Fish August 7th, 2007

otak otak

Otak-Otak (some call it Fish Mousse) must rank as one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever tasted. Usually, I would not stop at 10 sticks of this fish mousse (this is what some call it). The most famous otak-otak in Malaysia is sold in the town of Muar (where PB hails from). So, if and whenever I go to Muar on Court duty, I would pack a big bundle back.

The usual way of cooking otak-otak is to wrap it in coconut leaves followed by grilling it over an open flame. At home, however, it is not easy to find coconut leaves or even an open flamed grill. Hence, my mum decided to steam it instead. It was actually her first attempt and we loved it. Some of the recipes for otak-otak sounds very complicated and comes with a bewildering array of ingredients. Mum’s otak-otak is a simplified version and good enough for a home-cooked meal.

This is my mum’s recipe for Otak-Otak




  • 250 to 300 grammes of fish flesh (spanish mackarel aka tenggiri, use a spoon to scrape flesh from the fish and place the flesh in a bowl)



  • 5 pieces dried red chilli (pre-soaked to soften and remove seeds)
  • 3 cm lengkuas
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
  • 2 stalks serai (lemon grass), sliced thinly
  • 5 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 limau purut leaves, finely sliced



  • 1/2 tablespoon rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup santan (coconut milk)
  • 2 large eggs (beaten)



Blend (B) and place in mixing bowl. Add (C) and mix well followed by fish flesh and form into a dough-like mixture. Let it stand for 15 minutes. Then place it on suitable steaming plate and flatten it.

Steam over rapid boiling water for about 5 to 10 minutes. To test whether it is thoroughly cooked, take a toothpick and poke into the otak-otak. If the toothpick comes out relatively clean, the otak-otak should be cooked. Serve hot.

Alternatively, place mixture on a piece of pre-cleaned banana leaf followed by an outer layer of heavy-duty aluminium foil and grill over charcoal fire.



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  1. 1
    August 7th, 2007 at 10:39 am

    Ooh makes me homesick! πŸ™ I haven’t tried making it only because I’m scared off by the work involved. But since I hail from Otak-otak-ville, I should be a dab hand at it no? πŸ˜‰

  2. 2
    ~Bee Nee~
    August 7th, 2007 at 11:05 am

    That does look much easier than the wrapped in leaves version, must give it a try sometime.

  3. 3
    August 8th, 2007 at 6:03 am

    I gonna try the steamed version some day. Then I can do without banana leaves. Have been doing the grilled-oven version with banana leaves and time for a change!

  4. 4
    The Expedited Writer
    August 8th, 2007 at 8:38 am

    I actually prefer the steamed one better than the grilled one. The otak-otak in Penang are usually steamed πŸ˜€ and this one, despite the lack of banana leaf is certified otak-otak πŸ™‚

  5. 5
    August 8th, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Just the other day, I tasted some very delicious home made otah. Arrghh.. I want to have more of them now.

    Orang Muar? That’s so so so near my hometown!

  6. 6
    Rasa Malaysia
    August 10th, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Looks very good…I can’t find the leaves here..which sucks.

  7. 7
    August 10th, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    ParisB : Just make sure you ta pau them the next time you head home! Anyway, I was told that it is best not to see the actual process done by the traders as it might spoil one’s appetite.

    Bee Nee : It is actually quite doable πŸ™‚

    tigerfish : If you have banana leaves, lay it on banana leaves and steam it. I think it will taste better.

    Expedited Writer : If you ask me, I actually prefer the grilled version. πŸ˜€

    keropokman : I was born in JB. That’s near enough to you. LOL!

    Rasa Malaysia : Do without the leaves. I’m sure you can improvise a bit πŸ˜‰

  8. 8
    October 5th, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Hmm…Tink will try it 1 of these days,But dunno when?
    Im oso 1 of d Otak2 fanatics. Can nvr stop eating it.
    Thx4 d recipe.

  9. 9
    Regina Chennault
    December 9th, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hi, I grew up in Muar and am proud to hear that Muar’s otak-otak is one of the best in Malaysia! I think the best otak-otak vendor in Muar is Bentayan Otak-Otak (only sold at night in Bentayan night time hawker center). Try the fish otak-otak and shrimp otak-otak… you can actually taste chucks of fish/shrimp in the otak. Also, try the famous “o-chian” (fried oyster scrambled eggs)by the night time vendor in downtown near Jln Meriam… the best o-chian ever!

  10. 10
    September 7th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    i think the steam way is better because if we grille it,the sos will less but if we steam it..at least it will be abit wet……

  11. 11
    September 14th, 2009 at 9:54 am

    000 : Wrap it in coconut / banana leaves and grille it. That should help to retain the moisture and enhance the flavour.

  12. 12
    li chew
    January 1st, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    can be steamed in small aluminium cups like those used to bake cup cakes.

  13. 13
    Tim Tio
    June 4th, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Regarding your Otak-otak recipe,there are two questions pertaining to the coconut milk:
    1.Are we talking about thick or thin milk?
    2.Is it sufficient using only 1/2 cup of santan. Will increase volume make the otak-otak richer and thus better?
    Thank you
    June 4 2010

  14. 14
    June 15th, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Tim Tio : It’s hard to explain to you whether it is thin or thick milk. Much depends on the amount of water used in the extraction process. Basically, the more concentrated the santan is, the more fragrant and “lemak” the taste will be.

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