Singapore Style Fish Cakes (Otak-Otak)

Otak-Otak (Photo by closari/flickr)

Serves 4.


500 g/1 lb well-flavored, firm fish (Spanish mackerel)
3 dried red chillies
2 stems lemon grass, sliced finely
or 2 strips lemon rind
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped roughly
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons thick coconut milk
4 candle nuts or macadamia nuts (optional)
4 tablespoons chopped Vietnamese mint
or fresh coriander
2 fresh red chillies, chopped finely


Remove the skin and bones from fillets and puree in a food processor. Discard stems and seeds of chillies and soak in hot water for 10 minutes. Put chillies, lemon grass, onion, garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, coriander, coconut milk and nuts into blender and blend to a pur&eacutee. Mix well with fish, adding mint and chillies.

Put 1 tablespoon quantities of mixture onto squares of banana leaf or squares of heavy-duty foil. Shape into flat parcels, fold foil over to seal edges and cook over a barbecue or under a preheated grill for 5 minutes each side. Serve warm or cold as an appetiser.

Note: If using banana leaves, first wash, dry and heat over low flame to make them pliable before making the parcels. Fasten with toothpicks.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)