Pindang Bandeng Kecap: Milkfish Soup with Sweet Soy Sauce

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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.

Bandeng (or milkfish in English) is a large toothless silver fish that lives in warm parts of the Pacific and Indian oceans. It is a prominent type of edible fish in Southeast Asia and is commonly used in Indonesian cuisine. The fish is popular due to its high nutritional value and tasty meat. In Indonesia, it is widely cultivated and the largest milkfish farms can be found in Java, as well as in South and Southeast Sulawesi. 

Pindang bandeng kecap is made of fresh milkfish and sweet soy sauce. Fresh milkfish contains numerous small bones which make it rather challenging to eat — and somewhat dangerous.

If deboned milkfish is available, I strongly suggest using it for this recipe. Otherwise, please be extra careful when eating it. If you wear glasses, always make sure to put them on, to avoid any untoward incident caused by the tiny but nasty bones!



Other than that, this dish is heaven. The harmony of flavours makes it perfect. The herbs, soy sauce, tamarind and the fish go together very well. The added chillies round off the taste. Tangy and yet deliciously flavourful. Keep it for the next day — it tastes even better. 

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Pindang Bandeng Kecap: Milkfish Soup with Sweet Soy Sauce

Pindang Bandeng Kecap: Milkfish Soup with Herbs & Sweet Soy Sauce

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood, Soups & Stews
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


This sweet, sour and spicy milkfish soup is light, delicious and refreshing. It contains a mix of herbs such as lemongrass, tamarind, galangal and more cooked with sweet soy sauce and chillies.


  • 500 gr milk fish
  • 5 shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 big red chillies, sliced
  • 3 cm galangal, sliced or bruised
  • 1 lemongrass, bruised, knotted
  • 2 Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam)
  • 5 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamarind extract
  • Salt to taste
  • 10 bird’s eye chillies
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 500 ml water


  1. Clean and wash the fish thoroughly, cut into two to three pieces depending on the size.
  2. Rub the fish with lemon juice or vinegar to remove the fishy smell. Set aside.
  3. Heat the cooking oil in a wok over high heat, and then add shallots, garlic and sliced big red chillies. Fry for about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the galangal, lemongrass and Indonesian bay leaves. Fry for another 2 minutes.

    Fry for another 2 minutes.

  5. Add the water.
  6. Add the sweet soy sauce, tamarind extract and salt. Cook the soup base for around 10 minutes under medium heat.
  7. Correct the taste. The sweet, sour and salty should be balanced. Feel free to add more tamarind extract according to your preference.

    The sweet, sour and salty should be balanced

  8. Rinse the fish under fresh cold water, and add to the soup.
  9. Add the bird’s eye chillies.

    Add the bird’s eye chillies

  10. Cook for another 10 minute, then turn off the heat.


  • Enjoy the dish with plenty of steamed rice.
  • Don’t forget to crush the chilli for an extra kick!

Keywords: Spicy, One-pot meals, galangal, herbs, lemongrass, tamarind

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