Home Traditions: Bilis Goreng

By Andrea Pavee

In Asia, anchovies are a must in the various types of cuisine, be it Malay, Chinese, Indian and others, available here.

Anchovies, or more commonly called, ikan bilis come in all shapes and sizes, and are dried and heavily salted, before packaged and sold in shops.

At home, ikan bilis is a family favourite, munched as a snack or served with Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice), fried rice, or noodles.

Yesterday, for a treat, I made Nasi Lemak for the family. Ikan bilis is a must for Nasi Lemak. However, feeling a little adventurous, I decided to try a different recipe.

Here is my recipe. I apologise I did not manage a picture, but the dish disappeared in a flash!

A typical nasi lemak meal would look like this:

Fried chicken in a typical nasi lemak meal

Servings: 4

Ingredients for bilis goreng

  • A handful of ikan bilis (whichever type you prefer)
  • A handful of curry leaves
  • Half a cup of oil


  1. Wash the ikan bilis thoroughly, then drain in a colander.
  2. Do the same for the curry leaves.
  3. Heat up a wok and pour in the oil. Do not worry about the amount of oil. It is a quick fry, and whisk off. If the oil is hot, the absorption of the oil to fish is manageable.
  4. When the oil is heated through and smoking, put in the ikan bilis and stir fry. When half done, throw in the curry leaves.
  5. Fry until golden brown, fish up and drain the excess oil off in a strainer.
  6. Serve hot with Nasi Lemak, or with peanuts to accompany your beer.


  • Using ikan bilis kopek is the best because it is already cleaned and the bilis is big. More bite per mouthful. Since the ikan bilis is already salted, there is no need for salt. 
  • If you are adding in peanuts, you can roast and salt them before adding them into the bilis fry. Alternatively, fry them separately from the bilis, then season with salt before you add it into the bilis fry. Enjoy!

Posted by Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 7 May 2023

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