Open food courts in Malaysia is a way of life, when we used to live there, there is no week that passed that we never dined in to one. It’s a great way to eat specially during dinners where everyone is tired and all you want to do at home is chill and relax, it is inexpensive as well and there are tons of selections. One of the ones we usually go to is Ming Tien Food Court near SS2, Asia Cafe in Subang Jaya and Jalan Alor Night Food Court in Bukit Bintang and once you are near the premises on any of these places the first smell that will welcome you is the aroma of this Ikan Bakar, that pungent sambal belachan and grilling seafood like Ikan Pari is really unforgettable.
During my first months there I totally avoid it, because the smoke alone makes you teary because of that cooking chilli essence infused in the air, but as I learn to eat hot and spicy food I started to try this dish. At first it was painful but my love of seafood prevailed over the hot chillies then bit by bit, week by week, I started to really like it and even crave for it, that is why after office hours I regularly ask my friends to dine at dinner time as the food courts mentioned above. Ikan Bakar is such a nice dish popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, literally translated as “burned fish”, where fish or any other forms of seafood is charcoal grilled then topped with sambal and served over banana leaf.
There are many variations of ikan bakar, where it differs from marinades, dipping sauces and spices, popular fish used are freshwater gourami, carp, pomfret, trevally, sting ray and red snapper. Today since red snapper is the most popular fish here in New Zealand it will be our choice of fish, its delicate white flesh is perfect for the sambal that we are preparing.
- 2 pcs large red snapper, scaled and cleaned
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large banana leaf
- In a food processor combine chillies, shallots, belacan and lemongrass, blend well to make a smooth paste.
- In a wok add the oil then sauté the processed paste then add the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and turmeric. Stir fry until very aromatic.
- Season your snapper with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- In a baking tray lay a few sheets of banana leaves and add a bit of oil on the top surface. Lay the fish on top together with 3 tablespoons of the sambal paste, spread the paste evenly. Place the fish on top of a preheated grill then cook for 8 minutes. Flip the fish over then add another 3 spoons of sambal on top spreading evenly, cook for 8-10 more minutes or until fish is cooked.
- Remove fish from oven, place it on a serving platter together with the banana leaf then serve.