Ikan Pepes

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Impress your guest with this intricate dish, filled with tender fish meat smothered in spice!

Let's start cooking!

Blended spice paste

Step 1 - Blend and fry spice paste

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C on fan mode.

  • In a blender, blend 2 stalks lemongrass, ginger, galangal, turmeric powder, shallots, 5 bay leaves, 5 kaffir lime leaves, garlic, large red chilies, chili padi, ground coriander, candlenuts and ½ cup water until smooth.

  • In a pan on medium heat, heat up 4 Tbsp vegetable oil and fry spice paste for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and oil separates from paste.

  • Once oil separates from spice paste, add in gula melaka, 1 tsp salt and mix well for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pepes means cooking or wrapping food in banana leaves to give a pleasant fragrance to the dish.
Blowtorched Banana leaves

Step 2 - Prepare banana leaves

  • Place 2 banana leaves in the oven for around 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to soften them and evaporate some of the moisture within. They should shrivel up slightly around the edges.

  • Remove from oven and place banana leaves on baking tray overlapping each other.

If you have a gas stove or blowtorch, you can use those to soften the banana leaves.
Stuffed marinated fish with spice paste

Step 3 - Marinate and stuff fish

  • Using a sharp knife, cut 4 slashes on each side of the fish. Cut about halfway into the flesh.

  • Place fish on the banana leaves and spread spice paste evenly all over the fish on both sides, making sure to get it into the cuts as well as side the fish.

  • Stuff the inside of fish with 5 bay leaves, 5 kaffir lime leaves and 3 bruised lemongrass stalks.

Use a glove when you spread spice paste over fish to prevent turmeric powder from staining your hands yellow
Wrapped fish skewered on pandan leaves

Step 4 -Wrap and bake fish

  • Place the fish in the centre of the banana leaves. Fold the edge closest to you over the fish, followed by the opposite end.

  • Secure the package with toothpicks or skewers.

  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the oven, until cooked through.

You can use sea bass or garoupa instead of red snapper.

Plate and serve!

Baked fish in sauce plated on banana leaf

Place wrapped fish on serving plate and unwrap the banana leaves. Serve hot with lime or lemon wedges on the side.

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