Balinese grilled fish, sambal sauce and sweet basil

Let’s face it, I have scribbled down recipes on way too many backs of receipts, iPhone notes, slash any other available surface – not to mention the amount of ripped recipe pages I have lying around the house, stolen from food magazines – so I love the idea of having a food blog. Brownie points for being spill-proof, and immune to flying tomato sauce stains while I attempt Indonesian sambal sauce. Viva the digital age.
I got this recipe from Bear Naked Food and completely botched my first attempt. We are sacrificing fish number two tonight to the altar of hope and hot chili.



1 large / 2 medium sized whole fish (about 600 g) – either Snapper, Tilapia, Seabass etc
Juice from 1 lime

3 candlenuts (buah keras)
4 shallots
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil

Basting sauce:
¼ cup (60 ml) kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 tbsp (15 g) butter or margarine – melted
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil


  1. Clean and pat dry the fish with paper towels. Use a sharp knife and make a few deep scores on the both sides of the fish. Spread the lime juice all over the fish to get rid of the fishy smell.
  2. Using a mortar & pestle or grinder, pound all the marinade spices together and mix in the oil. Cover and let them hang out in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat up your griddle or grill pan. Add some oil to make sure to prevent the fish from sticking. Gently put in the fish and grill until cooked. Different fish vary in different sizes so cooking time might differ. Mine took about 4 mins per side. Avoid flipping them over too soon and too many times to prevent sticking.
  4. When the fish is about done, brush the sweet sauce all over the fish and continue to cook for another min. Serve with your favorite sambal sauce.

N.B. I used a different sambal than the one included in the recipe gotten from Indonesian Eats


150 grams Thai red chilies
75 grams cherry tomatoes
100 grams shallot
50 grams cloves garlic
5 candlenuts (I used cashews – I heard macadamias are good too)
1 tablespoon terasi (dried shrimp paste)
1 tablespoon coconut sugar (gula merah, gula Jawa)
sea salt as desired
oil for stir frying


1. In a high heat, roast all ingredients except, coconut sugar, sea salt and oil in the oven about 15 minutes or until the aroma comes out to the air.

2. Grind the roasted ingredients until smooth but not too fine. It’s up to you to choose a traditional way for grinding the ingredients into spice paste. I chose to use my favorite helper, a food processor to do the job for me.

3. In a wok or skillet, heat up the oil and stir fry the spice paste in the vegetable oil for a few minutes, then add the sea salt and coconut sugar. The amount of coconut sugar can be added as some Javanese tend to have a sweeter taste than any other ethnic groups in the country. Keep stirring until the liquid evaporates and the color turns darker (dark red).


Serve the whole fish on a clean banana leaf, along with some Jasmine or wild rice and a few sprigs of sweet basil – place the sambal on the side for dipping. Traditionally eaten with hands, use fingers to roll a ball of rice, basil and fish before dipping for a blast of flavors in every bite.



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