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Ikan Bakar: Hawker favourite fresh from the home kitchen

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Grilled fish with banana leaf is another Penang speciality you can now enjoy at home. (Rasa Malaysia pic)

This version of grilled fish in banana leaf comes from Penang, considered by many to be the country’s food capital.

Most people would know this dish as ikan bakar or ikan panggang, a hawker favourite all over the country.

Imagine fresh fish marinated with sambal, wrapped with banana leaves and grilled to perfection. Makes the mouth water.

Ingredients

  • 450 g red snapper, cleaned and scales removed
  • A few whole banana leaves, rinsed thoroughly and patted dry

Grilled fish sambal:

  • 170 g fresh red chilies, seeded and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon toasted belacan
  • 115 g shallots
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 lime, extract juice
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced thinly
  • 4 tablespoons oil

Sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment:

  • 3 red chilies, seeded
  • 2 bird’s eye chilies, seeded, (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted belacan
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 8 tablespoons water + tamarind pulp, size of a small ping pong ball

Method

Grilled fish sambal:

  • Prepare the sambal by grinding the chillies, shallots, belacan and lemongrass in a food processor. Make sure it is well blended and smooth.
  • Stir-fry the sambal in a wok until it is aromatic or when the oil separates from the paste. Add the seasonings: salt, sugar and fish sauce and do a quick stir, dish out and set aside.

Sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment:

  • Soak the tamarind pulp in water for 15 minutes and extract the juice.
  • With a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound/blend the red chillies, bird’s eye chilies and toasted belacan. Add tamarind juice, sugar, salt, and sliced shallots. Stir well and set aside.

Grilled fish in banana leaf:

  • Grease a flat pan and line it with banana leaves. Then spread 1 tablespoon of cooking oil evenly on the leaves.
  • Lay the fish on the banana leaves and spread three tablespoons of sambal on top.
  • Place the pan over medium heat and cover it with a lid. Use a towel to seal in the heat during the grilling process.
Use a towel to seal the heat in during the grilling process.
  • Grill for eight minutes or so and flip the fish over. Spread three more tablespoons of sambal on the other side and grill for another eight minutes or so.
  • Dish out and serve immediately with sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment.

Tip: Grilled fish in banana leaves can also be cooked on a barbecue. Instead of placing it in a pan, wrap the fish well in the greased banana leaves and place them directly on the grill.

This recipe first appeared in Rasa Malaysia

Low Bee Yinn is a food blogger and cookbook author.

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