Recipes from Brunei: Ikan Sambal (Fish with Spicy Tamarind Sauce)

Recipes from Brunei

Ikan Sambal (Fish with Spicy Tamarind Sauce)

Country: Brunei
Course: Main
Makes: 4 servings

For the fish:

  • 1 lb lean white fish
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 thin slice of onion, separated into rings

For the sauce:

  • 8 shallots
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 small fresh red chile
  • 1/2 tsp shrimp paste (Don't use this unless you are already indoctrinated into the whole shrimp paste thing)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Rub the fish fillets with salt and turmeric, then cut them into pieces (for large fillets you would want about four pieces each; just two for smaller fillets). Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Place the shallots, garlic, chile and shrimp paste (if using) in a food processor and pulse until you get a thick paste.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot paste and saute for about three minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the tamarind paste with the warm water and add to the shallots with the sugar and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes or until the sauce is pretty thick.
  5. Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and fry the fish on both sides, working in batches if you need to, until it flakes easily with a fork. Transfer the fish to a warm platter and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with the onion rings.