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Off The Grill : Sambal Stingray in Banana Leaf

June 21, 2017

In most cultures, stingrays are a delicacy but this fish is commonly cooked in most parts of Asia - either in curries, stews or barbecued. It's flesh is soft (especially in smaller rays), it produces a velvety gelatinous juice and melts off the bones when cooked. What's more, the bones are completely edible, and are almost cartilage-like and crunchy to the bite.


The 'sambal', or chili paste in this recipe can be used in just about any seafood you choose to barbecue - and is a family recipe from my boyfriend's mom (which means this is as legit as legit gets!) I've used this on whole fishes, prawns and sliced squids - all of which wrapped in a fragrant banana leaf and left on the barbecue to cook.


 Recipe makes 1-2 portions. 5 minutes prep time, total cook time 16-20 minutes depending on the size of the ray.




For the fish:

1 whole skinless skate wing ray or 2 medium fillets of ray

Banana leaves

Lime, halved, for serving


For the sambal:

10 medium red chili

5 chili padi

2 3-inch piece of lemongrass, white end, coarsely chopped

10 shallots, peeled

1 tablespoon tamarind, soaked in water, juiced

2 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoon cooking oil

Sugar & salt to taste



1. In a blender, combine 10 red chilis, 5 chili padi, chopped lemongrass, 10 shallots, 1 tablespoon tamarind water and 2 tablespoon fish sauce. Blend until finely chopped but not completely smooth. Add 1 tablespoon oil, salt and sugar and stir until completely combined.


2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium heat and cook the sambal. Stir often, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time to prevent the sambal from burning.


3. Continue stirring over medium heat until the sambal is dark red, thick and moist, and all of the oil has separated from the paste.


4. Cut the banana leaf into square pieces, enough to wrap the fish pieces. Heat up over medium heat to soften the leaves so it is easy to fold. This step also releases the fragrant flavor of the leaves.


5. Spread both sides of the fish with a generous serving of the sambal, and completely wrap with the banana leaf. You can use toothpicks to secure the sides so it does not open up during cooking.


6. Place the wrapped fish on a barbecue grill and cook each side for 8-10 minutes covered or until fish is tender to the touch. You can use an electric grill or skillet too.


7. You will know the fish is ready when the banana leaf is toasted, the sambal is dry and fragrant, and the fish is soft when touched. Serve warm with a wedge of lime.



1. While not everyone will have access to a barbecue, you can also use a skillet or electric grill to cook the fish.


2. The sambal can also be used on prawns, whole or fish fillets and sliced squids. Simply follow the steps and wrap the seafood in the banana leaf as directed. I like to add an extra layer of foil for prawns and squids so that it's natural juices retains and develops a more saucy sambal consistency.


3. If you can't find banana leaves, you can also wrap the fish in a baking sheet and then foil - I'd highly recommend using a banana leaf though as the fragrant flavor of the leaf adds a special burst of flavors to the end product.


4. If you are unable to find fresh tamarind, tamarind paste works just as well. 


5. Skate wing ray is preferred for this recipe as it is has the most tender and sweet meat. I've used a regular ray fillet for this recipe instead, as wing ray was not available at the time.

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