaf. It goes extremely well with the sambal belacan. Just add some thinly sliced shallot into the sambal belacan with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.