Back to Bali: Banana Leaf Snapper with Coconut Sambal Salad – Recipe | Indonesian food and drink

meIt’s five in the morning. Niang (my grandmother) is bent over an adobe stove in her right hand a bamboo pole, freshly lit a fire. “It’s best to fill your mind with pleasant thoughts when cooking,” she says.

Maya Kerthyasa prepares ingredients with Niang Anak Agung Rai in Bali

Nang and I have been cooking together for four years now. Our conversations in her kitchen—a traditional outdoor pavilion with a wood-burning stove—are what brought me to Bali.

Before that, I had spent most of my life in Australia writing about almost every other cuisine under the sun. On my trips home, I’d head straight to cooking niang—its smoky rice, savory broth and flavor-packed sambal—and wondered why the rest of the gastronomic world paid so little attention to Balinese food.

I now understand why. Jill Niang has learned and passed on the knowledge orally, so the best recipes are rarely recorded on paper, and restaurants rarely have the time and tools to match the depth, complexity, and zing of Bali home kitchens. So the worn flavors have carried over into the culinary world, mostly undetected by chefs, food flyers, and hungry travelers. I hope these recipes change that.

Sambal Matah (raw lemongrass sambal)

This sambal is similar to salsa. Possibly the best condiment in Bali and each area, village and family adds its own touch. Slice the ingredients as thin as possible and use your fingers to mix.

Best Bali Seasoning: Sambal Matah
Best Bali Seasoning: Sambal Matah

Make 250 grams

150 g (about 6) red leeks (Asian)cut into thin slices
18 Tabasco Chili’s
cut into thin slices
4 lemon stems
White part only, thin slices
6 lemon leaves
finely chopped
80 ml coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons shrimp paste
little fried
sea ​​salt
to taste

Using your hands, stir the shallots, peppers, lemon, and lime leaves together in a medium mixing bowl.

Heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat for three to four minutes and pour it into a mixing bowl.

Let the mixture cool slightly and, using your hands, gently squeeze everything together to incorporate the coconut oil into the other ingredients.

Add lemon juice and shrimp paste and stir again. Season with salt to taste and you’re ready to go. It is best eaten fresh, not stored.

Godfather Timon (Cucumber and Burnt Coconut Salad)

This option number usually comes up on special occasions. You can reduce or even leave out the chili for a lower heat if you prefer.

Bright, refreshing and full of contrasting flavours: Timon's Godfather
Bright, refreshing and full of contrasting flavours: Timon’s Godfather

for power
220 gm toasted coconut
finely grated
4 option
Peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
sea ​​salt
to taste
4 lemon leaves
Cut into slices, to serve
juice of half a lemon
to serve

for the sambal
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4-5 red leeks (Asian)
cut into thin slices
5 garlic cloves
cut into thin slices
6 red bird’s eye chili
thinly sliced ​​(optional)
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
rolled into a ball
A small piece the size of a small galangal
finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt

To prepare the sambal, heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly to make sure nothing sticks or burns, for four minutes, or until garlic and shallots caramelize gently.

Add the chili peppers, shrimp paste, and less galangal and cook, stirring, until the shrimp paste is completely dissolved, and the peppers are wilted and the galangal is less fragrant. Add salt, stir again, then remove from heat.

Pour most of the sambal into a bowl, set a handful of sambal aside for seasoning, and mix with the coconut using your fingers.

Add the cucumber and some coconut mixture to a large bowl and toss together using your hands. Massage it in well but be careful not to crush the cucumbers too much, adding more of the coconut mixture until you are satisfied with the cucumber-to-coconut ratio. Cucumbers should be well covered but not too soggy.

Season with salt to taste and more sambal for an extra kick, if desired. Top with lemon leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy right away.

pepsi (marinated snapper grilled in banana leaves)

Pepes be pasih is crazy popular all over Bali, especially in coastal areas where you can easily get fresh seafood. For this recipe, I chose snapper because that’s what we ate and we ate. My mother also made this recipe using albacore tuna and octopus, which you should definitely try as well. It’s one of my favorite ways to cook seafood, the banana leaves contain all the moisture, the charcoal provides the smoke and the spice brings punch, warmth, and color to the dish.

Oh, surprise: Bali snapper grilled in banana leaves
Oh, surprise: Bali snapper grilled in banana leaves

serve 2

100 gm banana leavescut into sheets of size 20 x 22 cm
1 teaspoon palm sugar
100g coning base,
Recipe less
300 g snapper fillet
cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2-3 red leeks (Asian)
cut into slices
6 garlic cloves
cut into slices
1 long red pepper
categorized, cut
2 greeting cards
1 small bilimpi or green tomato
cut into thin slices
2 sprigs (lemon basil)
steamed rice
to serve
Orb Cucumber
for the above service
sambal matah
for the above service

Add the sugar and basic congee to a small mixing bowl and use your hands to massage them together until completely combined.

Season the fish with salt and add it to the base mixture. Transfer the fish to the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for three to four minutes, or until translucent, taking care not to let anything stick or burn. Set aside to cool, then mix with hot pepper. Once cool enough, brush the marinated fish with the leek mixture.

Preheat a charcoal grill or barbecue.

Lay two pieces of banana leaf on top of each other, then a leaf of peace in each package.  Put the fish on top
Lay two pieces of banana leaf on top of each other, then a leaf of peace in each package. Put the fish on top.

To make a banana leaf parcel, place two banana leaf pieces on top of each other, with the top (shiny) side of the bottom leaf facing the seat and the shiny side of the top leaf facing you. The veins of both leaves should go in the same direction.

Put a sheet of peace in each package, put the fish on top, and then put a slice of billimbi or green tomatoes and vines on top.

Fold one side of the paper over the fish, then fold the other side into a folded letter shape.  Fasten with toothpicks
Fold one side of the paper over the fish, then fold the other side into a folded letter shape. Fasten with toothpicks

Fold one side of the banana leaf over the fish, following the grain of the leaf.

Fold the other side of the paper into a letter fold.

Fold it on both ends and attach it to toothpicks or traditional bamboo sticks.

Grill the parcels over medium heat for eight minutes on each side – the banana leaf should char slightly with the fish steaming inside.

Carefully unroll the parcel over a bowl to catch all the juice.

Place the meat on a plate, pour over the juices and serve with steamed rice, a side of aurab timon and sambal matah.

Basic Koning (yellow seasoning paste)

The word “base” (pronounced bah-ocean) refers to a spice or mixture of spices. Base formulations are best made fresh, but you can make them in bulk and store in the freezer.

The traditional art of handcrafting your food adds a rhythmic element to the cooking. We also think it connects the cook and the ingredients on an energetic level, where the dish becomes a show full of love and intent. So skip the food processor (no matter how tempting).

Make 450 grams

15 cm piece of fresh turmericcoarsely chopped,
115 grams of fresh galangal small
coarsely chopped,
1 cm piece of fresh ginger
coarsely chopped,
115 g (about 30) garlic cloves
coarsely chopped,
1 red leek (Asian)
coarsely chopped,
3 candlesticks
Roasted and coarsely chopped
9 Tabasco peppers
coarsely chopped,
100 ml coconut oil
250 ml water
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Using a large mortar and pestle, crush the turmeric, baby galangal, ginger, garlic, shallots, candelabra and pepper into a paste. Most Asian supermarkets stock candles, and you can buy them online — or substitute their relative, the macadamia nut.


Heat the oil in a frying pan over high heat until it reaches the smoke point. Reduce the heat to medium, add the spice paste and slowly stir in the water for 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and continue cooking the paste for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until all of the liquid has evaporated and turned into a deep yellow paste.

Add salt and sugar, mix well and cook over low heat for another 10 minutes. Adjust spices to taste. It’s ready when it’s dark yellow in color with a bright aroma and strong, earthy flavour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

  • This is an edited excerpt from Paon: Real Balinese Cooking by Maya Kerthyasa and Wayan Kresna Yasa, published by Hardie Grant Books (RRP $50). Photograph by Martin Westlake

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