Nasi Bakar Ikan Bandeng / Indonesian Grilled Rice in Banana Leaves


This was my first experience wrapping rice in banana leaves, and thankfully it was a successful experience. Usually my mom would do the wrapping as she was an expert in it, but since she wasn’t there with me, so I had to do it my self. Honestly,  it was not as difficult as I thought it would be.

I do not make grill rice in banana leaves very often as it is quite difficult to get banana leaves in here, and even if I can fine ones, they are quite expensive. So I usually bring them from Jakarta. Last week, my sister had business trip to Jakarta and I asked her to bring me some banana leaves that my mom had prepared for me. It is very easy to get these leaves near my house, my parents just need to ask from our neighbors and they will give the leaves for free. The good thing is, they are fresh from the banana trees.

Since it is easy to get banana leaves in Indonesia, there are many dish that are prepared using these leaves. We steam or grill rice, chicken, tofu, fish, mushroom, vegetables, and even cakes or snacks (like nagasari which is a sweet snack made from flour and banana) in banana leaves. It is also very common to use banana leaves as substitution of plates for some dishes (like rice in coconut milk with its condiments / nasi uduk).

The dish that I made, which is grilled rice in banana leaves is also very common in my hometown. This is a dish that contains aromatic rice and other ingredients sandwiched between the rice wrapped  in banana leaves.The filling between the rice can be anything, from chicken, beef, fish, mushrooms, vegetables, salted fish, fried anchovies, and even tempeh.

I love the smell of grilled banana leaves……………it is so aromatic. Especially when I open the wrapping, the rice smells so good and so fragrant and also so flavorful………………this dish will increase anyone’s appetite and one package will never be enough. Even my husband must eat 2 servings every time.


For this dish that I made at home, I used bandeng presto as the main filling. What is bandeng presto? In English, bandeng is a fish known as milk fish, which is a common seafood for most of Southeast Asian people. Milk fish is notorious for being much bonier than other food fish, so that is why it is difficult to eat this fish if you don’t know how to cook it.

There is a very popular way to cook this fish in Indonesia, and that is to cook this fish with some herbs and spices in a pressure cooker until the bones are tender. We can even eat the bones after this cooking process. This tender boned fish that has salty taste is what we called with bandeng presto (bandeng = milk fish and presto = cooked with pressure cooker). This dish (bandeng presto) comes from Central Java (my parents’ hometown) and people will buy this as souvenirs whenever they visit Central Java (especially Semarang, a city in Central Java that is believed as the origin of this dish).

My aunt and her son who live in Kudus (a small city near Semarang in Central Java), have a home industry that make bandeng presto. She often sends some of her so many products to my parents, and last week, my sister brought some packets of my aunt’s homemade bandeng presto for me. We all love her homemade bandeng presto and especially the chili sauce that accompanied the fish dish. Since there are only 3 of us in the house and she brought 5 packets of bandeng presto (so many………….), so I decided to make some of them as the filling of my grilled rice in banana leaves.


My husband said it was sooo………….good that he decided that one was not enough for him. My son also liked this dish so much and he could finish his food very quickly.

I also put coriander leaves (I actually prefer kemangi leaves but I couldn’t find any in here), and when you cook this dish, I recommend you to use either coriander or kemangi leaves as it will increase the flavor and the rice will also smells nice. My son even ate the leaves even though he usually never ate these kind of leaves. You can also add sliced chili if you like it to be spicy, fried anchovies, and other things that you like.

By the way, for this recipe I didn’t just use cooked rice from my rice cooker, but I cooked the rice with some spices and then continued the cooking process in the steamer to make the rice more flavorful and fragrant.


*This recipe is for 7 to 8 servings*


  1. 2 or 3 medium sized Indonesian salted pressure cooked milk fish, break apart into small bite size with your hands or a fork / 2 atau 3 bandeng presto ukuran sedang, suwir-suwir hingga kecil
  2. Banana leaves, cut into 2 sizes: 20 cm and 15 cm in width
  3. Toot picks to secure the folded banana leaves
  4. a bunch of Coriander leaves or Thai Lemon Basil Leaves / daun ketumbar atau daun kemangi
  5. Chili padi (optional), slice diagonally into thin slices (I didn’t use this since I already added spicy petai)
  6. Petai cooked with chili (optional)IMG_2395
  7. 3 cups of rice (540 ml), wash
  8. 12 lime leaves
  9. 5 salam leaves
  10. 4 lemon grass, peel away the tough outer layers to reveal the pale part of the stem, then press the stem with the flat side of a knife to bruise and release the flavor
  11. 2 thumbs of galanger, wash thoroughly and cut into 8 thinly slices
  12. 2 thumbs of ginger, peel and cut into 8 thinly slices
  13. 5 cloves of minced garlic
  14. 5 minced shallots IMG_2394
  15. 1 tbsp salt
  16. 2 tbsp cooking oil
  17. 1 L water to cook the rice


  1. Heat a large pan with 2 tbsp of oil in medium heat
  2. Add ginger and galanger and stir fry until aromatic
  3. Add garlic, and when it’s fragrant, add shallots, then cook for another 2 minutes
  4. Add lemon grass, stir fry for 30 seconds IMG_2315
  5. Add rice, lime leaves, salam leaves, and salt.  Stir until they mix togetherIMG_2317
  6. Add water (about 1 L) and stirIMG_2318
  7. Let the rice cooked while stirring occasionally IMG_2319
  8. Wait until the rice almost absorbs all the water in the pan (by this time there will be only little water left and the rice is halfway cooked). Turn off the heat. After 10 to 15 minutes (by this time the rice will absorb all the water in the pan), heat a steamer until the water boilsIMG_2321
  9. Cook the rice in the steamer IMG_2322
  10. After the rice is thoroughly cooked in the steamer, open the cover of the steamer and wait for another 10 minutes (the rice will be cooled enough at this time to be wrapped with the banana leaves)
  11. Wrap rice, bandeng presto, petai, and coriander leaves in banana leavesIMG_2367
  12. Grill the wrapped rice (I used happy call pan)IMG_2369
  13. Grill and flip with tongs until both sides are brownIMG_2371
  14. Serve hot with any of these: keropok, sliced cucumbers, lettuce, sayur asem (Indonesian sweet, sour, and spicy vegetable soup), kering kentang kacang pedas (Indonesian spicy potato chips and peanuts), and don’t forget sambal terasi (Indonesian traditional chili sauce with shrimp paste)…………….or just eat is as it is like my son……….it will still taste very good even without any side dishes

    Grilled rice in banana leaves
    Grilled rice in banana leaves with cucumbers, sayur asem, kering kentang, and chili (sambal terasi)

How to wrap rice in banana leaves:

  1. Take 2 banana leaves, each 20 cm and 15 cm wide and lay them flat on the table
  2. Put the smaller leave on top of the bigger leaveIMG_2325
  3. If necessary, soften the leaves by steaming or microwaving them for a few minutes. You can also soften them over a gas fire or a hot frying pan. By soften them, the leaves will not easy to break apart when you use them for wrapping the rice. Like many people who used to wrap rice in banana leaves, my mom never does this and she can do the wrapping just fine. For the record, I also skipped this step.
  4. Using a rice spoon, place 2 spoonful of rice in the center of the leavesIMG_2326
  5. Next, add 1 to 2 tbsp of milk fish on top of the riceIMG_2327
  6. Add petai on top of the milk fish. If you use sliced chili padi, add the chili padi on top of the fish tooIMG_2328
  7. Add coriander leaves or kemangi leaves on top of petaiIMG_2329
  8. Then, using a rice spoon, add 1 spoonful of rice at the very top so the fish, petai, and coriander leaves are sandwiched between the riceIMG_2330
  9. Press the left, right, and top side of the sandwiched rice using a rice spoon so they will lay nicely in the center and with a firm structureIMG_2364
  10. Fold the left side of the banana leaves and bring to the centerIMG_2351
  11. Then fold the right side of the banana leaves on top of the left side, make sure you the parcel is fold tightly IMG_2333
  12. Secure the top side of the folded banana leaves with a tooth pick. To show you how to do it, look at the pictures below:
    On the top side of the banana leave: make a triangle by folding the left side to the center
    On the top side of the banana leave: make a triangle by folding the left side to the center
    Make another triangle by folding the right side on top of the left side
    Make another triangle by folding the right side on top of the left side
    Hold the triangle tight with your left hand
    Hold the triangle tight with your left hand
    Insert a tooth paste from the right side
    Insert a tooth paste from the right side

    all the way to the left side
    all the way to the left side
  13. After you secure one side of the parcel with a tooth paste, bring the parcel into vertical position in front of you and press carefully the sandwiched rice to the bottom

    Padatkan nasi ke bawah
    Bring the rice to the bottom side / Padatkan nasi ke bawah
  14. Then secure the other side of the parcel with the same technique as explained aboveIMG_2362

How to eat:

  1. Transfer to a serving plateIMG_2396
  2. You can either take out the tooth picks and open the wrapIMG_2413
  3. or you can tear apart horizontally the center of the banana leave and just leave the toothpicks in their placesIMG_2411

Hmmm………… yummy…………..everyone, let’s eat…………………



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