Otak Otak (Fish Mousse Grilled on a Banana Leaf)

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Title: Otak Otak (Fish Mousse Grilled on a Banana Leaf)
Yield: 24 Servings
Categories: Singapore, Appetizers


Rempah (see below)
1 1/2 lb White fish filets
2 ts Salt
1 tb Sugar
1/2 ts White pepper
1 lg Egg, lightly beaten
4 Fresh or frozen Kaffir lime
-leaves (daun limau perut) *
24 6-inch squares of fresh or
-frozen banana leaf or
-aluminum foil
24 md Shrimp (about 1/2 pound),
-peeled and deveined

----------------------------REMPAH (SPICE PASTE----------------------------
8 Dried red chiles
2 Stalks fresh lemongrass or
1 tb Lemongrass powder or
Zest of 1/2 lemon
2 qt Slices fresh galangal or
1 qt Slice dried galangal,
-soaked in warm water for
-30 minutes
6 cn Nuts (buah kera) or
-macadamia nuts
2 Shallots
4 Cloves garlic
1/2 ts Turmeric
3/4 ts Ground coriander seeds
1/2 ts Shrimp paste or anchovy
1 c Thick coconut milk

* if available; or substitute fresh citrus leaves These banana leaf
packets filled with a spicy fish mousse make great grill-it-yourself
barbecued appetizers. The banana jackets make them wonderfully easy
to hold in your hand as picnic food. Or, if you prefer, the filling
may be spread on toast points for a more formal presentation.
Otak Otak comes in many variations throughout Southeast Asia. Each
version contains a rempah, the Malay name for the hand-pounded
seasoning pastes which are the bouquet garni of Southeast Asian
cooking. The traditional Singapore Nonya rempah includes chiles,
garlic, shallots, lemongrass, turmeric, candle nuts, and shrimp
paste, although other spices and herbs may be used to enhance a
particular dish. Like curry pastes, rempahs are traditionally
pounded in a mortar. Although a hand- pounded paste is better, it is
time-consuming and laborious for the average American cook. I
recommend starting the paste in a spice mill and/or a mini-food
processor, switching to a mortar for a final pounding to smooth out
the rough edges.
In Singapore, Otak Otak is usually made with a Spanish mackerel
called tenggiri, but this recipe was developed with milder
white-fleshed fish.
1. Prepare the Rempah. [Recipe below. S.C.] 2. Pat the fish dry
and cut it into 2-inch pieces. Put the fish in the work bowl of a
food processor and chop into a fine paste. Add the salt, sugar,
white pepper, and egg and process until fully incorporated, about 5
seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cooled
rempah. Beat with a wooden spoon or mix with your hands until smooth,
about 5 minutes. Remove the spines from the lime leaves and cut the
leaves into very fine shreds. Fold them into the fish mixture.
3. For each packet, dip a square of banana leaf into boiling water
for 1 to 2 minutes; pat dry. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the fish
mixture down the middle of the leaf to within 1 inch of the ends.
Place a shrimp in the middle of the fish mousse and pat it into the
filling to lie flat. Fold the long edges over the filling (they
should overlap in the center) to make a flat long packet. Press down
lightly to flatten the packet a bit; press the ends shut and seal
with toothpicks. (Packets may be prepared to this point up to 2
hours ahead of time and refrigerated.) 4. Place the banana leaf
packets on a grill 3 to 4 inches over a medium-hot fire and cook for
3 minutes per side (open one to test for doneness before serving).
Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
Makes 24 packets.
VAR1AT1ON: Otak Otak can also be steamed. Put the fish packets on a
steaming tray in a wok filled with boiling water and steam over
medium- high heat for 5 minutes.
REMPAH: (Spice Paste) 1 . Cut the chiles just below the stem. Shake
the chiles to loosen the seeds. Discard the stem and seeds. Put the
chiles into a bowl and cover them with warm water; soak for 15
minutes (1 hour is better, if you have the time).
2. Cut off and discard the root from the lemongrass. Re move the
tough outer leaves until you see a light purple ring. Use only the
tender white mid-section; chop coarsely.
3. With the motor running, drop the lemongrass down the feed tube
of a mini-processor; chop as fine as possible. Add the galangal;
chop as fine as possible. Add the chiles and chop as fine as
possible. Add the candle nuts, shallots, garlic, turmeric, ground
coriander, and shrimp paste and process together into a paste (this
may take 2 to 3 minutes); scrape down the sides of the work bowl as
4. Heat 1/4 cup thick coconut milk in a saucepan over medium-high
heat; stir continuously until thick and oily. Add the contents of
the processor and cook gently until the mixture is fragrant and oily,
about 5 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk and bring to a boil,
stirring constantly; cook until incorporated. Let cool before adding
to the fish mixture. The rempah can be made a few hours ahead of
time. From "Asian Appetizers" by Joyce Jue, Harlow and Ratner, 1991.
ISBN 0-9627345-1-9. Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; December 8 1992.

File ftp://ftp.idiscover.co.uk/pub/food/mealmaster/recipes/cberg2.zip