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Barbecued snapper in banana leaves with sambal belacan

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for Barbecued snapper in banana leaves with sambal belacan

By Emma Knowles
  • 45 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking plus cooling
  • Serves 6
  • Print
Barbecued snapper in banana leaves with sambal belacan


  • 180 gm long red chillies, seeds discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 120 gm golden shallots (about 8), coarsely chopped
  • 80 gm galangal, coarsely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tbsp roasted belacan (see note)
  • 80 ml vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing (⅓ cup)
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • For barbecuing: banana leaves
  • 1 red snapper (about 1.2kg)
  • To serve: pineapple, young coconut and mint salad
Sambal belacan
  • 3 long red chillies, seeds discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small red chillies (or to taste), coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp roasted belacan (see note)
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with 100ml warm water
  • 2 golden shallots, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp caster sugar


  • 1
    For sambal belacan, pound chillies and belacan to a coarse paste in a mortar and pestle (2-3 minutes), transfer to a bowl, stir in tamarind liquid, shallot and sugar and set aside.
  • 2
    Process chilli, shallot, galangal, lemongrass, belacan and oil in a food processor to a fine paste, transfer to a wok or frying pan, stir occasionally until oil separates (3-4 minutes). Add sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, stir to combine, remove from heat, cool completely.
  • 3
    Lay out banana leaves on a work surface overlapping to form a piece large enough to wrap and enclose fish, then brush with oil.
  • 4
    Preheat a barbecue or char-grill pan to medium-high heat. Slash snapper diagonally in several places on each side and spread half the chilli mixture over, then place fish paste-side down in centre of banana leaves. Spread with remaining chilli paste, then wrap banana leaves over to enclose. Wrap in foil, place on barbecue and cook, turning once, until just cooked through (7-8 minutes each side). Open parcel and serve fish with sambal belacan and pineapple, young coconut and mint salad.


Belacan is a shrimp paste available from Asian grocers. To roast, preheat oven to 180C, wrap belacan in foil and roast (10-15 minutes). Alternatively, because the belacan becomes very pungent during roasting, you can roast it outside on an enclosed barbecue.
This recipe is from the January 2012 issue of
Drink Suggestion: Semi-sweet riesling. Drink suggestion by Max Allen