Red Emperor

Lutjanus sebae

Other names: Government bream.

Family: Lutjanidae (tropical snappers).


Available wild-caught, it is a marine fish often found around coral reefs but also over shallow to deep rocky and soft bottoms to about 100m from Sydney north to Shark Bay, WA. Mainly caught off Queensland, WA and NT by trawling, droplines, handlines and longlines. It has a white-red body with 1 broad darker band along the head and 2 across the body (usually darker in juveniles).

Season: Available year round.

Size and Weight: Commonly to 6kg and 70cm, but can grow to 22kg and 100cm.

Price: High priced.


To Buy:

Sold whole (gilled and gutted), as trunks (headless) and fillets. In whole fish look for lustrous skin, firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets, look for yellowish-white to pinkish, firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea smell.

To Store:

Make sure whole fish is scaled, gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap whole fish and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze whole fish for up to 6 months, and fillets for up to 3 months, below -18ºC.

To Cook:

Average yield is 38%. Has a medium flavour, low oiliness and moist, medium-textured white, flaky flesh with few large bones, which are easily removed. The skin is thick and best removed. The bones make excellent stock. Score whole fish at the thickest part of the flesh. Cut thick fillets into serving-size portions and score to allow even heat penetration.

Cooking Methods:

Steam, poach, deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, bake, braise, grill, barbecue.

Goes well with:

Butter, coconut milk, herbs, lemon, lime, olive oil, orange, saffron, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, tomato.


Blue-Eye Trevalla, Goldband Snapper, Pearl Perch, Ruby Snapper, Snapper, West Australian Dhufish.




Whole Red Emperor Baked in a Salt Dough >