If you like it hot, you'll love Peter Kuruvita's spicy seafood recipe. While the fish are cooking on the barbecue, prepare the fiery chilli sambal, packed with typical Indonesian flavours.






Skill level

Average: 3.3 (35 votes)


  • 2 whole trevally (about 2 kg each), scaled, cleaned
  • 100 ml pure cold pressed virgin coconut oil, gently warmed with 2 finely chopped long red chillies and set aside to infuse for 30 minutes
  • thinly sliced green spring onions, finely chopped
  • chilli, bean sprouts and lime wedges, to garnish

Sambal bajak

  • 50 g tamarind paste
  • 4–6 red or green bird's-eye chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 4 green spring onions, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • 25 g peeled galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 25 g peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 2 makrut lime leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 2 tsp terasi (shrimp) paste
  • 1 tbsp palm oil

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Infusing time 30 minutes

To make the sambal bajak, place the tamarind paste in a heatproof bowl and pour over 150 ml boiling water. Allow to cool, then combine well. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.

Place the chillies, spring onions, galangal, ginger, lime leaves, garlic, lime juice and salt in a mortar and pestle, and grind to a coarse paste. Add the sugar and terasi paste and grind until well combined.

Heat the palm oil in a wok over medium heat. When hot, add the paste, and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes or until fragrant. Stir in the tamarind liquid and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat and cool. 

Using a sharp knife, score the fish on both sides, making sure the incisions do not go all the way through to the bone.

Heat a chargrill or wood barbecue to high, then make sure the coals have burned down so there is no flame before cooking the fish. Brush the fish on both sides with the coconut and chilli oil, then place on the grill and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, basting the fish each time you turn it. (The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish. To check whether the fish is cooked, press it lightly just below the head. If it gives, then the fish is done.)

Serve the fish on a large platter scattered with thinly sliced shallots, chopped chilli, bean sprouts and lime wedges with the sambal passed separately.