Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa (Fish in a Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce)

Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa is a delicious recipe of fried fish in a piquant sauce, with a touch of heat. Perfect with some plain, boiled rice.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

fish covered in red sauce with salad
Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa

What’s in a Name?

Let’s take a look at the name itself, as usual, shall we? In Malay:

  • ikan = fish
  • masak = cooked, to cook
  • tiga = three
  • rasa = taste, flavour

Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa = Fish Cooked with Three Flavours.

Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa Recipe

So what are these three flavours? The recipe name refers to both the flavour of the dish, as well as the ingredients we use.

So the phrase tiga rasa, or three flavours, describes the taste – hot, sweet and sour.

But the term also refers to the three sauces we use: oyster sauce, tomato ketchup and chilli sauce (any shop bought variety).

So the recipe is like a sweet and sour dish, but with a little heat. How hot you want it to be, or not, is up to you. The type of chilli sauce you use, as well as the number and type of chillies, will determine how spicy your ikan masak tiga rasa is.

This is what we’ll be doing:

  1. Marinate the fish.
  2. Fry the fish.
  3. Make the sauce.
  4. Pour sauce over the fish and serve.
Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa
a sweet white fish is always best with this sauce

What Fish?

This depends on what you can get in your part of the world. But you certainly want white fish for this. I’m using sea bream. You can use sea bass, barramundi, haddock, cod, anything you like. The sauce in this fish recipe is pretty strongly flavoured and white fish will take that on very well.

And if you don’t like the idea of a whole fish, use fillets, by all means. I’m allocating one fish per diner here. With the sauce, this is pretty generous for 2 people. If you have another dish to go with, then I think this recipe will definitely serve 4.

How to Serve Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa?

It will be perfectly at home in any East and South East Asian meal. I think plain, steamed rice (boiled rice) is the perfect way to soak up and enjoy the sauce. Egg fried rice is great, but as it already has its own flavour, I definitely prefer unflavoured rice with ikan masak tiga rasa.

Besides the rice, you want a side vegetable dish like kangkung belacan, or just a green salad. If you need more dishes for a slightly more elaborate meal, take a look at the gallery below.

And if you want even more spice, homemade sambal belacan always does the trick!

And on that note, shall we get cooking?

♥ If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you! ♥

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

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Kangkung Belacan (Stir-fried Water Spinach with Shrimp Paste)
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fish topped with red sauce on a bed of lettuce

Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa (Fish in a Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce)

Azlin Bloor
Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa recipe. A hot, sweet and sour fish dish from Singapore and Malaysia that's just perfect with some plain steamed rice.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Course side
Cuisine fusion
Servings 2 (2-4)
Calories 565 kcal


  • knife
  • chopping board
  • chopper (or pestle and mortar)
  • plates and bowls as needed
  • frying pan
  • spatula
  • kitchen paper


The Fish
  • 2 whole sea bream you can also use equivalent fillets (about 400 g/14 oz)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cornflour cornstarch in the US
  • 250 ml vegetable oil (you need enough oil to fry the fish) skip if you are air frying
Ingredients to be Ground
  • ½ large onion about 120 g pre peeled weight (we slice the other half, below)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass
The Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp chilli sauce any brand, heat level is up to you, sweet chilli sauce is quite a favourite with many
  • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
Everything Else
  • ½ large onion about 120 g pre peeled weight (we grind the other half, above)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves optional
  • 125 ml water
  • ½ tsp cornflour cornstarch in the US
  • 2 Tbsp water to make a paste with the cornflour
To Serve
  • lettuce leaves or baby spinach
  • 2 spring onions (scallions)
  • 3 stalks coriander leaves (cilantro)


Marinade the Fish

  • Rinse and dry the fish. Cut 2-3 slashes across the body of your fish if you are using whole ones.
    2 whole sea bream
  • Rub the fish wth the turmeric, salt and cornflour, getting into the slashes as well. Leave aside while you get all the other ingredients ready (for the sauce).
    2 whole sea bream, 1 tsp ground turmeric, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cornflour

Ground Ingredients

The Sauce

  • In a small bowl, mix the chilli sauce, tomato sauce and oyster sauce, and set aside until needed.
    You can also always add the sauces straight into the pan individually, if you don't like the idea of washing up another bowl!
    2 Tbsp tomato ketchup, 2 Tbsp chilli sauce, 1 Tbsp oyster sauce

Rest of the Prep Work

  • Thinly slice the other half of the onion, the garlic and chillies.
    ½ large onion
  • Quarter the tomato.
    2 medium cloves garlic
  • Mix the cornflour and the 2 Tbsp of water into a paste and set aside.
    ½ tsp cornflour, 2 Tbsp water
  • Thinly slice the spring onions and chop the coriander leaves that you will be using as garnish.
    125 ml water, ½ tsp cornflour

Let's fry the Fish (you can use an Air Fryer, if you prefer)

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok on medium heat and fry the fish until crispy and done. About 3 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of your fish. Fillets will only need a couple of minutes each side. Flip your fish over carefully.
    If you are happy to multitask, get the sauce going while you are frying the fish. If not, wait until the fish is done. This way, you will also only need the one pan/wok.
    250 ml vegetable oil, 2 whole sea bream
  • When the fish is done, take it out and place it on a kitchen paper lined plate to absorb all the excess oil. Keep warm.

Let's Cook the Sauce

  • Pour out all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil and place back on the stove with a medium heat.
  • Fry the chopped onion and lemongrass for 2 minutes.
  • Add the sliced garlic and chillies and fry for 1 minute more.
  • Add the tiga rasa sauce, that is, the chilli, tomato and oyster sauces, along with the water. Mix well.
    2 Tbsp tomato ketchup, 2 Tbsp chilli sauce, 1 Tbsp oyster sauce, 125 ml water
  • Tear the lime leaves at the edges and drop them in, along with the onions and chopped tomatoes. Stir and bring to a simmer.
    ½ large onion, 3 Kaffir lime leaves, 1 medium tomato
  • Remember the cornflour paste? Stir it then pour it all onto the sauce and stir well. Leave to cook for 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Check the seasoning and add some salt of you need it. I don't use extra salt in this recipe, as the sauces we use are enough.
    Turn off the heat.
    ½ tsp cornflour, 125 ml water

To Serve

  • Line a large plate with the lettuce leaves all around the edges.
    lettuce leaves
  • Place the fish in the middle and pour the cooked sauce all over, fully covering the fish.
  • Top with the chopped spring onions and coriander leaves and serve immediately.
    2 spring onions, 3 stalks coriander leaves


Serving: 1fishCalories: 565kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 37gFat: 34gSaturated Fat: 23gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 1416mgPotassium: 424mgFiber: 3gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 552IUVitamin C: 46mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 2mg
Keyword fish, sweet and sour fish, tiga rasa
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2 thoughts on “Ikan Masak Tiga Rasa (Fish in a Hot, Sweet and Sour Sauce)”

  1. 5 stars
    This was just the best, thank you! Been over 30 years since I last had it. So glad I can make it regularly now.

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