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Otak-otak, of Malay and Nyonya origins, is a blend of raw fish, chopped onions, coconut milk, herbs and spices bound together with egg. The puree is wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over an open charcoal fire and served usually as an accompaniment to a meal of nasi lemak or "coconut rice".
In Singapore, this savoury snack is usually made from Spanish Mackerel, locally known as ikan tenggiri, which is pureed into a kind of fish mousse or fish quiche. The texture of the fish paste is soft and smooth-almost like a custard because of the coconut milk. Its unique flavour is found in its spicy rempah, a Malay term for the hand-pounded spices and seasoning. The rempah is traditionally made up of chillies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, turmeric, candle nuts and shrimp paste. Morsels of fish paste are then wrapped in banana leaves, the fragrant aroma of the leaves grilling under charcoal adding to the otak-otak's flavour.
Costing less than $1, the otak-otak is also a favourite snack eaten on its own. Since its main ingredient is the white flesh of fish high in protein with only a small quantity of coconut milk, the fat content of the otak-otak is quite low and it makes for a nutritionally healthy addition to the weight -watcher's diet.
Although more often grilled, the otak-otak is also sometimes baked and often steamed. Recent adaptations include otak-otak stuffed in pau or "steamed bun", and serving as filling in curry puffs.
Tan, T. (1996). Nonya cooking-the easy way (p. 34). Singapore:Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING q641.592950595)
Good food in Singapore (p. 77). (1988). Singapore: Far East Press.
(Call no.: RSING 642.50255957 GFS)
Love grilled food? (1997, April 19). The Straits Times, Home, p. 22.
Otak-otak adds spice to an informal buffet (1995, August 20). The Straits Times, Life!, p. 8.
SOAR (1995-2000). RecipeSource (2001-2004). Otak Otak (fish Mousse Grilled On A Banana Leaf). Retrieved January 11, 2005, from www.recipesource.com/munchies/appetizers/seafood/otak-otak1.html
The information in this article is valid as at 1999 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.