Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Hello Everyone! It’s the last day of the month and also my last East Timorese recipe! I’m not going to lie, I did have a difficult time researching the country’s most popular dishes, but despite that, I enjoyed the dishes that I came across – easy, humble, yet delicious meals that you can add to your weekly meal plan!

As we all know, East Timor’s cuisine is heavily influenced by the countries that they were once colonized by. The dish that I will be sharing tonight, known as Ikan Sabuko, or in English, Grilled Tamarind Fish, draws on the flavours of Portugal. Along with other fish species, mackerel is a very common fish to eat in Portugal, sometimes on toast, for special occasions, or even a staple weeknight meal.

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko is a specialty dish made of Spanish mackerel that is marinated in tamarind paste, grilled with basil and chillies for a kick of heat, and then optionally served with a budu sauce to tie all the flavours together. Budu is essentially a fermented anchovy sauce mixed with a squeeze of calamansi juice, red and green chillies, and some sliced red onions. You can add other ingredients as well such as mint leaves and cherry tomatoes for extra flavour.

This dish really only needs a few ingredients, but it’s packed with lots of strong and bold flavours. You don’t have to use mackerel fish in particular, use whatever fish is readily available at your local fish market. Add this to your list of dishes to try and I promise you, it won’t disappoint!

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish) Ingredie



  • 6 mackerel fish filets
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Juice of 3 small-sized calamansi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Turmeric leaves
  • Basil leaves
  • Red & green Thai chillies


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, add the fish filets together with the salt, pepper, calamansi juice, and tamarind paste. Give it a good mix and set it aside to marinate for about 45 minutes.
  2. Line a grill pan with aluminium foil (about twice the length of your grill pan) and the turmeric leaves. Place the fish filets on top of the leaves, skin side up, and fold the aluminium foil over the top of the fish to enclose it.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until done to your liking.
  4. Once done, plate up and garnish with some freshly chopped basil leaves and some red and green chillies too (optional).
  5. Serve with freshly cooked rice and a simple budu sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)

Ikan Sabuko (Grilled Tamarind Fish)


– Ally xx



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