Ikan Bakar: Malaysian Grilled Fish

Ikan Bakar, which translates to “grilled fish” in Malay, is a popular Malaysian dish that showcases the remarkable flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine. This delicious and healthy meal features a whole fish marinated in a flavorful blend of spices and herbs, then grilled to perfection over an open flame. The combination of smoky, spicy, and tangy flavors makes Ikan Bakar a true culinary delight. Whether you’re a seafood lover or looking to try something new, Ikan Bakar is an excellent choice that is sure to impress your taste buds and transport you to the vibrant streets of Malaysia.

Ikan Bakar: Malaysian Grilled Fish


  • 1 whole fish (such as red snapper, tilapia, or mackerel), cleaned and scaled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (or tamarind pulp soaked in water)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • For the spice paste:
  • 5 dried red chilies, soaked in warm water and drained
  • 5 fresh red chilies, roughly chopped
  • 3 shallots, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (belacan)

Cooking Steps

  • To prepare the spice paste, blend the dried red chilies, fresh red chilies, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, and shrimp paste in a food processor until a smooth, thick paste forms. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the tamarind paste, fish sauce, sugar, and a pinch of salt to create the marinade.
  • Score both sides of the fish with diagonal cuts to allow the marinade to penetrate the flesh. Coat the fish with the spice paste, making sure to spread it evenly over the entire surface and into the cuts.
  • Drizzle the tamarind mixture over the fish and rub it in, ensuring the fish is well coated with the marinade. Let the fish marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours for a more intense flavor.
  • Preheat your grill or barbecue to medium heat. Brush the grates with vegetable oil to prevent the fish from sticking.
  • Place the marinated fish on the grill and cook for approximately 10 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and the skin is slightly charred. Baste the fish with any remaining marinade during cooking to keep it moist and flavorful.
  • Once the fish is fully cooked, carefully remove it from the grill and transfer to a serving platter.
  • Serve the Ikan Bakar hot with steamed rice, cucumber slices, and your choice of dipping sauces or side dishes.

In conclusion, Ikan Bakar is a delicious and healthy Malaysian grilled fish dish that boasts a unique combination of flavors and textures. To fully enjoy this culinary masterpiece, it’s essential to use fresh, high-quality ingredients. When selecting a fish, choose one with clear eyes, firm flesh, and a fresh, mild scent. Additionally, using fresh spices and herbs will ensure the most authentic and vibrant taste. Ikan Bakar is not only a delightful dining experience but also a fantastic way to explore the rich culinary heritage of Malaysia. So fire up your grill and experience the delightful flavors of Ikan Bakar, a true Southeast Asian treasure.

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