Pepes Ikan by Petty Elliott. Photos courtesy of Petty Elliott/NOWJAKARTA

This dish is not as difficult to master as you think. If you don’t have to time to barbeque, simply put the fish in the oven or steamer and cook for around 10-12 minutes, or steam for 10-12 minutes. This recipe is not spicy at all. You can use bird’s eye chillies, known as cabe rawit, to make it spicier if you prefer. Serve with steamed rice and green vegetables or simply with simple mixed salad.


Serves 4

For the red snapper:

• 4 red snapper fillets, skinless and boneless, 150gr-200gr each
• Vegetarians: you can replace the snapper with tofu or tempe!
• Juice of 2 limes
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Banana leaves 35cm in length and 25cm in width (or otherwise, depending on the size of the fish)

For the chilli and herb paste:

• 5 curly chillies, chopped roughly
• 10gr ginger (peeled, chopped roughly), 10gr turmeric (peeled), 5cm galangal (peeled) 75gr (peeled), 2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
• 2 stalks of lemongrass, roughly chopped, using only the young/white part
• 4 kaffir lime leaves
• 4 tablespoons ground almond or kacang kanari, a local wild almond
• Bunch of fresh basil or kemangi, a local basil
• 2 spring onions, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoon cooking oil


• Put the chillies, ginger, shallots, garlic, galangal and turmeric into a food processor or chopper and process until the mixture becomes a paste.
• Mix the paste with chopped lemongrass, spring onions, ground almonds and basil.
• Add the oil, season with salt and set aside.
• Prepare the banana leaves.
• Season the fish with salt and lime.
• Scoop a small amount of paste onto each banana leaf stack. Place a fillet on each leaf stack, topping it with the remaining paste.
• Fold the banana leaves around the fillets (see photos), securing both ends with toothpicks.
• Cooked in the pre-heat oven with 180oC for 10-12 minutes or steam depends on the thickness of the fish.

Cook’s Note:

How to prepare the banana leaves

You can buy banana leaves from traditional markets or certain supermarkets. The leaves must be wiped, cleaned and softened first. The latter you can do by leaving them in the sun for 10 minutes or putting them in a big bowl or pan of hot water for five minutes before using it to wrap the fish.

Petty Elliott

Petty Elliott

Petty Pandean Elliott’s fascination for food and cookery goes back over 13 years when she began holding modern Indonesian cooking classes for her friends in the UK. Petty participated in the BBC Masterchef competition in 2001. In Jakarta, she has been an active food writer for the past 10 years and thus far has published 2 cookery books. She regularly collaborates with leading hotels and restaurants to promote modern Indonesian food paired with wine and local cooking ingredients.