Auguest 2021: Maria Reed

Pepes Ikan (Fish in Banana Leaves)

“Explore food beyond borders. Travel around the world, delve into different cultures, learn from people you cross paths with, and create recipes you’ve never tried before.” — Maria Reed

Auguest 2021: Maria Reed

Hello Everyone! I’m Maria. My love for food can be traced back to my roots. I inherited it from my family. My nanay, inang, mama, and aunts love to cook. Having a big family gives us reasons to celebrate and feast most of the time. I never learned how to cook until I got married and had to find my way around the kitchen on my own. I could still vividly remember when I started; I’d ask my mom for her recipes, watch a lot of videos, and read countless food blogs. I’ve travelled, tried new cuisines, and discovered my passion in recreating dishes I’ve had or never had before. I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone and became a junkie – learning, creating, and tweaking recipes.

I will be taking you on a trip to Indonesia on the Flavours of Southeast Asia journey here on Amcarmen’s Kitchen. The dish that I will be sharing with everyone is called Pepes Ikan. ‘Pepes’ is a cooking method where food (usually fish) is wrapped in banana leaves with its marinade. It is first steamed which gives it an earthy flavour and then grilled or baked for a smoky taste.

Pepes Ikan (Fish in Banana Leaves)

The spices are mashed together to a paste and then added with basil leaves, Indonesian bay leaves, tomatoes, and peppers with fish. All are wrapped in banana leaves and sealed with bamboo sticks at each end. Pepes Ikan is often thought of to be a Sundanese dish; favourite among the Sundanese people in the West Java, but it is also popular in other regions of Indonesia.

Pepes Ikan (Fish in Banana Leaves) Ingredients

Pepes Ikan (Fish in Banana Leaves) Ingredients



  • 2 large tilapia fish
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 10 shallots, chopped
  • 1 pc fresh red chilli pepper
  • 10 pcs candlenuts, roasted
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste, toasted
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 2 inches long
  • 10 pcs kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • Bunch of Thai basil leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pc lime, sliced
  • 2 knobs fresh turmeric, chopped
  • 1 knob fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Banana leaf
  • Bamboo sticks


  1. Pat dry the tilapia fish with a paper towel. Rub with the juice of half a lime and set aside.
  2. Paste: Add the chopped garlic, shallots, turmeric, chillies, and roasted candlenuts into a food processor, and blend into a smooth paste.
  3. Transfer the paste into a bowl, together with the fish, lemongrass, juice of half a lime, shrimp paste, ground cumin, sugar, salt, and bay leaves (if available).
  4. Place everything into a pan over medium high and add about half a cup of water so it won’t burn. Simmer for 15 minutes, flipping the fish halfway and season as needed. Turn the heat off and let it cool before wrapping.
  5. Once the fish has cooled down, lay some banana leaves with the bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, lime slices, tomato wedges, and Thai basil leaves on top. Place the fish on top with the spice marinade, and top with more bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil leaves, and tomatoes.
  6. Seal the banana leaf with bamboo sticks on both ends and brush it with some oil. Place into a pan over medium high and grill, flipping until the banana leaf is wilted, for about 15 minutes or less. This process enhances the taste and aroma of the dish.
  7. Serve and plate with carrots and cucumber on the side. Enjoy!

Pepes Ikan (Fish in Banana Leaves)

Note: To make this dish more authentic, use bilimbi, also known as tree cucumbers and are known for their tart-tangy flesh, instead of lime and dahun salam, Indonesian bay leaves, instead of kaffir lime leaves.

Photo Courtesy & Recipe Copyright © 2021 | Maria Reed (@mariacocinera)


– Maria Reed


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