The Terrific TERASI

Like many Indonesians, JW Mariott Hotel Jakarta’s Executive Sous Chef Suyitno grew up with the omnipresent terasi (fermented fish paste). He offers a modern way of utilizing with the tasty ingredient.


Like many Indonesians, JW Mariott Hotel Jakarta’s Executive Sous Chef Suyitno grew up with the omnipresent terasi (fermented fish paste). He offers a modern way of utilizing with the tasty ingredient.

ALMOST EVERY household across the archipelago is sure to possess a stash of  terasi in their kitchen. Without a doubt, many children have been raised and familiarized to the taste and scent of this fundamental ingredient in most of their local dishes, me included.

Terasi is simply made from fermented ground fish or shrimp and salt, however, due to the lengthy and complicated process, it is sold raw in packets or bottles in forms of rectangular, sun-dried or wet blocks, which then are roasted at home.

Despite its pungent aroma – which can cloak an entire enclosed area – the flavor derived from merely incorporating a teaspoon of terasi in to your dish will hook your palate, I guarantee it.

“This ingredient is most dominantly used in sambal (Indonesian chilli paste), which then can be used as a dip, to marinate or as a blend for certain dishes such sautéed vegetables, Indonesian fried rice, local salads and more.” explained Chef Suyitno, a master in Indonesian and Asian cuisine. “ The sambal itself is so flavorful that people can simply eat it with plain white rice.”

The basic ingredient that goes into the sambal includes garlic, shallots and lots of chilli. Other additional ingredients such as tomatoes, ginger, dried scallops, salted fish, tamarind dried shrimps and more can be included in sambal to create an assortment of flavors and textures.

Furthermore, there are incredible extensive varieties of uses for terasi aside from sambal. For example, it can be used in a number of dishes as natural and healthy umami source to add a sharp definition to certain flavors.

Terasi is a very unique ingredient, which gives a fantastic balance to your dish.” shared Chef Suyitno who has worked in JW Mariott for over 14 years.


The chef also shared his inspiration behind being chef. “I was spellbound seeing my mother cook and whipping something marvelous from simple ingredients. The idea of creating something from almost nothing really fascinated me,” said the chef, who was born and raised in Jakarta, with a longing smile.

“My mother, who was from Sunda, would use terasi almost daily in her cooking, especially in dried sambal. So I was familiar with its incredible flavor and has used it since a very young age.”

Terasi is identified as a very traditional ingredient, however, the on going culinary trend in Indonesia is tilted towards fusion or modern Indonesian dishes, so how does Chef Suyitno sustain authenticity with such expectations?

“I believe in understanding the absolute most basic ingredients and techniques before experimenting. Without learning the basics, it is easy to create a new dish and falsely call it fusion,” explained the calm and collective chef.

“It is important to realize that certain authentic dishes should not be tampered with. Thus, to keep up, I master the traditional recipes and present it in a modern style. Basics first, experiment later. Let the dish speak for itself,” added the chef who travels to various Marriott’s properties worldwide to showcase his skills and expertise particularly in Indonesian Cuisine.

“After tasting sambal terasi you will not be able to enjoy any other types of chilli sauce as much, ever again. Try and compare it,” said the passionate chef.

I believe those who have tried terasi would share the same sentiments as Chef Suyitno and I. So for the adventurous tongue, I urge you to give this unique and aromatic ingredient a shot!

In the following pages, Chef Suyitno shared his tantalizing recipes using the one and only terasi!

Shrimp paste chili sauce with dried scallop and anchovy



90 g                   Big Red Chili
20 g                   Bird’s Eye Chili (cabe rawit)
50 g                   Shallot
35 g                   Garlic
180 g                 Tomato
15 g                   Palm sugar
10 g                   Roasted Shrimp Paste (terasi)
10 g                   Salt
10 g                   Dried scallop
5 g                     Fried anchovy (Teri Medan)


  • Mix all the ingredients in a blender (except for the dried scallop, fried anchovy and shrimp paste).
  • Heat oil in a frying pan, sauté the mixed ingredients, add shrimp paste, dried scallop. Add salt for seasoning
  • After softened, add fried anchovy

Asparagus stir fry with shrimp paste chili sauce



1 tbs                   Shrimp paste chili sauce
150 g                 Green asparagus
3 pcs                  Garlic, peel
5 pcs                  Shallot, peel
1 pcs                  Big Red Chili
3 pcs                  Bird’s Eye Chili (cabe rawit)
30 g                   Bean sprout
To taste              Salt and pepper for seasoning


  • Steam the asparagus until it is slightly cooked, set it aside
  • Heat oil in a frying pan and sauté shallot, garlic and both chilies until fragrant, and then add shrimp paste chili sauce. Mix well
  • Add bean sprout and asparagus
  • Add salt and pepper for seasoning

Steamed snapper in banana leaves with shrimp paste chili sauce



3 tbs                  Shrimp paste chili sauce
180 g                Fillet snapper with skin
2 pcs                 Lime
20 pcs               Basil leaves
3 pcs                 Averrhoa Bilimbi (Belimbing wuluh), slice
To taste             Salt and pepper
Banana leaves for wrapping


  • Season fish with lime juice, salt and pepper, set it aside
  • Set the banana leaf, mix 1 spoon of shrimp paste chili sauce, basil leave and half a slice of averrhoa bilimbi. Then, put it under and on the top of the fish fillet
  • Seal the banana leaf with toothpick
  • Set the oven at 180°C, bake for 15 – 20 minutes

Jalan DR Ide Anak Agung Gde Agung Kav E.1.2 No 1&2
Kawasan Mega Kuningan  Jakarta
T:+62 21 57988888
IG: @jwmarriottjkt
Facebook: JWMarriottHotelJakarta
Twitter: @JWMarriottJkt

Written by Divya Pridhnani Photographs by Dennie Ramon August 26, 2016.