Grilled skate is a common hawker food found in the street stalls of Malaysia. Look for the ikan bakar—Malay for grilled fish—sign if you are visiting. These stalls normally serve a variety of fish for grilling but, by far, the most popular is skate.
This is a recipe from Kuala Lumpur’s famous Bellamy Road ikan bakar stalls which are cosily tucked away in a green corner behind the King’s palace.
This recipe serves 2.
- 1 lb skate or a fish, such as grouper, which doesn’t flake easily when cooked
- Cooking oil
- 4 pieces of large banana leaves
- 1 thinly sliced shallot or small onion for the dipping sauce
- A lime or lemon for the dipping sauce
- Marinade – For Blending
- 4 sliced shallots or 2 small onions
- 2 sliced medium sized onions
- 1 stalk sliced lemon grass – use only the bottom 3 inches
- 2 cloves chopped garlic
- ½ tsp sliced fresh ginger or ¼ tsp ginger powder
- ½ tsp sliced fresh galangal
- 1 Tbsp turmeric powder
- 1 Tbsp chili powder for chili paste
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 Tbsp lime or lemon juice
- 1 tsp roasted belacan
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
Add some water to the chili powder to make a thick paste.
Roasting the Belacan
Cut belacan into thin slices. Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the belacan slices slightly apart from each other on a roasting pan. Roast for about two minutes or until the edges start to brown. Let it cool down before blending. Note that roasting belacan this way will leave your kitchen smoky and with a strong smell for some time. Leaving the windows and doors open will help to clear out the odors.
Blending Spices into a Marinade
Blend the all the ingredients including the chili paste and roasted belacan. If it is too dry add a bit of water until everything blends well.
Preparing the Skate
- Cut the skate lengthwise into 1½ inch widths —the length of each piece is dependent on the overall size of the skate.
- Wash each piece with salt and water and dry with kitchen towels.
- Sprinkle some salt on every piece making sure that they are evenly coated.
- Rub on the blended marinade. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to let the marinade do its magic.
Cooking the Skate
- Preheat a flat pan or grill. A wok may also be used.
- Oil the pan lightly with the cooking oil.
- Cut a piece of banana leaf to fit the pan. If the banana leaf is a small one, cut a few pieces and place them side by side. Make sure the leaves are able to sit flat on the pan.
- Place the marinated skate slice by slice onto the banana leaf. Drizzle ½ Tbsp of oil over each piece of skate. Let them fry for a total of about 10–15 minutes, turning the fish so that each side gets cooked evenly, especially the side with the skin. Halfway through, you may want to drizzle another ½ Tbsp of oil so that the skate doesn’t dry up, but rather gets nice and crispy.
- The skate is cooked when the flesh comes off easily from the bone. Use a fork or spoon to test. The skin should be a little brown and crispy.
Serving the Skate with the Sambal Belacan
Serve the skate on a fresh piece of banana leaf. It goes extremely well with the sambal belacan. Just add some thinly sliced shallot into the sambal belacan with a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.
Enjoy your Ikan Bakar!