Ikan Pepes

Recipe courtesy of Sarah Benjamin



  1. Make the spice paste by blending all the ingredients together in a blender jug. Add water to blend to a smooth paste.
  2. Heat up oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium heat, and fry the rempah gently, until fragrant and oil is coming to the surface. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and sugar. Set aside to cool completely.
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°C on fan mode.
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut three slashes into each side of the fish. Cut about halfway into the flesh, avoiding the bones. Spread the spice paste evenly all over the fish, making sure to get it into the cuts on each side, as well as the cavity inside. Place the bay leaves, lime leaves and bruised lemongrass stalks in the cavity of the fish.
  5. Place the banana leaves in the oven for around 30 seconds to 1 minute, just to soften them and evaporate some of the moisture within. They should shrivel up slightly around the edges. Remove and allow to cool.
  6. Place 2 banana leaves overlapping on a lined baking tray. Put the fish in the centre, and wrap up the fish in the banana leaves, and secure the package with toothpicks or staples. Bake for 25-28 minutes in the oven, until cooked through.
  7. For impact, open up the parcel at the table. Serve with some lime wedges


  • 1 whole Fish, such as Snapper, Sea Bass or Garoupa – around 1kg, scaled and cleaned
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1-2 tbs Palm Sugar, chopped (gula melaka)
  • 5 Bay Leaves
  • 5 Kaffir Lime Leaves
  • Stalks Lemongrass, bruised
  • 6tbs Vegetable Oil


  • 2 5cm pieces of Turmeric, peeled
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, outer skin removed
  • 2 5cm pieces of Ginger, peeled
  • 2 5cm pieces of Galangal, peeled
  • 8 Shallots
  • 6 cloves of Garlic
  • 120g fresh Red Chilies, stalks removed
  • 2-5 Bird’s Eye Chilies (depending on taste)
  • 2 tsp ground Coriander
  • 6 Candlenuts
  • ½ cup Water