Red Emperor Assam Pedas Recipe by Diana Chan

Red Emperor Assam Pedas by Diana Chan
Red Emperor Assam Pedas by Diana Chan

Where do I even start? Assam pedas is my favourite dish in the whole world and that’s a big call!!! I love everything about it – it’s definitely my death row meal.

I’ve been eating Assam Pedas since I was 3 so it’s in my veins. To me, it has to be sour and hot at the same time. I would literally salivate every time my mom makes this. It’s a typical Nyonya dish and while there are many versions of it, I am biased and think my mom’s is the best.

The best fish to use is stingray. However, since moving to Australia I’ve learnt to adapt and snapper or red emperor goes exceptionally well – any white fish really, like grouper, monkfish, sea bass, the so on… The sour and spicy sauce coating the just cooked through okra, plus the subtle hint of Vietnamese mint, makes this dish heaven on earth.

I only make this dish for those I love and will appreciate it as there are lots of ingredients that go in and a lot of care in cooking them. I’d eat this on its own but that’s not normal so I’d say have it with rice. That’s all you need. There’s sauce, fish and some vegetables all in one pot, so cleaning up is minimal once the cooking process is over.

If you have leftover sauce, don’t throw it away as this is liquid gold. Keep it in a container, freeze it and add it to your next batch. The flavour intensifies and only gets better after a day or two.

If, like me, you like Tom Yum, Penang Laksa and Kiam Chye, which share similar characteristics, then you’ll like this dish. It’s getting that balance of sourness and tang that makes you come back for more.



  • 1kg whole red emperor (can be substituted for sting ray, snapper, grouper or any other firm white flesh fish)
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • Tops of lemongrass stalks, bruised
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
  • ½  tsp turmeric
  • 1 large tomato, quartered
  • 1 cup tamarind water*
  • 4 sprigs Vietnamese mint
  • 2 tbso brown sugar
  • 10 okras
  • 1 lime, juice only
  • Salt to taste
Spice paste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only
  • 4 shallots
  • 10 dried chillies, soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes
  • 2 fresh long red chillies
  • 1 inch belacan (shrimp paste), roasted
  • 15g galangal
*Tamarind water
  • 3 tbsp tamarind pulp soaked in 1 cup of water (or use 2 tbsp tamarind paste)
  • Kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced



  1. Make the spice paste for the red emperor assam pedas by blending all the spice paste ingredients together to a fine paste.
  2. Heat some oil in a wok and fry the spice paste until fragrant. This should take approximately 3-5 mins. Add in the tops of the lemongrass stalks and the kaffir lime leaves.
  3. Add in the turmeric, tomatoes, tamarind water, and 1 cup of water. Let it simmer for 5 mins. Next, add in the Vietnamese mint, sugar and fish and cook for 15 mins.
  4. Next, add in the okras and cook until softened.
  5. Squeeze in more lime juice and season to taste. Garnish with extra kaffir lime leaves threads.


Check out the links below for more of Diana Chan’s recipes, or read here interview here.

Ayam Percik (Barbecued Spiced Chicken)

Baby Octopus Sambal

Chicken Varuval

Flourless Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Diana Chan

Guest Chef

Diana Chan is a Malaysian-born Australian chartered accountant and celebrity cook. She is the winner of MasterChef Australia for 2017 and currently works with children through food education via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. Diana loved cooking from a very young age and she learnt a lot through both her parents, but it was only when she moved to Melbourne that her interest grew as she discovered the farmers’ markets that supplied plenty of fresh and local produce from around Australia. She developed her own cooking style, which combined some of the hallmarks of her parents’ styles - her mother’s fresh, herb-driven approach and her father’s love of seafood. Diana believes in creating wholesome, balanced and delicious meals incorporating fusion flavours and her future plans of opening her food concept is deep in the planning stages.

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