This East Timor Ikan Pepes is a whole fish cooked in a spicy curry and tamarind sauce. The fish is first steamed in a banana leaf and then grilled for that wonderful smoky flavor that only a grill can provide. Cooking a whole fish with the head on can be a little intimidating at first, but once over it, you can savor it, as it is mighty tasty!. Serve with some white rice for a lovely East Timorese meal.
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East Timor Ikan Pepes (Fish in Curry Sauce)
- 2 lb whole fresh Red Snapper or similar fish
- Banana leaves
- For Curry paste
- 1 Tablespoon tamarind pulp soaked 5 minutes.
- 2 Tablespoons warm water
- 6-10 large chili’s chopped (use whatever chili you like, I used fresno’s and it was quite spicy but delicious)
- 1 stem lemongrass only the inner part of the bottom 10 cm, thinly sliced
- 5 candlenuts macadamia nuts can be substituted
- 1 small ripe tomato
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon dried shrimp paste
- 1 Tablespoon finely chopped palm sugar brown sugar can be substituted
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- For fish pre marinade:
- 1 lime sliced in half
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Score the fish several times and marinate it with salt and lime rubbed into the surface.
- Grind all of the curry ingredients in a processor till they are smooth (about 2 minutes)
- Rinse the banana leaves and place about 1/3 of the curry in the bottom of the sheet of banana leaf.
- Rub about 1/3 of the curry into the belly of the fish.
- Ladle the remaining 1/3 of the curry over the fish and seal up the “packet”.
- Use soaked string as necessary to seal the packet.
- Steam for 20 minutes in a bamboo steamer
- I would highly recommend using a fish grill plate as the fish will be tender and fall apart easily
- Grill for an additional 6 minutes
- Unwrap the packet and serve over rice with chopped basil.