Pindang Bandeng (Indonesia Traditional Milk Fish Soup in Sweet Soy Sauce)


This is one of my mom’s signature dish. She used to cook this as this is one of a favorite dish in our family. The sweet and sour taste of the soup is really delicious especially when it is hot. I love milk fish because it will taste good no matter how you cook it.

This soup tastes really different than the usual clear fish soup. Even though I rarely eat fish and I don’t eat fish soup, but I do not say no to a good milk fish soup like the ones my mom made all this time.

I’ve tried several times making this dish, but the taste didn’t even come close to the ones that my mom made. Well, I only copied the ingredients, but apparently I didn’t pay close attention on how to make it. The trick is not to use much water when cooking all the spices and then the fish. This to ensure that we’ll get a good and delicious fish broth, then we can add water for the soup later on. Plus, we also have to cook in low heat for several hours to release all the flavors in the soup. And one more thing, don’t forget to charring (bakar di atas kompor) some of the spices to make a good broth. So, the secret to this soup are the broth, and then the freshness of the fish.

This dish is using bilimbi or belimbing wuluh in Bahasa Indonesia, which is a common cooking ingredient used in Indonesian dish. We can easily get this fruit almost everywhere. I remember when my mom wanted to cook a dish with this fruit, she just asked our neighbors who had the trees with lost of bilimbi fruits. This fruit tastes very sour, but when it is already cooked, it will give extra yummy flavor that is hard to describe to the dish. We usually add this fruit when we cook fish soup as it helps removing the fishy flavor.

Since my mom couldn’t make this dish for us when we came back last December because of her hand surgery, so I tried to make this soup in here by using the right cooking technique…………….and thankfully, it worked. We all loved it and I was so happy when I saw the thick and oily (fish oil which is very healthy) soup with delicious and soft milk fish. Serve with hot steam white rice and it will be perfect.


  1. 2 milk fish (ikan bandeng), cut into 3 for each fish. Squeeze lime juice from 4 small limes, then rub with salt. Put in the fridge (not freezer) for at least 30 minutes
  2. 2 bilimbi or belimbing sayur (use 4 if you like the taste to be more sour)
  3. 1 tsp tamarind (since I couldn’t find belimbing sayur in the wet market, I double the tamarind into 2 tsp). Add 2 tbsp water and squeeze the tamarind
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 1000 ml water
  6. 3 salam leaves
  7. 5 lime leaves
  8. 2 lemon grass
  9. 6 shallots, clean but do not peel
  10. 5 garlic, clean but do not peel
  11. 1 thumb of ginger, clean but do not peel
  12. 2 cm galangal, clean but do not peel
  13. 3 cm turmeric (or use 1/2 tsp turmeric powder)
  14. 5 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  15. 1 tsp sugar
  16. 10 chili padi (cabai rawit hijau dan merah). I skipped this because my son can not eat spicy food, but I loved it when my mom used lots of chili in this dish. Do not cut the chili so it will not spoil the taste of the broth


  1. Start by charring shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemon grass, and turmeric, one at a time, using tong to hold the ingredient one by one over an open flame (bakar dengan penjepit alumunium di atas api kompor satu per satu). Turn until they’re lightly blackened and fragrant. Rinse away the blackened skin, peel the skin of the shallots and garlic and turmeric. Then lightly crush all the charring ingredients (keprek dengan ulekan atau pisau)
  2. Bring 100 ml water to boil, then turn into low heat. Place all the spices: juice / water from the tamarind, salam leaves, lime leaves, lemon grass, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric. Cook for about 1 hour.
  3. Add sweet soy sauce, belimbing sayur, sugar, salt, chili padi, stir, and then add the fish
  4. Cook in low heat for about 2 hours. Add hot water in the middle of cooking process little by little (I add for about another 750 ml of water because my son likes the soup so much).
  5. Serve hot with steam white rice

My son likes the soup so much, and he usually eats 1/3 of the fish with 2 bowls of soup. The sweet, salty, and a bit sour taste in the soup is very refreshing.

You can also cook using a slow cooker (slow cooking process will make the soup taste nicer) or a pressure cooker to soften all the bones so it will be easier to eat.



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