Chefs' Recipes

Tony Tan's pipis with Batak sauce

Fragrant with lemongrass, tingling with Sichuan peppercorn and enriched by galangal and makrut lime leaves, this is a sauce to remember.

By Tony Tan
  • 15 mins preparation
  • 10 mins cooking plus soaking
  • Serves 4
  • Print
"I don't remember where I got this recipe, probably from a Batak or Mandailing neighbour, but it's delicious," says Tony Tan. "Made with torch ginger flower, lemongrass and a member of the Sichuan pepper family, it is aromatic with a mild tingling sensation. The Batak and the Mandailing people originate from Sumatra. Recently, I discovered this preparation is called arsik sauce in Indonesia, which combines similar ingredients and the lemony member of the Sichuan pepper family called andaliman. More tangy and less numbing than red Sichuan pepper, I have used green Sichuan pepper for this recipe. This sauce is particularly good with fish, though just about any seafood is delicious."


  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 1 torch ginger flower, halved (see note in asam laksa recipe)
  • 1 spring onion, cut into 5cm pieces
  • 5 makrut lime leaves
  • 1 turmeric leaf (optional; see note), sliced
  • 1 kg pipis, soaked in cold water for 1 hour to purge them of sand
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • Coarsely chopped coriander, to serve (optional)
  • Steamed rice, to serve
Spice paste
  • 2 golden shallots
  • 10 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 30 gm (6cm piece) galangal, thinly sliced
  • 30 gm (6cm piece) ginger, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 long red chillies, or to taste, finely chopped
  • 8 candlenuts (see note in pan-fried fish recipe)
  • 30 gm (3cm piece) fresh turmeric or 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp green Sichuan peppercorns (see note)


  • 1
    For spice paste, blend ingredients to a fine paste in a food processor.
  • 2
    Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add spice paste and fry until fragrant and just golden (2-3 minutes). Add lemongrass, torch ginger, spring onion, lime leaves and turmeric leaf, if using, and stir-fry until soft and fragrant (3-4 minutes).
  • 3
    Add 375ml water and bring to the boil, then stir in pipis and sugar, cover tightly with a lid and cook until pipis just open (3-4 minutes). Remove pipis (discard any that haven't opened), season to taste, top with coriander and serve with rice.


Turmeric leaves are sold frozen in Australia and can be found at select Asian grocers. If you can't find them, leave them out. Green Sichuan peppercorns are available from Asian supermarkets.
Drink suggestion: Fragrant spicy gewürztraminer. Drink suggestion by Mark Max Allen.