Ikan Bakar Dabu-Dabu: Grilled Fish with Sambal Dabu-Dabu

Grilled fish is a classic dish — this recipe puts a spin on it by adding sambal dabu-dabu, or Manado chopped tomato and chilli salsa.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Ikan bakar dabu-dabu is a simple grilled fish served — or rather buried — in sambal dabu-dabu — a fresh salsa of chopped tomatoes, chilli peppers and shallots. It’s a dish typical of the cuisines of North Sulawesi and Moluccas, where fish are abundant. Though often associated with Manado (the capital of North Sulawesi), the popularity of the dish has spread beyond its borders and is appreciated by many people all over Indonesia.

To create the dish, there are two basic components which have to be prepared separately: Ikan bakar (literally grilled fish) and sambal dabu-dabu. In this recipe, we’ll explain how to make ikan dabu-dabu, and you can find the recipe for sambal dabu-dabu here. The sambal should be made before the fish, and allowed to rest, so that the flavours will meld nicely into a cohesive dish. It can be made a few days in advance, too, and kept in the fridge to retain its freshness. 

In this grilled fish recipe, I used white pomfret, as it was readily available and I love the flavour of the fish. Pomfret is easy to prepare, doesn’t have a lot of bones and the meat holds well when grilled. If it’s not available, it can be substituted with other kinds of fish such as mackerel, gourami, salmon, or anything available on hand, though I very much prefer using pomfret.


Preparation Method

Clean the fish thoroughly and sprinkle it with a few drops of lime/lemon/vinegar to remove the fishy smell, then rinse well under cold running water. Just before grilling, rub the fish with some salt. This is one of the simplest ways of preparing fish, and allows us to enjoy the natural flavour and sweetness of the fish without being distracted by spices or other ingredients.

Although grilled fish is tasty on its own, adding sambal dabu-dabu turns it into a magical dish. This extraordinary pairing results in a vibrant, invigorating flavour, bursting with freshness. The chopped tomato, shallot and chillies add tanginess and spice. The lime zest lends a citrusy flavour, balancing the sweetness and acidity harmoniously. It’s a genius dish!

Ikan bakar dabu-dabu is great for a get-together or a BBQ party. Cook it in front of your family/friends, and everyone will be wowed!

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Ikan Bakar Dabu-Dabu: Grilled Fish with Sambal Dabu-Dabu

Ikan Bakar Dabu-Dabu: Grilled Fish with Sambal Dabu-Dabu

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 16 minutes
  • Total Time: 41 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Grilling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Low Fat


Grilled fish is a classic dish, but this recipe puts a spin on it by adding a sauce of sambal dabu-dabu, or Manado chopped tomato and chilli salsa.


  • 500 gr pomfret
  • 1 lemon
  • Salt to taste


  1. Clean and wash the pomfret thoroughly, sprinkle the lemon juice and leave it for around 15 minutes.

    Clean and wash the fish

  2. Sprinkle and rub the salt all over the pomfret.
  3. Grill the fish over medium high heat for around 8-10 minutes each side until charred and cooked.

    Grill the fish

  4. Serve the fish with sambal dabu-dabu.


  • The fish will taste best when grilled over hot charcoal or hot cast iron.

Keywords: Spicy, Healthy, Quick and Easy

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