Recipe: Jimbaran–style crispy fish with kecap manis butter

18 May 2023
Recipe: Jimbaran–style crispy fish with kecap manis butter

Recipe from Lara Lee's cookbook A Splash of Soy – Everyday Food from Asia

Jimbaran is a 4km-long arc of white sand on the southwestern Balinese coastline, one of the island's most beautiful beaches. Brightly painted fishing boats sway in the gentle breeze as the sky begins to dim into glowing shades of burnt orange, when the candlelit restaurants and local family-run cafés spring to life. Perfumed marinades are brushed across seafood caught fresh from the bay, grilled for the holidaymakers that fill the tables dotting the shoreline.

In a nod to the perfect simplicity of Jimbaran grilled fish, this recipe uses a turmeric-stained garlic and ginger oil that is brushed onto the delicate flesh of the fish as the skin crisps up in the pan. A final brush of the kecap manis butter before serving adds a smoky depth so closely reminiscent of those sunset barbecues that, if I close my eyes, I can picture the floating orange disc in the sky disappearing beyond the horizon.

Serves 2


  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed, or 1 sp garlic paste
  • 5g fresh ginger, peeled and grated, or 1tsp ginger paste
  • ¼tsp ground turmeric
  • Flavourless oil (such as sunflower or grapeseed) or coconut oil
  • 2tsp kecap manis, plus extra to serve
  • 15g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 thin white fish fillets, skin on and boneless (about 250g-300g), such as sea bass or sea bream
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste
  • Ground white pepper, to taste
  • 50g plain flour
  • Lime wedges, to serve
  • Slices of cucumber and tomato, to serve
  • Sambal Oelek or Sambal Bajak (optional), to serve
  • Steamed white rice, to serve

Mix the garlic, ginger, turmeric and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the kecap manis and melted butter in another small bowl and set aside. Pat the fish dry and season both sides with salt and white pepper. Score the skin using a sharp knife at 1.5cm-2cm intervals, cutting through the skin only. Put the plain flour on a large plate, then place the fish skin-side down onto the flour to coat. Dust off any excess.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the fish skin-side down. Apply light pressure to the fish for 10 seconds so that the skin is flat against the hot pan; this will ensure it cooks evenly. Brush the turmeric mixture onto the flesh side with a pastry brush, coating the flesh so it is evenly orange all over.

Cook the fish for 2-3 minutes, or until the skin is golden and crispy; carefully lift up the fillets to check on the skin. Once the fish is two-thirds cooked, spoon a little of the kecap manis butter with a teaspoon onto the flesh and turn the fish over to cook the flesh side for 30-45 seconds until it is cooked through.

If your fish fillet is thicker (around 4cm-6cm), cook it skin-side down on a medium heat for around 6 minutes, or until three-quarters cooked. After brushing with the marinade and glaze, turn it over and then cook for a further minute, or until cooked through.

Remove the fish from the pan and leave it to rest for 2-3 minutes, skin-side up. Wash the pastry brush well and dry it.

To serve, place the fish on serving plates skin side up. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and brush the kecap manis butter over the skin. Squeeze over some lime juice. Serve with cucumber and tomato slices, sambal (if using), white rice and extra kecap manis on the side.

A Splash of Soy – Everyday Food from Asia by Lara Lee (Bloomsbury, £22)

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