How to make Malaysian-style Sambal Stingray

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This well-known Malaysian dish may look hard to make, but it won’t take more than 45 minutes to make.

One the more popular hawker dishes in recent times is the Sambal Hotplate Stingray. Surprisingly, this delicious Malaysian main (called Ikan Bakar, literally ‘Grilled Fish’) wasn’t so popular in the past because stingray had no market value. It was cheap before. But with better cooking methods came higher demand, and prices rose, too.

Stingray may sound like a weird thing to eat; but trust me, it takes just like any flaky fish! Succulent, juicy and tender, it’s no wonder this was a hit among the locals. Coupled with some piping hot sweet sambal, this dish is a perfect main with white rice.     

So how do you make it? It comes to three things: Making good sambal, marinating it, and cooking the stingray right.

Sambal, oh Sambal

In our previous article, we discussed how to make the perfect sambal sauce. It’s crucial that the sambal is done right, but it can also be tailored to individual preferences. Too spicy? Lessen the chillies, and add in a bit more sugar. Not salty enough? Try adding a teaspoon of fish oil.

That being said, how it’s mixed up also makes a big difference: whether you mash it up or blend to use a food processor. For the best results, mash it up with a mortar and pestle first, then puree it in a food processor. You’ll find the taste and texture to be just nice.

As for the stingray, marinating it with the chilli allows the flesh to gain the sambal flavour. Another unique take is using banana leaves, which retains the juices of the sting ray while also imparting more flavour as you cook the fish.

Already getting hungry? Same. Let’s get to it! Here’s how you can make this restaurant quality meal at home.

Ikan Bakar, or Malaysian Grilled Stingray with Sambal recipe

Serves 2

What you’ll need:

A deep-welled Frying Pan with a cover
A pair of tongs
3 Plates to serve and season the fish
Mortar and Pestle
Food Processor
Toothpicks

Here's how to make it:

400 grams of
Stingray, or any white fish
3
Banana Leaves
2 teaspoons of
Salt
50 ml + 1 tablespoon of
Vegetable Oil
200 grams of
Sambal Sauce (Refer to our recipe)

For garnishing

1 whole lime
1 whole onion, Sliced

Optional:Additional Seasoning

1-2 teaspoons of Fish sauce or salt (for added saltiness)
1-2 teaspoons of Sugar (granulated, brown, or palm) or tamarind juice (for added sweetness)
Water (to make the sauce thinner)
1-2 Bay Leaves (for added flavour)

How to make it
Before you turn on the gas...
Make 200 grams of sambal sauce (see our past recipe for a step-by-step guide) - don’t forget to add the ginger. To make a less grainy paste, you might want to blend the mashed paste in a food processor.
Season the stingray or fish fillet. Lightly rinse the stingray fillet with clean water. Make a few cuts on the fin and season with salt and pepper. Leave it for a few minutes.

Once you’re ready...

  • Cook the sambal sauce and mix. Use 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to lightly oil a frying pan, and add the 200g of prepared sambal sauce.
  • Taste the sauce and season (sugar, salt, fish sauce, tamarind juice) to your liking. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a bit of water to make it thinner.
  • Marinate the fish fillet. Put half the oil and half the sambal sauce on a banana leaf.
  • Lay the fish fillet on the banana leaf, skin side down, and then marinate the other side with the remaining half of sambal.
  • Drizzle half the oil onto this side, too. Seal the banana leaves into a packet with toothpicks and marinade it inside the leaves for at least 30 minutes.
  • Gas on and cook the stingray fillet. Turn on the gas with medium-high heat, and then put the stingray and the banana leaf into the deep frying pan.
  • Cover and leave it for 10-12 minutes, then turn the fillet, cooking for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve on banana leaf. Once the fillet has been fully cooked through, place it on a banana leaf and garnish with some freshly squeezed lime, and sliced onions.

How did yours turn out? Even I’m surprised this is so easy to make. With the right guidance and ingredients, any dish is doable at home.

You don’t need to go to a hawker centre to enjoy this popular street food with family and friends anymore. Why not cook for your family and friends and host a dinner for them, instead?

Made this dish and liked it? Share your thoughts and experiences on the comments below, and don’t forget to like and share in Facebook or Instagram!

Read also: 7 flavourful Sambal dishes to satisfy your chilli cravings