Tongkol Cabe Ijo: Mackerel Tuna with Green Chillies

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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.

Tongkol cabe ijo is a dish made of fried mackerel tuna as the main ingredient. It is sautéed in green chillies and other spices; it’s typical Indonesian home cooking. It’s the kind of dish that will rescue home cooks when they run out of ideas on what to serve. This recipe, with a base of green chillies, is a no-frills formula that never fails to awaken the appetite — especially for chilli lovers.

This recipe uses ikan tongkol (tongkol fish, or mackerel tuna), but it can be substituted with any other protein. The green chillies go really well with almost everything, such as meat, seafood, salted fish, smoked meat, and even tofu or tempeh. Another piece of good news: if the green chillies are not available, red chillies can be used instead. Doing that will alter the name from cabe ijo (green chillies) to cabe merah (red chillies). But the level of tastiness remains the same! 


This dish is sharp and spicy from the ginger and chillies. It has a tinge of sweetness from the sweet soy sauce. The green tomatoes lend freshness and make the dish lighter with a hint of sourness. For some reason, the dish reminds me that Indonesia is an archipelago! It makes me dream of eating tongkol cabe ijo wrapped in banana leaf, somewhere on an island. This is  a dish that reminds me of my long overdue vacation.

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Tongkol Cabe Ijo: Mackerel Tuna with Green Chillies

Tongkol Cabe Ijo: Mackerel Tuna with Green Chillies

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Fish & Seafood
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Halal


Tongkol cabe ijo is a household favourite, consisting of fried mackerel tuna that’s then sauteed in a mix of green chillies, green tomatoes, shallots, and fresh Indonesian herbs.


  • 500 gr mackerel 
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 8 shallots, peeled 
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled 
  • 4 big green chillies 
  • 5 small green chillies 
  • 2 small green tomatoes 
  • 2 cm galangal 
  • 2 cm ginger, peeled 
  • 2 salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves)
  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 0.5 cup water
  • Oil for deep frying and sautéing

Tongkol Cabe Ijo ingredients


  1. Clean and wash the fish thoroughly, cut into 3 or 4 pieces depending on the size, then sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.
  2. Thinly slice: shallots, garlic, chillies, green tomatoes, ginger and galangal. Set aside.
  3. Deep fry the fish until golden brown (around 4 minutes each side), set aside.Deep fry the fish


  4. Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok over medium heat, and sauté the shallots and garlic for around 2 minutes until fragrant.
  5. Add the green chillies, galangal, ginger and salam leaves, and fry for another 3 minutes.Add the green chillies, galangal, ginger and salam leaves


  6. Add water, salt and sweet soy sauce.
  7. Add the fish, mix it with other ingredients.Add the fish and mix well


  8. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  9. Add the green tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.Add the green tomatoes


  10. Turn off the heat and transfer the dish to a serving plate.

    Serve on a plate!


  • If big red chillies are used instead of green chillies, the green tomatoes should be substituted with red tomatoes as well.

Keywords: Spicy, Green tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves

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