Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf
July 29th, 2009 77 Comments

Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf

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Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf Recipe


1 lb. red snapper (cleaned and scales removed)
A few sheets banana leaf (rinsed with water thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels)

Grilled Fish Sambal:

6 oz. fresh red chilies (seeded and cut into small pieces)
1 tablespoon toasted belacan (Malaysian shrimp paste)
4 oz. 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 lemongrass (cut into thin slices)
4 tablespoons oil

Sambal Belacan and Sliced Shallots Condiment:

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


Grilled Fish Sambal

Prepare the sambal by grinding chilies, shallots, belacan and lemongrass in a food processor. Make sure the sambal paste is well blended and smooth.

Heat up a wok and “tumis” (stir-fry) the sambal paste until aromatic or when the oil separates from the sambal 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 with water for 15 minutes and extract the juice. In a mortar and pestle or food processor, pound/blend the red chilies, bird’s eye chilies, and toasted belacan. Add tamarind juice, sugar, salt, and sliced shallots to the sambal. Stir well and set aside.

Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf

Grease a flat pan (I used a Japanese tamagoyaki pan) and then lay a few sheets of banana leaves in the pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil on top of the banana leaves and spread the oil evenly. Lay the fish on top of the banana leaves and add 3 tablespoons of sambal on top of the fish. Heat up the pan on your stove top over medium heat and cover it with a lid.  (Use a towel to cover the corners of the pan in case the lid is too small to completely cover the pan. This will ensure the heat traps inside the pan during the grilling process.)  Wait for 8 minutes or so and flip the fish over to the other side. Add 3 more tablespoons of sambal on the other side. Cook for another 8 minutes or so. By then, you can smell the sweet aroma of burnt banana leaves and grilled fish. Dish out and serve immediately with sambal belacan and sliced shallots condiment.

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77 comments... read them below or add one

  1. Pingback:Grilled Fish with Banana Leaf « Percuma Untuk Anda

  2. Suyen says:

    you just made me miss home 10 times more!! great food great picture!! i cant really cook.. but ur inspiring me to! I might try one of these tomorrow! thank you!!

  3. z says:

    sounds great! can you use a wok instead of a tamagoyaki pan? what difference would the pan make?

  4. This is my favourite – like it especially with sting ray!! Back home, there’s one Malay stall near where I live is famous for ikan bakar!!

  5. Valerie says:

    Bee, I will give you a hug for being so generous!

  6. Minh says:

    This looks beautiful! I have to try it at home soon!

  7. J2Kfm says:

    i like grilled fish or seafood the Portuguese style,
    commonly found in KL nowadays. even in food courts.
    the slightly sour-ish sauce is really lipsmacking stuff.
    esp if they grill them with okra, petai, or even sotong!

  8. thats my favorite ! :) awesome

  9. i love sambal (just cooked sambal petai last nite) & i love snapper! since i was a kid, my dad has been fishing as a hobby & often brought back kilos of snappers. saved us a lot of $ buying fish in the market back then. the way you’ve grilled this look so mouth-watering. would go really well with cincaluk sauce too.

  10. Lianne says:

    yummy, yummyy .. the grill fish looks very authentic and upon reading the recipe, I know that this is a killer recipe. Thanks for sharing :-) You´ve done it again.

  11. Ahhhhh….. looks soooo good. Any ideas on where I might find banana leaves in NYC? Do they come frozen?

  12. Tasty!!! Good job ……Thanks for sharing

  13. joey says:

    This looks as amazing as you have described it! Thanks for sharing the recipe with us…I’ve already saved it :) Great for those of us without a grill!

  14. Bee, You’d mentioned grilling the banana leaf fish stove top and this is a fabulously clever method! I was thinking that you’d wrapped up the fish and placed it atop the grate directly on the flame but that would have been one big mess.

    So if I were to grill the fish, would I wrap it in banana leaf and then put the packet on a medium-hot gas/charcoal grill? I think the cooking time would be a few minutes less.

    • Andrea, I tried it on gas grill during my Foodbuzz party last weekend, but I wrapped the fish with banana leaves and then with aluminum foil. The problem with my gas grill method was that the steam was trapped inside the fish and it became watery, and hence diluted the sambal, which wasn’t good, plus there was no burnt banana leaves aroma. The following day, I tried it over my stove top using the method in this recipe and it was perfect. If you wanted to use gas grill or charcoal grill, I would suggest still using a pan like I did. In Malaysia, all the “ikan bakar” hawkers grill their fish with a big flat pan, and then they lay banana leaves on top of the pan and beneath the fish…but not directly over fire. In my previous recipe, I did wrap up the fish with banana leaves and then secured it with tooth picks, and then grill over low fire. You have to watch the fire and ideally get a thin piece of fish fillet to make sure it’s cooked fast, so the banana leaves don’t get over burnt. Good luck trying!!

  15. Lily says:

    This looks delicious! Can you recommend other fish I could substitute with as red snapper is not sustainable in my area?

  16. Christine says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your precious recipes, sometimes I do feel like that… I want to keep my family recipes for my kids to “inherit” but I think if more people knew the special recipes, then it will never be lost. I will definitely try this recipe and let you know how it turns out! (sometimes one can follow the recipe to the “T” but the dish will still come out different!)

  17. ck lam says:

    I have my eyes stuck on that photo of yours. I would drive all the way to have that grilled fish, it just looks so tempting…moist and not over burnt.

  18. Cynthia says:

    I made one of Pepy’s steamed fish dishes the other day and it was so good. I’ve bookmarked your to give it a try sometime.

  19. Jenny says:

    I loved grilled fish as much as I love baked fish! Served Asian-style, I often serve it with rice vermicelli Chinese-style or in rice paper rolls Vietnamese-style.

  20. I am not that very fond of fish, but this picture of spicy grilled fish just looks so mouthwatering…! I just linked your site to mine if you don’t mind.

  21. taj says:

    never tried this kind of grilling before but it sure looks in the philippines we usually put some stuffing inside the fish like chopped shallots and tomatoes and other spices.

  22. Tuty says:

    The fish looks absolutely fantastic. I have to bookmark this and try your method… I don’t have the pan that you use. Do you think the cast iron grill will do (the one that covers 2 stove top burners )?
    BTW, your summer white party looks very nice.

    Thanks for sharing the recipe and ingenious method.

  23. Absolutely stunning. I’ll have to give this a try the next time my parents visit. They’re the only ones who will eat fish with me. My wife and daughters only like the deep fried in batter (Like the British) type of fish.

  24. Syrie says:

    Looks divine Bee. Really moist and the sambal must be so aromatic.

  25. kl_changs says:

    Bee, you’ve convinced me that it’s do-able : )

    Did u use frozen banana leaves? I haven’t tried them before cause they are so expensive. Seemed too wasteful, if not nice.

  26. Violet says:

    That fish looks amazing. I want it in my mouth now.

  27. Farina says:

    I shoudn’t have finished my portion of the steak that day. Until now im still thinking of the stuff tht i could’nt eat because i was too full. lol.

  28. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I have been craving for it since my recent Penang trip. Will make it tomorrow.

  29. misoriffic says:

    I saw sting ray wings at the local Waitrose (I’m currently in London) and I was ecstatic to make this! I used to have the sting ray version in NYC’s chinatown at Penang on Elizabeth Street with my family all the time and I haven’t had it in ages since moving out here. It turned out PERFECT!!!!! I had two wings that were about 360 grams and grilling them 8 minutes on each side turned out perfect. I did cut out about 20 grams of peppers from the sambal but it was perfectly spicy for me! I was all sweating and sniffling while shoveling more sambal into my mouth. My husband and friend ate it up as well and there was not a single bite left. I served it with coconut rice to offset the spiciness of the fish and it was perfect. :)

    I also wanted to say i LOVE your site! Ever since moving to London, I’ve been looking for recipes for all the food i took for granted as being readily available when I was living in NYC. Your photos are amazing and everytime I see one of your posts, I know what I want to have for dinner that night. :))) Keep up the amazing work!

  30. Myf says:

    Bee, this is delicious.. Recently, our cafe (near my office) changed the caterer, the new Malay food is real good, especially their ikan panggang and ikan bakar with air asam…
    Your ikan bakar looks good! :-) I’m game anytime for this food!

  31. sonny says:

    The dish looks ok but the best ikan bakar is still in Malacca.

  32. I just want to say thank you for sharing the recipe. I made it yesterday and it was so very good. The grill/smoke aroma reminds me of ikan bakar in Malaysia. The one thing that would make it even more perfect is the sambal balachan– can’t find calamansi lime here :( Grilling on stove top is a really great idea, now I can make this dish in raining winter time too!

    Btw, do you have a good recipe for acar (pickled vegetables and peppers stuffed with shredded green papaya)?… looking forward to more mouth watering food photos from you.

    • Yes, to me calamansi makes the difference in my sambal. That’s why you see I cannot contained my excitement finally finding them in the store here :) Stay tuned here or over at I may just have an acar recipe worked out in the future.

  33. cal says:

    well it looks like a good dish but i cant use this recipe at school so plz hepl me

  34. yvalerie says:

    Hi Bee,

    Absolutely love your site. Tried a few recipes so far, the anchovies nasi lemak was the best !

    just wondering the red chilli you mentioned in the sambal paste is dried/fresh?Prob a silly question but i can’t even tell the difference between onion and shallots 6 months ago!

    Thanks in advance!

    Val x

  35. RobNZ says:


    This is the first recipe I tried from your site. I can say that dinner tonight was awesome! I used the the hot plate on the bbq and it worked very well. I had a lid that fit over the whole fish too. Used some green and red chillies I had in the freezer so the paste didn’t look as red as the pics here. The flavour really reminded me of those open air restaurants back in Sarawak. This is the closest thing you can get to that.

    What kind of red chillies did you use? I used about 3 oz and that was spicy enough.

    Thanks for sharing! Will try it with sting ray next time.

  36. Min says:

    I am a home sick Malaysian living in Melbourne and my bf sent me this link (probably in hopes that I would try to cook this). Will definitely give it a try this weekend. Thank you for sharing :)

  37. Won says:

    Hi Bee!

    Just tried this recipe at home. The taste is so authentic, it reminds me of home. For those of you who haven’t had a chance to try it, TRY IT! You’ll not regret the time and effort spent to make this wonderful dish. This recipe is definitely a keeper!

  38. Aaron says:

    Hi Bee,

    Omg this looks so freaking delicious, drooling =p~ ,How would this compare to petaling street grill fish?

  39. Jaya Sharath says:

    Hi there,

    I found your blog totally awesome and want to try the above recipe. Just a small doubt. Hope you can clarify it. Can I use sauteed shrimp paste?


  40. Eklie says:

    Do I have to soften the banana leaves with hot water, otherwise the leaves will break easily.
    Also can I use an oven grill. Thanks.

  41. alia says:

    hi, is it just me, but i cant seem to find when u add the lime juice in the sambal (cause its in the ingredients list)

    thank u :)

  42. Amelia Chee says:

    Hi Bee, tried this for dinner last night. The smell was indeed pungent, burn candles certainly helps. I tried this with a sockeye salmon on a grill pan. It turned out delicious! Not sure why you did not recommend salmon. Happy cooking!

  43. Thanks for being so nice to share your recipe! Thanks for being honest about your reluctance hehe I was grinning when I read that part. Your sharing certainly blesses us all. I am in Melbourne and yes cannot find good sambal paste to use. I crave those foods from Singapore where I come from. And the instant pastes we find in shops use either palm oil or MSGs so I dislike buying them. I found stingray at our local fish shop recently. I would love to try your recipe. Thank you!

  44. Patricia Sarah says:

    I m too a recipie craze……thanks for this site….

  45. Wei says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I tried it yesterday and it turned out amazing! Will definitely cook it again.

  46. Mau says:

    thanks for sharing your recipes :)

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