Grilled Whole Fish with Sambal Matah, Watermelon and Cucumber


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


    as part of a meal, depending on the size of the fish

Appears in

Mr Hong

By Dan Hong

Published 2014

  • About

Bali has a special place in my heart because my wife is Indonesian and we were married in Bali. Whenever we are there we go to Jimbaran Bay. It’s quite touristy, but we don’t care because it doesn’t get much better than eating freshly caught, grilled seafood on the beach with sand between your toes. Sambal matah is a traditional Balinese sambal that (unlike many other kinds of sambal) is uncooked. In that respect, it’s much like a salsa, but a lot more intense. It is perfect with grilled fish or shellfish such as lobster and prawns. The sambal is quite spicy, so the watermelon and cucumber salad adds cooling freshness to the dish. Good fish to use for this recipe are baby snapper, flounder or baby barramundi. Ask your fishmonger to scale and gut it.


Sambal Matah

  • 10 red Asian shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced
  • 2 lemongrass stems, pale part only, very thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 5 small long red chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • tablespoons coconut oil
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) grapeseed oil


  • 100 g ( oz) seedless watermelon, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, seeded, cut into 1 cm (½ inch) cubes
  • 5 coriander (cilantro) leaves, thinly sliced
  • 5 mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 5 Vietnamese mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons nuoc cham (Essentials)
  • 1 whole fish (see intro above), weighing about 750 g (1 lb 10 oz)
  • vegetable oil, for brushing
  • lime wedges, to serve


Sambal Matah

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.


Toss the watermelon, cucumber and herb leaves together in a bowl and dress with nuoc cham.

Season the fish with salt and brush it with vegetable oil. Heat a chargrill pan or barbecue to very hot, which will help prevent the skin from sticking. Put the fish on the grill and, after about 4 minutes, carefully flip it over with a large spatula. It should be nicely charred. Cook the other side for another 4 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

Transfer to a serving dish and spoon some sambal matah and the watermelon salad over the top of the fish. Serve with wedges of lime.