Friday, August 12, 2011

Nyonya Cuisine: Otak-otak...

What's with the name otak-otak? I'm too lazy to google it up and see what it has to say about the origin of the name otak-otak. In direct translation, the Malay word 'otak' means 'brain' in English but there are only brainless ingredient to make a nice and creamy otak-otak. Look at that... I know it's nice. Thank you for the compliments. That's the result of a heavy labour in the kitchen... actually it took exactly 10 minutes to cook but the preparation takes at least half an hour. Oh, just look at that. By now I realize that nyonya cuisine relies heavenly on shallots, galangal, turmeric, belachan, garlic and dried chillies and not to forget the lemongrass. Of course for different dishes there are a little difference in the ingredients as well. See those leaves on the right. Those are kadok leaves which my kids were asked to pluck them from the edge of the drain. They grow wild as not many people want to plant those kinda leaves anymore. Nyonya cuisine is not one where people would want to spend so much time preparing. It's easier to eat in restaurants. The main ingredient in otak-otak is FISH~! You will have to clean those fish yourself. Cleaning doesn't mean washing the fish under running tap water or removing the scales. No scales for this kinda small fish. Cleaning a fish means decapitating the fish in a gruesome way. You can opt to use a knife but I prefer using a pair of sharp scissors. I have no skills in using a knife. I always imagine slicing my fingers along with everything else thus, the use of scissors is more relevant. Now, cleaning the fish means chopping off the head with no feelings at all. By the time I was doing the third fish, I felt like puking all over. But after the 10th fish, I got the hang of using my power to chop off the fish's head *sorry fish* then cut a slit on its abdomen to remove the intestines, bile and all those yucky stuff. To make really good otak-otak, you have to make sure that they're wrapped in banana leaves. To do so, I stole a banana leaf from the neighbour's banana tree. Hhhmmm... I didn't really steal it, just cut it off without asking permission. Anyway the banana tree is planted on a common ground of the apartment building. I have no skills in wrapping otak-otak. So I used coloured staples and tried my best to make it into a small little sampan. As long as the otak-otak is not leaking out then it is good. I just want the egg custard to form in the inside without pouring out all over the steamer. Steam it for 10 minutes... and you'll get what I've shown you in the first photo.

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