Pepes ikan is pretty popular in Indonesia. It is also my preference of serving fish as it is pretty aromatic and I love the exotic and rustic look how this dish presented at the table.
I don't think there is a standard recipe for this dish, every household seem to have their own version of pepes ikan. The recipe that I use here is based on how my mom used to make it. I remember she loved to add tons of basil leaves for this dish. I used to hate it, but I really love it now. Sometimes she would grilled the fish after it being steamed, but most of the time she simply steamed it.
Indonesian Spicy Baked Tilapia Wrapped In Banana Leaves
serve 2 - 4
2 whole fresh tilapias, weigh about 1 to 1½ pounds each
Juice of 1 lime
1 quantity of basic recipe for Balinese spice paste for fish and seafood
4 sprigs lemon basil, or Thai basil if lemon basil is unavailable
2 red tomatoes, each slice into 4 slices
4 fresh kaffir leaves
banana leaves (can be found at the freezer section in Asian grocery store)
4 bamboo tooth picks
Preheat oven to 350 ℉.
Rinse banana leave under cold running water, pat dry with clean kitchen towel, or paper towel. Cut into 4 (four) pieces, about 13 to 14 inches wide.
Clean, gutted, and rinse tilapias under cold running water, pat dry with paper towel. Slash a few slices on both side. Rub with lemon juice of both side. Set aside.
Make Balinese spice paste, then divide it into 4 portions.
Lay 2 layers of banana leaves on a counter top, spread one portion of spice paste on top, add a sprig of basil, piece of kaffir leave, and 4 slices of tomatoes, then lay tilapia on top. Spread another portions of spice paste directly on top including the cavity, add another sprig of basil, and another piece of kaffir lime leave. Wrap and secure both ends with tooth picks. Place it on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fish in the same manner.
Bake in the middle rack for 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, and serve with steam jasmine rice.