21 March 2010

Otak Otak (Grilled)

Otak Otak is a parcel of spicy fish coconut custard. Which is sometimes referred to as 'Fish Mousse'. I was introduced to these little babies when my old Uni friends took me to the Bedok night market place in Singapore. Back in Australia, by chance I happened to find Otak Otak being sold at one of the stalls in the South Sydney market. But it wasn't really the same. Sure.. I could go to Malaya (A top notch Malaysian cuisine restaurant in Sydney) and order Otak Otak there. But there's something about paying $15 for two pieces of Otak.. it just doesn't feel right.

So I decided to make my own. :)

That's when I realised there are two versions of Otak Otak. The steamed version which seems to originate from Malaysia - which I found many recipes for online. Then the Grilled Singaporean version - which I found many pictures of online, but no recipes.

So I took the recipe for the steamed version, changed bits and pieces of it according to what I could recall consuming and came up with this.

I changed the fish fillet slices to mince fish paste, since I don't remember there being any individual slice pieces of fish. A lot of recipes recommend getting Spanish Mackerel, but there wasn't any available at my local fishmonger, so I settled for some Red Snapper fillets instead. I also don't recall there being any whole betel leaves in the grilled Otak parcel. Also, being in Australia, I'm not actually sure where you can actually buy these. So I left them out also.

If you like, you could substitute spinach leaves for the betel. I tried this with the first couple parcels, but ended up leaving the leaves out.

Otak Otak
recipe adapted from Nonyafood.com

  • 1 banana leaf (cut into 12-15 cm wide rectangles and soak in hot water to soften the leaf)
  • 500g fish fillet (minced with a food processor)
  • 20-30 wild betel leaves (daun kaduk) - If you can find any
Spice Paste:
  • 10 shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 fresh red chilies
  • 5 dried red chilies (soaked in water)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass
  • 1 inch galangal
  • 1 inch turmeric
  • 20g shrimp paste (toasted)
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar (pounded into a soft powder)
Custard ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons rice flour
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (finely sliced)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Roughly chop up the spice paste ingredients and then place in a food processor and blend until fine.
  2. Remove spice paste from the food processor and set aside in a large bowl, add fish fillets to the food processor and blend until it has turned into a minced fish paste.
  3. Transfer the fish paste into the spice paste bowl and stir well to combine.
  4. Add in the custard ingredients and mix well.

  1. Cut out the banana leaves into 15cm wide rectangles.
  2. Soften the banana leaves by soaking them in hot water.
  3. Take 1 piece of banana leaf and place 2-3 betel leaves (if using) in the center of a banana leaf. Then add 2-3 tablespoons of the Otak mixture into the middle of the leaf.
  4. Form a bundle by folding one side of the banana leaf over the mixture, and then turning it over once to use the remaining side. Secure the ends with staples or toothpicks.
  5. Heat up a grill pan (I used my cast iron grill pan) over high flames. And grill for about 10 mins, turning every 2-3 mins. If you have a charcoal grill bbq, use that instead.
  6. Serve immediately.

And the finished product...Ta Daa..!

Although I remember these being a bit darker in colour. The taste was very close though. I mean, the taste and fragrance of the spices were all there, but it wasn't totally the same, I think the texture was slightly different. P thinks the difference was because we didn't cook it over a charcoal grill. I think he might be right, as the Otak would have dried out a bit more if we had cooked it over a charcoal grill. And that might help to intensify the flavours and get the texture we wanted.

So with some time still left before the shops started to close (Its Australia..Shops close 5pm on Sundays), we drove to the nearest Barbecues Galore store and bought ourselves a small charcoal barbecue. :)

After getting everything setup and the charcoal beads burning.. We finally made this..

Mission accomplished.. :)


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  2. Seriously?! Went to buy a BBQ?! Wow!
    I'm definitely going to miss this when I'm in the US

  3. hi mon.. was only a small portable charcoal bbq... :p

  4. I've tasted Otak Otak in Singapore too. But could no longer remember what restaurant or food shop that was since its been years. Haha. Delicious for a low price compared here in Sydney.

  5. I recently found it at Tamasek @ Parramatta.. but its the steamed type... still yummy though.. :)

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