Saturday, March 22, 2008

Ade's Ikan Pepes (steamed herbed fish in banana leaves)

Ade and I met in 2002 when we were both working for the World Bank in Jakarta. We were conducting research in conflict affected areas of Indonesia so we spent quite a lot of time traveling together around the country. She used to try and scare me with stories about witchcraft as we would drive at night through deserted villages - she succeeded most of the time. She left Indonesia for a while to complete her graduate studies in the UK but then came back and we worked for the same organization again - UNDP.

That's Ade on the left

Ade performing

Ade is also an incredibly talented jazz singer. Did I mention this girl is also a kick ass cook?

This is Ade's delicious ikan pepes recipe
  • Prepare steamer, so that it is hot and ready to go
  • If you want to grill rather than steam, use more layers of banana leaves
You will need:
  • Banana leaves (enough to cover fish fillets) - if you can't get these, I have used aluminium foil successfully (although it doesn't look as nice).
  • Your favorite fish (fillets or with bone) as many portions as you need.
For the marinade:
  • Ginger - grated
  • Juice of fresh lemon
For the herb paste
  • 2 parts shallots/red onions
  • 1 part Garlic
The amounts of the following ingredients are to taste - depending on the amount of fish
  • Galanga
  • Turmeric
  • Red/bird’s eye chillis
  • Candle nut (or kemiri)
  • Tamarind
  • Palm Sugar (or brown if palm sugar unavailable)
  • Salt
  • Thai Basil
  • Lemon grass (the ends well-bruised)
  • Tomato (crushed, seeds removed)
  1. Wash banana leaves and wipe dry
  2. Lightly and evenly grill the leaves over a low flame (maybe you could put in oven to soften) just until they are pliable and will not break when folded.
  3. It's important to use more than one layer of banana leaves - you need to have a few layers to form a strong parcel to cover the fish.
  4. After cleaning the fish, marinate in ginger and lemon mixture for around 30 minutes.
  5. Now for the herb paste - this can be done with a pestle and mortar or in a processor. It is important that the texture remains rough. Do not process until completely smooth.
  6. In your pestle and mortar or in your processor combine the following: shallots, garlic, galanga, turmeric, chili, candle nut, tamarind, palm sugar and salt.
  7. Once you have achieved a textured paste, add thai basil, lemon grass and tomato.
  8. Drain the marinated fish.
  9. Gently massage herb paste onto fish.
  10. Lay out the banana leaves, place fish on top of leaves and fold length-wise, fold in the edges to make parcel.
  11. Steam or grill.
This is sort of what they should look like - but depends on the size of your fish of course.

I pinched this picture from here


David said...


The Spanish for Breakfast Mexican is Huevos Mexicanos,(Mexican Eggs) or Deseyuno Mexicano (Mexican Breakfast)

Ewa said...

Thanks David! I've now updated the post with the Spanish name.