Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Hello Everyone! Tonight’s recipe is actually also a national fish dish in East Timor. As we’ve covered back in March when we travelled through East Timor on our Flavours of Southeast Asia journey, the country was invaded and colonised by Indonesia after they gained their independence from Portugal. Therefore a lot of their cuisine is also inspired by Indonesian culture.

I’ve actually never had Ikan Pepes before; I guess the closest I’ve had that’s similar to this dish is Ikan Bakar, which in English literally means ‘burn fish’. The main difference between the two is how the banana leaves are used.

Pepes is an Indonesian cooking method using banana leaves as a food wrapping and secured with a fastener made from the central ribs of a coconut leaf (known as lidi seumat). The banana leaf package containing the food is then steamed or grilled over charcoal. Bakar on the other hand is a charcoal-grilling method where sometimes a sheet of banana leaf placed between the food and grill to prevent it from sticking to the grill and breaking into pieces.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

Ikan Pepes is made by generously smothering the fish in a spice mixture. The mixture may vary among regions and places, but usually consists of a combination of shallots, garlic, chillies, coriander, tamarind paste, candlenuts, turmeric, galangal, and salt; all pounded together using a mortar and pestle, or blitzed in a food processor to create a paste. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves to not only protect the fish from excessive charring, but also to add a subtle touch of fragrance to the dish as a whole. The fish is then typically eaten with rice for a complete meal.

You can use any type of fish for this dish as you prefer, such as snapper, perch, bream, or tilapia, and you may also opt to use fish fillets rather than cooking with a whole fish especially for those who don’t like struggling with fish bones. Likewise, while the method of pepes is commonly used to prepare fish, other ingredients such as shrimp, squid, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms, or other vegetables are also available to be prepared using this method.

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves) Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 25 MINS | SERVES 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 red snappers (about 500g each in weight), descaled, gutted, and cleaned
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the spice mixture

  • 3 red chillies, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass (white part only), finely chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp raw peanuts
  • 7 cherry tomatoes*, halved
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh banana leaves

To garnish

  • Lemon wedges
  • Red chillies, chopped
  • Spring onion (green parts), chopped

*Or use one small tomato and roughly chop. I used cherry tomatoes because I had some lying around that were getting soft.

METHOD

  1. Spice Mixture: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, onion, lemongrass, turmeric, and peanuts together until it forms into a rough paste. Add the tomatoes and continue to pound until they start to break down.
  2. Add in the shrimp paste, coconut sugar, tamarind paste, and season with salt. Use a spoon to mix them all together until well combined.

If using a food processor, add all the ingredients together and blend into a rough paste.

  1. Ikan Pepes: Place the prepared fish, that has been seasoned with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper, on top of a piece of banana leaf, on top of a piece of aluminium foil.
  2. Stuff the cavity of the snapper fish with the green parts of the lemongrass and white part of the spring onion. This is optional as I didn’t want to put these parts to waste so I decided to use them in the dish as well.
  3. Generously cover both sides of the fish with the spice mixture and enclose it in the banana leaf, and aluminium foil.
  4. Place the fish over a grill and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes on one side, and 10 minutes on the other; a total of 25 minutes, or until cooked through depending on the size of your fish or method of cooking.
  5. Once done, remove from the grill and transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with some spring onions, extra chillies, and lemon wedges on the side. Serve immediately while hot with rice. Enjoy!

1898

Ikan Pepes (Grilled Fish in Banana Leaves)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

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

PREP TIME 45 MINS | COOKING TIME 10-15 MINS | SERVES 3

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

METHOD

  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)

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Auguest 2020: Jiemei Sisters

Nasi Kerabu

“The kitchen is the heart of the home” — Jiemei Sisters

Auguest 2020: Jiemei Sisters

Looking back on my childhood, I am flooded with memories of the kitchen: our pantry in which we would sneak into to get little chewy sweets called sugus, sitting at the kitchen counter and having a cup of Milo and some biscuits after school, opening the fridge and exclaiming in disgust after sniffing an opened can of beer. As we grew older, we would stand in the kitchen and help our mom with menial tasks such as mincing garlic, chopping onions, cooking rice (ok, this one is not so menial) and other things.

Without fail, every night our family would have dinner together. Sitting around the dinner table, chatting about our day, what we did at school, and what we might want to do during the weekend – food was something that kept our family bond tight.

After I left home, it would take about 8 years before I would be reunited with my sisters in the same city. This time, while chatting about anything and everything in the kitchen, we started cooking dishes that are nostalgic to us.

We grew up partly in Brunei and partly in Malaysia. Our parents were well travelled and adventurous with food (a trait that they passed down to us). We like to try and cook everything from scratch (as much as we can), to try and replicate that taste of our childhood. That taste that brings back memories of our warm kitchen, with the black countertops and white cabinets, the pantry with the treasure trove of goodies, and the feeling of warm familial love.

Nasi Kerabu is a dish that we used to get only during Ramadan and Hari Raya. I don’t know if it was sold frequently at other times, but this was the time during the year where our mom would, after an exhausting day at work, pick us up from school and stop at a “gerai” (malay stall) on the way home. Nasi Kerabu was always a favourite. It reminds me of a salad. But, a good salad. None of that wilting leaves drenched in balsamic vinegar and oil. A good hearty salad with substance. The blue rice, fragrant herbs, refreshing vegetables, topped with the Kerisik Ikan (fish floss), accompanied by a good sambal sauce, along with keropok (fish crackers) – oh man. This dish is To. Die. For.

Last year, I moved away from the city I called home for the last 10 years. So, when my sisters came to visit, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cook together. Because I live in the interior, we were not able to hunt down some of the Southeast Asian herbs that are essential to the dish, but we made do. And it was still so very good.

Nasi Kerabu Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR | SERVES 2-3

INGREDIENTS

For the nasi kerabu

  • 10 pieces butterfly blue pea flower (this is to give the rice its beautiful blue hue)
  • 3 pandan leaves
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 2 cups Jasmine rice

For the kerisik ikan

  • 1 mackerel fillet (we used the salted fillets that are popular in Korean grocery stores)
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/3 cup dried shrimp

For the kuah sambal

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp oil
  • 8 dried chilies (boiled in water for about 10 minutes)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large red chilies
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp lemongrass
  • 2 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • Salt, to taste

For the grilled fish

  • Mackerel (we love mackerel in this household, but feel free to use whatever fish you like)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp oil
  • Salt, to taste

To garnish

  • Bean sprouts, cut in half
  • Cabbage, diced
  • Cucumber, sliced
  • Keropok
  • Mint, finely sliced
  • Salted Egg
  • Snake beans, finely diced

Other garnishes, if available, kaffir lime leaves, torch ginger flower, banana flower, and daun kesum. These are more herbs that you can add. We had to omit them due to the lack of variety in the small town I live in.

METHOD

  1. Kerisik Ikan: Broil the mackerel fillet in the oven on high heat for 8 minutes. Let it cool down before removing the skin and bones.
  2. Toast coconut flakes in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until golden brown.
  3. Toast dried shrimp separate from the coconut flakes, in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until fragrant.
  4. Pound ingredients separately with a mortar and pestle until finely shredded. Mix everything in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Nasi Kerabu: Steep blue pea flowers in hot water for about 10 minutes.
  6. While waiting for the pea flower water to cool down, wash your rice. Clean the pandan leaves and tie it up in a bundle.
  7. When the pea flower water has cooled down, combine rice, pea flower water, and pandan leaves together and put it in the rice cooker and let it do its magic.
  8. Kuah Sambal: Blend shallots, garlic, chilies, lemongrass, 3 tbsp water and 1 tbsp of oil in a blender until it turns into a nice paste.
  9. Heat the 1/4 cup of oil in a pan and pour in the chili paste. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly for the first 3 minutes, and then every 2-3 minutes. Do this for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. The paste will start to pecah, which means “to break” in Malay. You’ll know it’s ready when the oil starts to separate from the paste. Sometimes it takes longer than 15 minutes. Your best indication to know when it’s ready is the separation of oil and paste.
  11. Add in the tamarind juice, sugar, and salt to taste. Then add in the coconut milk and let simmer for another 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and set aside, in the pan, once done.
  12. Grilled Fish: Marinate the fish with oil, turmeric, and salt.
  13. Broil on high for about 8 minutes. Note: this timing is for a fillet of mackerel. You will need to adjust accordingly if you use a different type of fish.
  14. Plating: Scoop the rice onto the middle of the plate. Surround the rice mound with your garnishes and grilled fish and top rice with kuah sambah and kerisik ikan. Serve and enjoy!

Nasi Kerabu

Like I mentioned above, this dish reminds me of a salad. Mix your garnishes and rice together. Top your spoonful of “salad” with a piece of fish and a little bit of the salted egg, and take a bite of the fragrant, harmonious, refreshing dish that is Nasi Kerabu.

Photo Courtesy & Recipe Copyright © 2020 | Jiemei Sisters (@jiemei.sisters)

BON APPÉTIT

– Jiemei Sisters

myTaste.com