Seasoned Traveller
Recipe: Otak-Otak

RECIPE » Ridiculously Easy Otak-Otak

Words & images by Sofia Levin

Otak-otak is an aromatic fish cake wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over charcoal that's popular in Southeast Asia. It's also insanely quick and easy to cook.

Traditionally otak-otak is made in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia by chopping all the ingredients by hand, but a blender makes this firm and fragrant fish mousse incredibly easy to cook at home. If you want to make it even simpler (and cheaper), swap the base for store-bought red curry paste.

Otak-Otak Recipe Firm Fish Paste in Banana Leaf

Feeds 6

Ingredients to make the base

30g dried chilli, soaked

1-2 bird's eye chillies

50g lemongrass, roughly chopped

30g galangal, roughly chopped

2 kaffir lime leaves

100g brown onion, roughly chopped

150g shallots, peeled

1 tbsp palm sugar

1 tbsp turmeric powder

1 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp belachan (fermented shrimp paste)

The rest

500g firm fish, like rockling, chopped

150ml coconut milk

1 tbsp corn flour

Banana leaves

Toothpicks, soaked in water


1. Combine the base ingredients in a blender or NutriBullet and blend until smooth.

2. Remove the aromatic base and set aside.

3. In the same blender, add the fish, coconut milk, corn flour and 1/2 cup of the base. Blend until mousse-like.

4. Spoon 2 heaped tablespoons of the mix into the centre of a banana leaf and wrap up in a neat parcel, fastening with a toothpick. Repeat until the mixture is used up.

5. Cook your otak-otak parcels by steaming for 10 mins, baking on 200°C for 15 mins, or grilling/barbecuing for 5 mins on each side.

6. Serve with rice and sambal.

Note: use the rest of your homemade paste in stir-fries, curries and on your eggs in the morning.

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