“Otak-otak” is a Malaysian food that is made of spicy minced fish paste (usually mackerel fish), wrapped between coconut leave fronds then charcoal grilled. In my hometown Muar, “otak-otak” can often be found in Chinese traditional coffee shops, where people always eat it along with some noodle dishes they order from other vendors selling food inside the coffee shops. There is even a bakery in Muar selling bake buns with “otak-otak” filling and the buns sold out fast. My family likes to serve it with steam rice as part of a meal, or make “otak-otak”sandwiches as a breakfast or tea-time snack.
The typical fish for making “otak-otak” is mackerel. Years ago, I made my first “otak-otak” using mackerel but it didn’t turn out good. Back then I didn’t follow any recipe– it was really an experiment for me. This time I saw this recipe online and decided to give it a try because the picture of “otak-otak” looks just like the ones from my hometown. I happened to have some grouper fish leftover so I used it instead of mackerel. Actually this is quite an easy dish to prepare especially I always have sambal chili on hand– all I did was mixing chopped grouper fish, store bought fish paste, coconut milk and some spicy seasoning, then bake in the oven. Easy enough?
The outcome? The flavor is very closed to the ones found in Muar. But my “otak-otak” is a bit firm and dry. Next time, I should add more liquid (water, oil and maybe more coconut milk?), and I shall cover the baking pan with foil to keep in some moist during baking. There will be next trial for sure…
Muar Style “Otak-Otak” Trial #1 麻坡乌达 Recipe– original recipe from Y3K Free Recipes
1 lb fish paste– see note below
1/2 lb minced sierra mackerel or grouper fish– see note below
1/2 tsp salt
150 ml coconut milk
2 tbsp wheat flour 澄面粉– see note below
2 tbsp curry powder
2 tbsp chili paste or sambal
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp chili powder– see note below
1 clove garlic– minced
1 shallot– minced
- Season minced fish with 1/2 tsp of salt, then mix with fish paste to combine. Add in seasoning and coconut milk, stir to combine well.
- Pour mixture into a shallow baking pan, smooth the top. Bake at preheated 400°F oven for 12-15 minutes.
- Fish paste: different brand of fish paste has different taste and texture (mushy soft or “bouncy” firm). The one I used is a frozen fish paste sold in a plastic container brand 佳发鱼浆. This brand can be found in Foodnet Supermarket in San Leandro, CA or Marina Foods in Union City, CA.
- Minced fish: mackerel fish is typically used here. Or, you can use chopped small shrimps and make it shrimp “otak-otak”.
- Wheat flour: wheat flour is used to produce a little firm texture to “otak-otak”. If a softer, mushy texture is preferred then use corn flour or tapioca flour instead. Taste the texture of fish paste first, then decide if wheat flour or corn flour should be used and adjust accordingly.
- Chili powder: chili powder is used to make it more spicy, and also gives a more vibrant color to “otak-otak”. Next time I should use “BABA” brand chili powder. If you want the color but without the heat, use paprika powder instead.
- My “otak-otak” was dry and no sheen layer of oil on the surface– should try add may be 1 tbsp water and 1/2 tbsp oil to the mixture, and cover with foil before baking?