Pecel Lele: Deep Fried Catfish with Sambal and Salad

A common East Javanese dish served in casual eateries and restaurants around the world. Fried catfish served with sambal, salad, and rice.

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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.

Pecel lele (sometimes also called pecak lele) is a dish originating in East Java. It is one of the most popular menu items in many warung tendas, especially in Java. A warung tenda is a small portable warung. This is a type of restaurant covered with a tarp or plastic sheet tent for roofing. These small warungs mushroom on the sidewalks when the night falls, and disappear before dawn. All kinds of food are offered in warung tenda! It’s a great place to find affordable and authentic tasty local street food and socializing and enjoying the night with friends. 

Pecel lele is a humble fried fish dish, served with sambal and raw vegetables. It’s simple, tasty, satisfying and pocket-friendly, making it popular for everyone.

Though pecel lele refers to catfish (lele is catfish in Indonesian), you can substitute it with any kind of fish for this recipe. The general recipe for marinating the fish is also not really fixed, nor is the recipe for the sambal. Pecel lele connotes, simply, a dish of marinated and deep fried fish served on a bed of sambal and raw vegetables. Thus, the spices used for marinating, and the sambal, can be slightly different from one person to another.


In this recipe, I am using sambal tomat to go with the fried catfish. The salad accompanying it consists of kemangi (Indonesian basil), cucumber and green round eggplant. You can use any other fresh raw or boiled vegetables as well. Kemangi and cucumber are usually served with pecel lele because those veggies are readily available all year round in Indonesia.

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Pecel Lele: Deep Fried Catfish with Sambal and Salad

Pecel Lele: Deep Fried Catfish with Sambal and Salad

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Pecel lele is a common East Javanese dish often served in casual eateries, as well as in Indonesian restaurants around the world. The dish consists of fried catfish served with sambal, salad, and rice.


  • 2 small catfish, around 500 gr total
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 4 cm turmeric, peeled, chopped
  • 3 candlenuts, chopped (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Sambal tomat and assorted vegetables to go with the dish


  1. Clean the catfish thoroughly, rub with salt and lime juice, set aside.
  2. Grind to a fine paste: garlic, coriander, turmeric, candlenuts and salt.
  3. Wash the fish one more time and rub them with the spice paste, and let them marinate for 30 minutes.

    rub the fish with the spice paste

  4. Deep fry the fish over medium high heat until golden (around 5 minutes each side).

    Deep fry the fish

  5. Serve immediately with sambal tomat and the vegetables.


  • Traditionally, pecel lele consists of 3 things: fried catfish, sambal and side vegetables. Don’t forget to prepare the sambal and the side vegetables while preparing the fish. 
  • The authentic dish is plated with a bed of sambal stacked with the fish and surrounded by assorted vegetables. 

Keywords: Common ingredients, non-spicy

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