Otak-Otak (鲤鱼包) is a fish cake dish that is common in Malaysia as well as Singapore and Indonesia. As with many local dishes, there are regional variations to the otak-otak. The Penang otak-otak, which has local influence, is a steamed fish cake made from a mixture of eggs, fish fillet and a whole lot of herbs including serai (lemon grass), lengkuas (galangal), ginger, kunyit hidup (fresh tumeric), dried chillies, daun mengkudu (morinda), daun limau purut (kaffir lime leaf), on a bed of daun kaduk (Piper sarmentosum, pointed pepper), and the whole thing wrapped with banana leaf. The style of wrapping otak-otak is unique and immediately recognizable - it is such that the egg and fish mix do not run out.
Penang Otak-Otak (9 August, 2008)
The wrap is held together by a lidi (coconut leaf rib) though nowadays it is simply stapled. It is commonly sold at economy rice stalls, in which case it is often simply prepared on trays - otak-otak lovers prefer those wrapped in banana leaf; there is nothing like the aroma of freshly steamed fish when the otak-otak is unwrapped.
Fish fillet - cut into slices
Ingredients for spice paste (grounded up)
Dried chili - cut into smaller pieces and soaked
Ingredient for the custard
Thick coconut milk
Rice flour/ Glutinous rice flour
Kaffir lime leaves - sliced finely
Scald the banana leaves with hot water or soften it over a medium flame. Clean and cut the banana leaves into 18x20 cm rectangles. If you plan to steam the otak-otak using a casserole dish or a bowl, just trim the leaves into desired size and line the bowl. Put aside.
In a mixing bowl, crack an egg and mix it with coconut milk. Whisk for one minute.
Add in the spice paste and mix well.
Add in sliced kaffir lime leaves, rice flour, salt, sugar and pepper.
You can also roughly sliced the kaduk leaves, about 3 mm thick, and add into the mixture.
Lastly, add in the fish fillet.
Take one piece of banana leaf with the non-shining side facing up. Place a few pieces of kaduk leaves, and top with a ladle of otak-otak mixture.
Fold the sides up to meet in the center. Slowly fold both ends and meet in the center.
Secure with staples or bamboo toothpick.
Steam for 20 minutes or until the otak-otak is fully cooked.
If steam using the casserole dish, just line the bottom with a few pieces of kaduk leaves and pour in the mixture.
There are a number of places on Penang Island where you can buy Otak Otak. The ones I have come across (and can recall), I list out on the food map below. The pins are numbered to correspond to the list below the map. I'll add some more as I continue to look for them.
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