TESTED BY ARISTA KWEK
EASY BUT TEDIOUS
TIME-CONSUMING, BUT WORTH IT
Have a weighing scale with you, and use a food processor. Abide by these two golden rules, and you’ll have an enjoyable time making and eating these otak-otak. Oh, and wear gloves when deseeding the chillies (though they’re dried chillies, the burn is real). Also, don’t try to estimate the quantities in this recipe if you’re doing it for the first time—the precise measurements given should yield a very tasty dish if you follow them. I didn’t, and used way more dried chillies than I should have, which made the otak-otak much too spicy, but still very delicious.
Since we only had a hand-held immersion blender instead of a food processor, it took quite a while to turn the chunks of fish and prawn into a paste. Apart from these potential bumps along the road, this recipe is actually pretty simple—blend up the rempah (spice paste), fry it, blend it with the fish and prawn, wrap the spiced fish paste in banana leaves, and then grill the parcels.
Feeling pensive about wrapping the paste in the banana leaves? Don’t be. There is no need for any intricate smearing or shaping of the paste. Just dollop two spoonfuls of paste in and fold the two lengths of the banana leaf together (watching MeatMen’s Youtube video, and choosing leaves with little to no tears really helps, as I discovered far too late). Cooking the otakotak over an open flame, or in an oven at 180°C also works if you don’t own a grill of some sort.
This is the kind of recipe that is already perfect, yet also makes a great launchpad for creating an otakotak that suits your preferences—endless combinations of seafood can be used, such as squid, cod, or even beh kah fish (Spanish spotted mackerel) rather than the batang fish (Spanish mackerel) called for in the recipe, for those who prefer their otak-otak with a firmer texture and visible chunks of fish flesh, as the beh kah tends to break up into a chunkier paste.
Give a woman an otak-otak and you feed her for a day; teach her how to make it and she will feed everyone with endless variations for a lifetime.
Cooked by SALT