Drying fish is a way of preserving it at a time of plenty, to be used when there are less fish being caught. Throughout Asia dried fish are a delicacy highly sought after. Serve this Indonesian recipe as part of a shared meal.






Skill level

Average: 4.3 (22 votes)


  • 2 dried groper or barramundi, around 400 g each
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable oil
  • steamed rice, lime wedges and chopped fresh chilli, to serve


  • 5 candlenuts
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 cm knob ginger, peeled
  • 3 red Asian shallots, peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 6 red bird's-eye chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp grated palm sugar
  • 2 tsp terasi (shrimp paste)
  • 100 ml tamarind water (see Note)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) 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.


To reconstitute the dried fish, place it in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Stand until the water is cool, then drain, rinse and pat dry.

Meanwhile, for the sambal, grind all the ingredients except the palm oil in a mortar and pestle until a coarse paste forms. Heat the palm oil in a wok over medium heat, and cook the sambal for about 10 minutes or until thick and pulpy. Remove from the heat and cool. Makes about ½ cup.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan or wok to 190°C. Deep-fry the fish, in batches if necessary, until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel. Serve with steamed rice, sambal, lime wedges and chopped chilli.


• To make tamarind water, place 50 g 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.