Just when you thought you couldn’t do anything with salmon bones…
When fresh fish and Southeast Asian spices meet, the results are outstanding!
Ikan Pepes: Indonesian Spiced Fish
When I first visited Malaysia, one of the many dishes that stuck out in my mind was Ikan Bakar – a fresh skate wing that was marinated in a spice paste, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. The sweet and spicy chili paste, coupled with the smokiness of the singed banana leaf, permeated the tender flesh of the skate. Everytime we go back, I look forward to having this dish.
Here in the Bay Area, we were introduced to Bay Leaf Indonesian Restaurant in Sunnyvale. They have a dish similar to the grilled skate wing called ikan pepes. Ikan simply means “fish”. Pepes is the type of cooking process used: wrap in banana leaf, steam until cooked through, then finish off on the grill. Ever since having ikan pepes at Bay Leaf, I’ve been meaning to do this dish at home.
My previous post was about how the grilled pork tenderloin and nectarine-red onion chutney evolved over the course of the day. I started with the flavor profile I wanted first (Spanish, with lots of paprika) and moved to the ingredient list and finally cooking.
Annie had left me a couple of fillets of halibut that she wanted me to grill up after the pork was done. I wanted to continue with the Spanish flavor theme, so I did a lot of searching on Food Blog Search for “grilled halibut paprika”. For the life of me, I can’t remember which food blog post was the main inspiration for the recipe that eventually evolved. So I’ll say that I developed this recipe myself, and if any food bloggers out there recognize it as something they published, I will gladly give you the credit.
One of the more popular posts on House of Annie is the pan-fried tilapia post (which reminds me, I really gotta update that page and do a proper recipe for it). When I was growing up in Hawaii, tilapia used to be known as a “rubbish fish” because it lived anywhere (fresh water, brackish water, salt water) and ate anything. We’d catch it in the stream behind our house, let it live in the laundry room sink for a week to clean out and then we’d steam it whole with black bean and ginger to mask the muddy smell.
Nowadays, tilapia is becoming more widely used around the world, especially as frozen fillets become available in local markets. You don’t have to gut, skin, or fillet it. It tastes fine, with no muddy smell or flavor. Tilapia fillets have a firm, white flesh that lends itself quite well to lots of different applications.
Here’s a semi-gourmet, muy delicioso fish taco recipe using tilapia fillets that is perfect for Cinco de Mayo, or any day of the week for that matter.