Ikan goreng, or deep fried fish, is a simple go-to dish we often cook when we want a simple, fuss-free meal. It’s comfort food for the Indonesian and Malay world, and is also sold in practically every Padang restaurant you encounter.
In Indonesian cooking, the meat or fish is always marinated before cooking. Marinades vary according to taste, and go from simple to complicated. The simplest version of ikan goreng would involve just squeezing lime juice over the fish (a key step in removing the fishy smell), adding salt, and frying. And then there are complex bumbu, or spice pastes, that are sometimes used, incorporating ingredients such as tamarind, turmeric, lemongrass, or galangal.
This quick recipe is a simple one, using a marinade comprising turmeric powder, coriander powder, and white pepper powder. I’ve used store-bought powders for this, which is fantastic because then there is no chopping needed. After marinating the fish, keep it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to make sure that the salt and spices seep in. A longer marinating time would infuse the fish with the flavours even more.
Unlike fried fish of the Western world, Indonesians usually either fry the fish whole, or cut the fish into fish steaks. We don’t fillet, and I’m not sure this method of deep-frying would work on a fillet anyway, especially since it doesn’t have batter. Pan-fried fish is also something quite unheard of.
In this recipe, I’ve used ikan kurau (threadfin), a very common fish here that doesn’t seem to be so common elsewhere. This is a very sweet and soft fish, and should be handled carefully to prevent it from falling apart. Instead of ikan kurau, you can use any other type of fish that suits you, as long as it’s large enough to be cut into steaks. Also, you might want to choose a firm fish like snapper or mackerel, as they’re easier to fry.
Deep-frying fish is an art. Make sure there’s enough oil in the wok before you drop the fish in, and don’t try to squeeze as many fish into the wok as possible. If necessary, fry the fish one at a time. Also, before frying, pat the fish as dry as possible with a kitchen towel to minimize splatter. The rule of thumb is, the drier the fish, the less the splatter. Once you drop the fish into the wok, try to stand as far away from the stove as possible just in case of splatter – the splattering of oil can be both messy and dangerous.Print
Ikan goreng, or deep fried fish, is a very common way of cooking fish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Here, fish steaks are marinated in spices, and then deep-fried in very hot oil.
- 300g fish steaks (4 small pieces)
- ½ tsp pink salt
- Juice from 1 lime
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 ½ tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp white pepper powder
- 30 ml water
- Oil for deep frying
- Wash the fish steaks and pour the lime juice over them to remove the fishy smell.
- In a bowl, add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, white pepper powder, and salt. Mix well.
- Add the water to make a thin paste out of the powders. Mix well.
- Pour or rub the paste over each piece of fish, making sure the fish is completely covered.
- Keep the fish in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
- Before frying, take the fish out from the fridge and pat dry with a kitchen towel.
- Heat vegetable oil in a wok for deep frying. Make sure the oil is very hot.
- Add the fish and lower the heat to medium-high.
- After 3 minutes, flip the fish. Fry for another three minutes.
- Serve the ikan goreng.
- As a rule, fish generally cook quickly, so 6 minutes per small steak should be enough, give or take 2 minutes depending on the type of fish.
Keywords: non-spicy, common ingredients, turmeric