|2 lb. whole red snapper (gutted and rinsed)|
|For Curry Paste|
|tamarind pulp (soaked for 5 minutes)||1 tbsp.|
|warm water||2 tbsp.|
|large chili peppers (chopped)||6-10|
|stalk lemongrass (thinly sliced)||1|
|candlenuts / macadamia nuts||5|
|ripe tomato||1 small|
|palm sugar / brown sugar||1 tbsp.|
|saffron powder||½ tsp.|
|dried shrimp paste||½ tsp.|
|basil leaves (chopped)||½ cup|
Ikan Pepes is a national fish dish in East Timor. Ikan means fish and Pepes refers to the method of steaming it in banana leaves, then grilling. Ikan Pepes is made with a whole fish cooked in exotic Eastern spices.
Directions for Preparing Ikan Pepes
- Use a knife to score the fish on both sides.
- Rub the fish with salt and lime juice.
- Set aside.
- Make a curry paste by combining the tamarind pulp, warm water, chili peppers, lemongrass, basil leaves, nuts, tomato, sugar, saffron powder and shrimp paste in the food processor.
- Mince for two (0:02) minutes until a smooth paste forms.
- Rinse the banana leaves in cold water.
- Spread a layer of the curry paste over one side of the banana leaf.
- Rub adequate curry paste over the fish as well as inside the belly.
- Place the fish on the smeared banana leaf.
- Wrap the fish in the banana leaf, securing it with pre-soaked strings.
- Steam the banana leaf packet in a bamboo steamer for twenty (0:20) minutes.
- Remove from the steamer.
- Lay the packet on a hot grill for a total of six (0:06) minutes.
- Cut the strings and unwrap the packet.
- Remove the cooked fish and set it on a serving dish.
- Serve Ikan Pepes with warm white rice sprinkled with chopped basil leaves
The cuisine of East Timor consists of regional popular foods such as pork, fish, basil, tamarind, legumes, corn, rice, root vegetables, and tropical fruit. East Timorese cuisine has influences from Southeast Asian foods and from Portuguese dishes from its colonization by Portugal. Flavors and ingredients from other former Portuguese colonies can be found due to the centuries-old Portuguese presence on the island.