Ikan Kembung Masak Kecap: Indian Mackerel in Sweet Soy Sauce

Ikan kembung masak kecap is an aromatic dish of fried fish cooked in sweet soy sauce and various herbs and spices. No blending or pounding required!

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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.

Commonly used in South and Southeast Asian cuisine, ikan kembung, or Indian mackerel, is an important commodity for local fishermen in the archipelago. In Indonesia, this fish is abundant, and it’s usually sold either fresh or already processed into pindang (a preservation method through slow-boiling the fish in brine and spices) or cured with dry salt as salted fish (ikan asin).

Ikan kembung has a strong flavor, and its meaty, firm texture holds well during cooking. The cooked meat flakes off easily on the plate and the bones can be easily separated and removed. Affordable for most people, the fish has high nutritional value, making it a favorite in many households.

Indian mackerel can be cooked in many ways using different techniques. Ikan kembung masak kecap, or literally ikan kembung cooked in soy sauce, is one simple way of preparing it. 

Here, the fish is deep fried until lightly golden brown, and then added to sauteed herbs and spices and slowly simmered in kecap manis (sweet soy sauce). The array of garlic, shallots, galangal, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and salam leaf creates layers of aromatic flavors. Slicing instead of pounding the spices into a paste produces a lighter dish, but it’s still oh, so full of flavor! Sweet soy sauce lends a slight sweetness and depth, and the sliced tomato gives some acidity, rounding and lifting up the dish. And of course, a few whole chillies are added for the brave to crack and have fun with, to complete the enjoyment. 

Serve ikan kembung masak kecap with plenty of steamed rice. What a tropical feast!

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Ikan Kembung Masak Kecap: Indian Mackerel in Sweet Soy Sauce

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Ikan kembung masak kecap is an aromatic dish of fried fish cooked in sweet soy sauce and various herbs and spices. No blending or pounding required!


  • 500 gr Indian mackerel (around 4 pcs)
  • 5 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 cm ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 cm fresh galangal, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, removed the outer layers, bruised, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 salam leaf
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 10 bird’s eye chillies, remove the stalk
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
  • 200 ml water
  • Enough cooking oil for deep frying and sauteing


  1. Gut and clean the fish thoroughly, then marinate in a little bit of salt and lime juice or vinegar for 15 minutes.
  2. Wash the fish one more time over running water to remove the vinegar and excess salt. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  3. Heat enough oil for deep frying in a wok over medium heat.
  4. Deep fry the fish until golden brown (around 10-15 minutes), set aside.
  5. Remove the oil from the deep frying and clean the wok.
  6. Put 2 tbsp oil in the wok and heat it over medium high heat.
  7. Sautee the shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and salam leaf until fragrant (around 4 minutes).
  8. Add the chopped tomato, fry for 1 minute.
  9. Add water.
  10. Add salt and the sweet soy sauce. Stir all the ingredients.
  11. Add the chillies.
  12. Add the fish and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the liquid is mostly reduced and the sauce thickens.
  13. Transfer the dish onto a serving plate.


  • Deep fry the fish in enough oil to cover the whole fish.
  • When frying, do not flip the fish too often to prevent it from breaking apart.

Keywords: galangal, garlic, fried fish

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