Spicy fish

Spicy fish

Sambal goreng Ikan

Cooking from memory
Mark Roper

This dish (in which ‘ikan’ means ‘fish’) can also be made with chicken, tender veal or eggs. A sambal goreng (spicy fried dish) is usually made medium–hot with chillies (or pepper if preferred). Serve with white rice.


Quantity Ingredient
400g rockling, cut into thirds or quartered
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bulb lemongrass, crushed
or 3 kaffir lime or salam leaves
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
hot water or fish stock
1 tablespoon tamarind juice or lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons coconut milk
salt, to taste
palm sugar, to taste


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons tamarind juice
1/2 tablespoon salt

Basic Paste (Bumbu)

Quantity Ingredient
3 garlic cloves
1cm piece ginger, finely sliced
1 tablespoon chilli paste
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
or 1 tablespoon tamarind juice
5 candlenuts


  1. Marinate the fish for 1 hour in the marinade. This will remove any unpleasant fishy smell or taste.
  2. To make the paste, grind the garlic, ginger, chilli paste, tomato paste and candlenuts in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan until it shows a slight haze but isn’t smoking. Sauté the onion until softened. Reduce the heat to low, add the paste and lemongrass (you can use lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and salam leaves but use half quantities in this case) while stirring gently, adding a little water to prevent burning. Fry gently until the oil separates out and the fragrance is released.
  4. Dry-fry the coriander seeds and grind to a powder. Mix the coriander and turmeric with a little hot water to make a wet paste and add to the saucepan. Add a little more water to the sauce, but avoid adding too much – keep the sauce thick.
  5. Add the fish, without the marinade, and simmer over a low heat, taking care not to break up the fish. Add the tamarind juice and coconut milk and stir gently. Do not cover the saucepan once the coconut milk has been added. Simmer for 5 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Add salt and palm sugar. The dish is ready when the oil is diminished and the sauce coats the spoon.
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