Indonesia – Arsik Fish

by Fauzan Anandika

There won’t be an end talking about Southeast Asian culinary, a place known for its spice for many centuries. Southeast Asia country has a wide variety of culinary. When visiting different districts, you will get a different taste. Even have a different culinary taste, they use turmeric, clove, galangal, and chili for their base spice. 

North Sumatra province, in Indonesia, has authentic spices for their food. They use endemic plants to make an authentic taste to their dish. In North Sumatra province, especially in Toba Samosir and North Tapanuli district, they are known for their freshwater fish dish. They use goldfish, tilapia, catfish, and pomfret fish for their meal. For North Sumatra people, there is a dish that only cooks when there is a special event named Arsik fish. 

Arsik fish is a dish that uses goldfish as its main ingredient and cooks with specials spice. Arsik fish become the main dish in a traditional event like marriage and funerals. There is a specific way to serve Arsik fish when holding a ceremony to keep it sacred, even though we can still eat Arsik fish anytime. 

The North Sumatra people use a unique technique when cooking Arsik fish. They only remove the entrail without removing the scale and use some endemic plants in North Sumatra like andaliman (Zanthoxylum acanthopodium) and torch ginger fruit to make the dish more tasteful. Andaliman has a similar taste to pepper but has a unique smell and gives a balanced taste.

For the fish choice, you can choose between goldfish, mackerel, snapper, and mackerel tuna. Lime juice or torch ginger, is used to remove the fishy smell, then seasoned with chili, shallot, garlic, galangal, and much other spice. These various spice sharpens the taste to bring an appetite to every bite. 

Even it uses so many kinds of spices, cooking Arsik fish is quite easy. Let’s try to cook this spicy, sour, and salty dish.


  • 1 kg of goldfish
  • 30-gram andaliman
  • 15 pieces red chili
  • 10 pieces cayenne pepper
  • 8 shallot
  • 5 garlic
  • 3 cm ginger
  • 3 cm galangal
  • 6 cm turmeric
  • 4 pieces candlenut
  • 2 lemongrass
  • 2 torch ginger
  • 10 pieces of torch ginger fruit
  • 150 gram long beans
  • 100-gram chives
  • 1-liter water
  • Salt

Fish chips ingredient

  • 400-gram mackerel fillet, blend smoothly
  • 400-gram tapioca flour
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon chicken broth powder
  • ¼ tablespoon pepper
  • 200 ml cooking oil

Fish chips preparation

  1. Blend all the ingredients with a food processor. Adjust the taste with salt.
  2. Divide the mixture into four-part.
  3. Make each part into a cylinder shape with a 5 cm diameter.
  4. Steam with medium heat for 45 minutes.
  5. Turn off the fire and wait until the dough cold.
  6. Remove it into the freezer.
  7. Thinly cut the dough with 3 mm thickness.
  8. Place it on a baking sheet. Bake it in the oven for 1,5 hours at 100 degrees Celsius. 
  9. Flip the dough every 20 minutes.
  10. Remove the chips to open air to remove the heat.
  11. Fry chips using hot cooking oil.
  12. Remove it into a hermetic container.

How to cook

  1. Wash clean the goldfish. You can remove the scale if you want. Cut each fish into three parts.
  2. Blend red chili, cayenne pepper, garlic, shallot, ginger, turmeric, galangal, andaliman, and candlenut in a food processor.
  3. Crush the lemongrass and torch ginger fruit.
  4. Cut long bean into 5 cm size.
  5. Clean chives from the dried leaf and keep it long.
  6. Prepare a medium cooking pan, add lemongrass, torch ginger fruit, chives, and long beans.
  7. Add to the top fish and blended spice.
  8. Pour the water. Adjust the taste with salt.
  9. Cook until almost dried.
  10. Remove into a serving plate.
  11. Arsik fish ready to be served with a side of fish chips.
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