The version I grew up eating is the Penang Steamed Otak. The Penang version which has Nyonya influence, is a steamed fish cake made from a mixture of eggs, fish fillet and a whole lot of herbs including serai (lemon grass), lengkuas (galangal), ginger, chillies, kaffir lime leaves and kaduk leaves. The fish paste is wrapped in banana leaf and steamed. The steaming method produces a dish that is fragrant upon opening the parcel, thoroughly delighting your sense of sight and smell. The fish cake itself is smooth, a custard/souffle like texture with chunks of fish in between. Totally delicious!
The style of wrapping otak-otak is also somewhat unique and immediately recognizable as Malaysian otak. Some would wrap it in a parcel shape and some is done up in a box-like shape. I choose the box-like shape for this particular recipe.
Penang Steamed Otak
Recipe Adapted from "Meals from Asian Kitchens"
1.5kg fish fillet (eg. red snapper or threadfin)
To grind finely:
4 stalks (white part only) lemon grass (serai)
5cm piece ginger
7cm square piece shrimp paste (belacan)
6cm galangal (lengkuas)
10 fresh red chillies
25 white peppercorns
10 cloves garlic
3 1/2 Tbsp rice flour for thickening
2 coconuts, grated (can substitute with 200ml thick coconut cream)
5 large eggs
3 Tbsp oil
12 fragrant lime leaves (daun limau purut)
1 1/2 to 2 tsp salt
14 - 16 kadok leaves (Piper sarmentosum, pointed pepper leaves)
1 1/2 bundle of banana leaves
1) Cut the fish fillter into 1" slices
2) Squeeze the grated coconut without adding water for first milk.
3) Beat eggs. Shred lime leaves
4) Cut banana leaves into 16 pieces measuring 4" square and 16 pieces of 8" square. Wipe to clean the leaves and pass over a fire to soften them.
5) Fold up 2" of the edges of the larger piece and staple corners to make a box. Put one kadok leaf in the box. Repeat for remaining cut banana leaves.
1) Put ground ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add oil, first coconut, beaten eggs, shredded lime leaves and salt. Mix well and add the fish fillet.
2) Place a larger piece of banana leaf on a deep plate. Put a smaller piece of banana leaf in the centre of the larger piece.
3) Place 1 ladlefulof mixed ingredients with 3 slices of fish into each box. repeat until all the banana leaf boxes are filled. (Alternatively place 1 ladleful of mixed ingredients with 3 slices of fish on a leaf and fold the two sides over each other. Secure the ends with toothpicks)
4) Steam the packages for 10 - 15 minutes. Serve immediately.