Otak-otak has its origin in the Thai Ho Mok, Khmer Amok, the Lao Mok and the Indonesian Pepes. Like them, it is sometimes steamed and sometimes grilled over charcoal. The effect of the grilled parcels done in a BBQ is stunning. It's a piece of remarkable interest for your guests and the surprise is always enjoyed.

After cooking, the packet or parcel is opened and the contents eaten hot. They may be stored for up to two days in the refrigerator. For a more simple approach which makes a good lunch dish, steam Otak-otak in a large covered dish or individual ramekins, or bake it in a pan of water in the oven and serve it with salad or plain rice. It can also be a good companion for a sandwich spread.

Ingredients :
  • 500g Fish - mackerel, salmon, threadfin or barramundi. Almost any filletable fish including crustacean and molluscs.
  • 250ml Thick coconut milk
  • 2 pieces Small hen eggs or one duck egg
  • 4 pieces Kaffir lime leaves, spines removed and leaves finely sliced or shredded
  • 20 pieces (Betel leaves: available online) or young spinach leaves. Basil leaves work very well and add another depth of surprise.
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • Pinch of sugar and salt to taste
  • Banana leaves or ramekins or oven dish or foil for containers
Paste Spices
  • 5 pieces Fresh chilies, sliced
  • 1 stalk Lemongrass, finely sliced
  • 2 slices Galangal, chopped
  • 2.5cm Fresh turmeric of one tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 pieces Candlenuts, roasted
  • 1 piece Shrimp paste, approx. 1.5cm by 1.5cm
  • 2 cloves Garlic, sliced
  • 5 stalks Shallots, sliced
Method :
  1. Fillet the fish and prepare small chunks or pieces.
  2. Pound the spices, using a mortar and pestle, to a paste, adding the spice ingredients one by one in the order in which they are listed above.
  3. In a large bowl, add in the fish, pounded spices, coconut milk, eggs, salt, sugar and lime leaves and gently stir to mix thoroughly.
  4. Make banana-leaf parcels for steaming as follows - Cut banana leaves in pieces of approx. 20cm square and gently heat them over an open flame until softened or soak in boiling water for a few minutes until softened.
  5. Place the leaves overlapping in the center of the banana leaf, then spoon 2 - 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture on top.
  6. Pleat in the sides, then fold one side of the pleat to the front and one side to the back. Repeat on the other side to encase the content loosely, in order to have room for expansion. If the parcel is to be BBQ grilled then wrap it again in anther layer of banana leaves and fold in the end.
  7. If steamed, simply secure top with a toothpick or staples.
  8. Place the parcels on the rack of a steamer and allow approx. 20 minutes of steaming time or until cooked and set.
Serve each parcel in its banana-leaf wrapper.