Roasted Sambal Barramundi


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Mr Hong

By Dan Hong

Published 2014

  • About

This dish is inspired by my time eating in the hawker centres of Singapore. One of the dishes I always get is sambal stingray. I love the gelatinous quality of stingray mixed with the sweet/spicy flavour of the sambal belacan. This sambal is a cooked-down chilli paste, heady with pungent shrimp paste (belacan). The shrimp paste really gives it a punch that stands up well to the earthiness of barramundi. Other firm-fleshed fish such as (sustainably sourced) Patagonian toothfish, mulloway or flounder also works well. Prawns and squid work well too.


Sambal Belacan

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) small long red chillies, deseeded
  • 30 g (1 oz) candlenuts
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 cm (¾ inch) piece fresh turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 250 g (9 oz) sambal chilli with prawn (shrimp)
  • 100 g ( oz) shrimp paste in soya bean oil
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 3 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 100 ml ( fl oz) fish sauce
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) vegetable oil
  • tablespoons chilli oil

The Barramundi

  • 3 × 200 g (7 oz) barramundi fillets (pin-boned, skin off)
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • lime wedges, to serve
  • coriander (cilantro) sprigs, for garnish


Sambal Belacan

You may need to do this in batches, depending on how powerful your food processor is. Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor, except for half (250 ml/9 fl oz) the vegetable oil and chilli oil. Blend until a smooth paste forms.

Heat a large heavy-based saucepan over a high heat and add the remaining vegetable oil. When hot, add the paste and fry it for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chilli oil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, for about 2 hours or until the paste is dark red and the oil has started to split and rise to the surface. Taste the sambal. It should not taste of raw onions and garlic but instead be hot, a little sweet and a little salty.

The Barramundi

Marinate the barramundi with a tablespoon of sambal per fillet and refrigerate for 2 hours for the flavours to soak in.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F/Gas 2–3). Season the barramundi on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a large heavy-based, ovenproof skillet over a high heat, add a little vegetable oil and sear the fillets for about 2 minutes on each side.

To Serve

Spoon a tablespoon of sambal on top of the fillet, making sure it’s evenly spread. Transfer the whole pan to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. To test if the fish is done, insert a metal skewer into the thickest part of the fillet; when done the skewer will feel very hot to touch.

Transfer the cooked fish to a plate and garnish with lime halves and coriander sprigs. Serve with hot rice and cold beer.