Spiced fish

Spiced fish

Otak-otak

By
From
South East Asian Food

Otak-otak is a dish related to both the Indonesian pepes and the Thai ho mok and its predecessors. Like them it is sometimes steamed and sometimes grilled over charcoal. After cooking, the packets or covered dish may be opened and their contents eaten hot, or they may be stored for a day or two in the refrigerator and sent out on summer picnics. 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. Allow it to cool and you have an excellent sandwich or canapé spread.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
500g fish, (e.g. mackerel, threadfin salmon, ling, barramundi)
1 cup thick coconut milk
1 duck egg
or 2 small hen eggs
salt, to taste
pinch sugar, or to taste
4 kaffir lime leaves, spines removed and leaves finely sliced or shredded
banana leaves or ramekins or oven dish or foil, for containers
20 betel leaves or young spinach leaves
freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Paste spices

Quantity Ingredient
5 fresh chillies, sliced
or dried chillies, seeded, soaked in warm water until soft and then squeezed dry
1 stalk lemongrass, finely sliced
2 slice galangal, chopped
2.5cm piece fresh turmeric
or 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
5 candlenuts, roasted
1.5 x 1.5cm piece shrimp paste
2 medium garlic cloves, sliced
5 shallots, sliced
or 1 small brown onion, finely chopped

Method

  1. Clean and skin the fish and flake the flesh. Pound the spices to a paste, adding items one by one in the order in which they are listed.
  2. Put the fish, pounded spices, coconut milk, egg, salt, sugar and lime leaves in a bowl and stir together gently by hand until they are thoroughly mixed and aired but not fluffy (see the technique used for Ho mok).
  3. Make banana-leaf packets for steaming as follows. Cut banana leaves into pieces about 18 x 20 cm. Hold them over a gas flame or heated electric element until softened. Place three betel leaves overlapping in the centre of the banana leaf, spooning 2–3 tablespoons of mixture on top (when the packet is folded, there should be room left for expansion). Pleat in the sides. Fold one side of the pleat to the front and one side to the back. Repeat on the other side to firmly encase contents. Secure top with a toothpick. Alternatively grease an oven dish or individual ramekins lightly, line the bottom with betel leaves and pour in the mixture. Place on a rack in a steamer for about 20 minutes or until cooked and set. For grilling make closed banana-leaf packets. Place betel leaves in the centre before the egg mixture is spooned on, fold up and secure, then grill over a low charcoal fire. Serve each helping in its banana-leaf container or wrapper.
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