KitchenTigress: Sambal Stingray (I)

Sambal Stingray (I)

I love banana leaves. Rice and curry taste so much better on a banana leaf than a plate. Banana leaves are fun. And I feel good using something that's disposable yet traditional and natural.

Who says only modern people are lazy?

Whoever first thought of using banana leaves as plates must have hated washing up, just like me!

The banana leaf in sambal stingray is the unsung hero. The sambal takes all the glory but even a good one would be even better with the banana leaf's subtle smokiness. Isn't the nicely charred leaf a perfect frame for the gleaming, red sambal?

Sambal stingray without banana leaf just wouldn't be the same (though it's still better than no sambal stingray at all).

How to make sambal stingray

Step-by-step guide

The keys to good sambal stingray are fresh and young stingray, good sambal, high heat and not overcooking the fish. Banana leaf wins extra brownie points for presentation.

sambal stingray

Sambal (makes about 1 cup)
  • 150 g shallots
  • 75 g garlic
  • 15 g ginger
  • 40 g lemongrass, tender, non-bitter part only
  • 50 g red chillies
  • 15 g dried chillies – trim stems, cut 2 cm long, soak in warm water till soft (about 30 minutes), squeeze dry, discard water

  • 15 g belacan (fermented shrimp paste) – roast at 150°C or dry-fry over medium-low heat till dry and crumbly
  • 20 g tamarind paste – mash with 2 tbsp hot water, drain and discard seeds and pulp

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 30 g palm sugar, roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt

  • 1 piece stingray wing, 400-500 g – rinse, drain, cut 2-3 slits along grain in thicker end
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1 piece frozen banana leaf – thaw, rinse, trim to fit baking tray
  • calamansi limes, halved
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • tomato or pineapple wedges
  • cucumber slices

  1. Wash, trim, peel and roughly chop shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and red chillies as appropriate. Grind or pound with dried chillies and belachan till smooth.

  2. Stir-fry sambal paste with vegetable oil over medium heat till fragrant and colour darkens, about 15 minutes. Add palm sugar. Stir-fry till dissolved. Add tamarind water and salt. Stir-fry till oil separates. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Remove from heat. Leave till cool.

  3. You should have about 1 cup. Use about ½ cup for 400-500 g stingray. Remaining ½ cup may be stored for a few weeks refrigerated.

  4. Preheat grill to 230°C (450°F). Line baking tray with aluminium foil. Lightly brush with vegetable oil.

  5. Place stingray on baking tray, white side up. Season lightly with salt, including slits. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 5 minutes depending on thickness of fish. Spread with sambal, thinly. Grill till top of stingray feels firm when pressed chopsticks, about 5 minutes.

  6. Lift stingray from baking tray with a spatula. Place banana leaf in tray. Flip stingray onto banana leaf. Season lightly with salt. Grill till 70-80% cooked, about 7 minutes depending on thickness. Spread with sambal, thickly. Grill till fully cooked and sambal is sizzling and slightly charred, 5 minutes or so.

  7. Slide foil, leaf and fish onto serving plate. Pull foil from underneath banana leaf and discard.

  8. Garnish and serve immediately.