Pepesan – steamed fish parcels

238 Gestoomde vis in pakjesPepesan is a classic Indonesian recipe. Pepesan are fish packets filled with herbs and steamed in a rice steamer or roasted on the BBQ. It’s wonderfully simple to make and it looks beautiful. Beb makes them in aluminum foil. I know Pepesan is wrapped  in banana leaves in Indonesia. So delicious and it looks beautiful too. I make it today Beb’s way with tin foil.

Steamed fish in parcels (Pepesan)#238 translated from Beb Vuyk Groot Indonesisch Kookboek, page 214.


1/4 kg of cod fillets
4 pieces of aluminum foil of +/- 12 x 15 cm


3 tablespoons of chopped onions
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon of sambal oelek (Indonesian chili salsa)
1 teaspoon of galangal
1 teaspoon 0f turmeric
1 tablespoon of asem water, made with a bit of tamarind the amount of 1/2 walnut
1 teaspoon of basillicum
lemon juice

Cut the cod fillets into 4 pieces. Rub them with a little salt and sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice.

Rub onions, garlic, sambal, galangal and turmeric together into a paste and mix it with one spoon of asem water.

Place the pieces on the aluminum foil coated with some oil. Cover the fish with the spice mixture. Fold the foil parcels close. Make sure nothing can leak out. Steam them in a rice steamer for about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour. If necessary, roast it after that in the oven or on a charcoal fire.

238 Gestoomde vis in pakjes-ingredienten

I buy cod fillets from the freezer. When I defrost them they way about one kilogram. I make a lot extra because my mother-in-law, mother and niece are coming over for dinner. This recipe is for 500 grams of cod, so I double the ingredients for my dinner.

238 Gestoomde vis in pakjes - boemboe

I use my blender to make the paste. I think that works well with Pepesan. The herbal mixture is deliciously fine and easy to smear on the fish pieces.

238 Gestoomde vis in pakjes-citroen

The fish is nearly defrosted now so I cut them into equal pieces and sprinkle them with lemon juice.

238 Gestoomde vis in kruiden

I put one drop of oil on the aluminum foil and place a piece of cod on top. Now I smear the herb paste on top and I place some fresh leaves basil too. Beb says to use about ordinary basil (we buy in The Netherlands). Thai basil is the herb people would use in Indonesia. It is a bit stronger leave and has a different taste than our Italian basil. But Beb has written this book for the Eurasians who live in the Netherlands. In the 70’s Thai basil was hard to come by in Holland. I like to follow Beb’s recipe exactly as it is, to learn how to make it and to say something about the flavor.

238 Gestoomde vis in een pakje

I try to make neat packages that fit in my steamer. I close them properly so they do not leak.

238 Gestoomde vis in rotan

Now they can go in my steamer. The layer of water in my wok is already boiling so the basket can go on top. I steam my cod for exactley 30 minutes. They are perfect. Not over done and definitely not underdone. Do not overcook it. The fish will taste dry.

238 Gestoomde vis in alu

I serve them on a big plate in the parcels. That just looks great. I get some Indian cress from my little garden. You can eat the flowers and leaves. I just use it as decoration that you actually can eat.

238 Gestoomde vis in pakjes

We eat Pepesan with white rice and urapan; a dish with endive and coconut. Selamat makan.

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2 Responses

  1. Walter Schwager says:

    Pepes should be made as much as possible in banana leaves.

    • Pauline Chavannes de Senerpont Domis says:

      True! I think that looks more lovely too! Not easy to get here in Holland, but possible though 😉

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