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Fried Fish in Sambal Sauce - Sambal Ikan Goreng


Sambal Ikan

Fried Fish with Sambal Sauce

© Dennis K H Sim, licensed to About.com

A great traditional Malay dish that is easy to prepare: simply dress up an ordinary fish with a spicy chilly sauce. Before it is fried, the fish is evenly coated with turmeric powder that, according to Ayurvedic medicine, has healing properties. This delicious dish goes great with boiled/steamed white rice. The sauce, or sambal in Malay, is excellent not just with fish but also with other seafood, meats and even hard boiled eggs. Make a whole tub and freeze extra portions for later use – then get the neighborhood talking when you serve this exotic dish at your next dinner party.


  • 1 lb mackerel, tilapia or red snapper (serves 2 as a main course)
  • 2 Tbsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Enough cooking oil to cover one side of the fish


  1. Cut the fish into half, if you find that what you have is a little too big for your wok or pan.
  2. Marinade the fish by sprinkling salt all over it.
  3. Then rub in the turmeric powder, pat it down and leave the fish to dry on a plate.
  4. Allow it to sit in the marinade for at least half an hour before frying. This will help the salt and turmeric penetrate the skin and flavor the flesh.
  5. Heat the oil in a wok / pan until it is very hot. Keep the flame on high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, it is time to put the fish in. Very hot oil helps keep the skin and flesh together and prevents the skin from sticking to the wok / pan.
  6. Be very gentle when you place the fish in the hot oil as moisture from the fish may cause the oil to bubble and splatter. A pair of long tongs / spatula will help you keep a safe distance. After about half a minute, turn the heat down to medium.
  7. If there is sufficient oil so that all of the fish is completely immersed, then there will be no need to turn the fish over. Otherwise, turn it over after about 2 minutes. Fry until both sides of the fish are golden brown.
  8. Place some kitchen towels on a plate. Put the fish on top of the kitchen towel to drain away excess oil.
  9. Serve with the Spicy Sambal Sauce and boiled white rice.

Parenting tip : If your children love fish fingers or fried fish, then leave out the sambal sauce, which may be too spicy for them. Even without the sauce, the fish tastes very nice and crispy.

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