Recipe – How to Make Otak-Otak (Grilled Spicy Fish Cakes)

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Pretty much every time I post something, haterz (yes, with a “z”) come out of the woodwork to complain about this or that aspect of my content, and I can’t imagine this will be any different.  To pre-empt some of this, I’m going to come out and say the following about my Otak-Otak recipe –

1) I spent the first 17 1/2 years of my life in Malaysia and had never had Otak-Otak at the time I arrived in Australia.

2) There are 2 broad versions of this snack in Malaysia – the steamed version that’s wrapped in banana leaves and also uses daun kadok, and the grilled version that’s encased in coconut leaves and cooked on a charcoal grill that’s a little shallower than a typical satay barbecue.

3) When I first made otak-otak, I went in blind, testing different recipes from cookbooks without any idea how closely they matched what you’d find in Malaysia.

4) The end result is something adapted to my personal taste; also, I split the difference and wrap mine in banana leaves but grill, not steam them.

5) Authentic or otherwise, it’s one of my most popular snack items at the markets, not just among those unfamiliar with Malaysian food, but also among my Malaysian customers.

6) The following recipe calls for the fish paste to be made from scratch; for my business, I do in fact buy a commercially-made fish paste available in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores. Yes, I employ a lot of shortcuts, and that’s because I produce food in large volumes for mass consumption as part of my business operations 😉

7) This recipe simplifies it further for those who have trouble finding banana leaves – it allows for the fish paste to be cooked in spoonfuls in a frying pan – but also gives the option of wrapping them per the traditional way.



So here it is – good luck and let me know if you have any questions!


300 g white fish fillets

2 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp tapioca flour

Dash of pepper

1 Tbsp sugar

1⁄2 Tbsp chicken stock granules

1 tsp belacan (shrimp paste) powder (optional)

1 1⁄2 tsp Malaysian fish curry powder

1 large egg

125 ml coconut cream

1 tsp chilli paste

1 tsp minced kaffir lime leaves

2 1⁄2 Tbsp packaged fried onion


Combine fish fillets, water, tapioca flour and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until mixture turns into a paste.

Combine fish paste with remaining ingredients and mix well.

Brush a hot pan with a bit of oil. Drop heaped tablespoons of fish mixture into the pan, cook for 2 – 3 minutes on each side until golden and cooked though.

Notes: Fish curry powder is a common Malaysian spice blend found in Asian grocery stores. It includes coriander, cumin, fennel, turmeric, chilli and fenugreek.

For more a more traditional presentation wrap 2 tablespoons filling in small rectangles of banana leaf or parchment paper. Secure ends, brush with oil and grill 5 minutes each side until cooked through.

Share and Enjoy !