Otak-otak



Otak-otak, also known as otah,1 is a dish of Malay and Peranakan origins.2 It is a blend of raw fish, chopped onions, coconut milk, herbs and spices bound together with egg.3 The puree is usually wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over an open charcoal fire or in the oven.4 The dish can also be prepared by steaming the wrapped puree in a wok filled with boiling water for about five minutes.5 Otak-otak is commonly served as an accompaniment to a meal of nasi lemak.6

Description
In Singapore, otak-otak, a savoury snack, is typically made from Spanish mackerel, or ikan tenggiri. The fish is pureed into a kind of mousse or quiche. The texture of the fish paste is soft and smooth, almost like a custard because of the coconut milk.7 Its unique flavour is found in its spicy rempah, a Malay term referring to the spices and seasoning.8 The rempah is traditionally made of chillies, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, turmeric, candle nuts (or buah kera in Malay) and shrimp paste.9 Traditionally, the dish is prepared by pounding all the ingredients using a mortar and pestle before frying.10 Morsels of fish paste are then wrapped in banana leaves, the fragrant aroma of the leaves grilling under charcoal adding to the flavour of the otak-otak.11 Besides accompanying other dishes, the otak-otak can also be eaten on its own.12

Variations
Otak-otak is usually wrapped flat in either coconut leaves or banana leaves and grilled in the oven or fire.13 However, Penang-style otak-otak is wrapped into a triangle with a rectangular base and steamed.14 Recent adaptations of the dish include otak-otak as bun and puff stuffing or as a burger patty.15 Nowadays, otak-otak can be found in supermarkets and sold as a frozen food item.16



Author

Suchitthra Vasu



References
1. Otah find surprises. (1999, August 15). The Straits Times, p. 11; Wong, P. (2000, July 21). Simply yummy! The New Paper, p. 56. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Gan, E. (2007, May 14). Foodnotes. Today, p. 28; Phoon, A. (2010, February 6). Cream of the crop. The Business Times, pp. 6–7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tan, S. (2014). Singapore heritage food: Yesterday’s recipes for today’s cook. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 120. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 TAN); Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
3. Tan, T. (1996). Nonya cooking: The easy way. Singapore: Times Book International, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 641.5929505957 TAN)
4. It’s a wrap. (2009, July–September). The Peranakan Association Newsletter, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 305.895105957 PAN); Tan, T. (1996). Nonya cooking: The easy way. Singapore: Times Book International, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 641.5929505957 TAN)
5. Jue, J. (1991). Asian appetizers. Berkeley, CA: Harlow & Ratner. Retrieved 2016, December 6 from RecipeSource website: http://www.recipesource.com/munchies/appetizers/seafood/otak-otak1.html
6. Gan, E. (2007, May 14). Foodnotes. Today, p. 28; Phoon, A. (2010, February 6). Cream of the crop. The Business Times, pp. 6–7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
7. Jue, J. (1991). Asian appetizers. Berkeley, CA: Harlow & Ratner. Retrieved 2016, December 6 from RecipeSource website: http://www.recipesource.com/munchies/appetizers/seafood/otak-otak1.html; Tan, S. (1995, August 20). Otak-otak adds spice to an informal buffet. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. The latest Malay-English dictionary. (1991). Singapore: Intellectual Pub., p. 232. (Call no.: RSING 499.230321 LAT)
9. Jue, J. (1991). Asian appetizers. Berkeley, CA: Harlow & Ratner. Retrieved 2016, December 6 from RecipeSource website: http://www.recipesource.com/munchies/appetizers/seafood/otak-otak1.html
10. Classic Peranakan cooking. (2010). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 36. (Call no.: RSING 641.59595 CLA); Jue, J. (1991). Asian appetizers. Berkeley, CA: Harlow & Ratner. Retrieved 2016, December 6 from RecipeSource website: http://www.recipesource.com/munchies/appetizers/seafood/otak-otak1.html
11. It’s a wrap. (2009, July–September). The Peranakan Association Newsletter, p. 18. (Call no.: RSING 305.895105957 PAN); Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
12. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)
13. Ong, J. T. (2016). Nonya heritage kitchen: Origins, utensils and recipes. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 ONG); Soon, R. (2006). Grandmother’s recipes: Tales from two Peranakan kitchens. Singapore: R. Soon, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SOO)
14. Soon, R. (2006). Grandmother’s recipes: Tales from two Peranakan kitchens. Singapore: R. Soon, p. 113. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SOO)
15. Bite sized. (2016, February 17). The New Paper; Happenings – food. (2015, June 26). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Tan, H. Y. (2013, April 14). Nonya fillings a treat. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Temasek Polytechnic. (2015). Singapore hawker classics unveiled: Decoding 25 favourite dishes. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 SIN)



Further resource
Love grilled food? (1997, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



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.

Subject
Cookery>>Types of meals>>Side dishes
Cookery, Malay
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Malay
Cookery, Peranakan
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery, Singaporean
Ethnic foods