Malaysian Food · March 19, 2023

Otak-otak Featured

Otak-otak Muar: The Most Iconic Fish Snack in Johor

Otak-Otak Muar: The Most Iconic Fish Snack in Johor

Otak-otak Muar (or simply Otak-otak, Otak or Otah) is a popular fish snack particularly in the town of Muar, Johor. It is essentially made by mixing fresh fish paste with various flavouring ingredients such as coconut milk, chilli, turmeric, galangal and lemongrass. The mixture is then wrapped in long parcels made from the leaves of nipah palm, coconut or banana. The Otak-otak parcels are then cooked by grilling or steaming.

The name Otak-otak comes from its pinkish hue and soft texture. It translates directly to ‘brains’ in Bahasa Malaysia. According to local folklore, Otak-otak Muar was created by the fishermen in Muar who came up with the idea of using leftover fish meat that would otherwise go to waste, to make a tasty and affordable snack. They started grinding the leftover fish meat into fish paste, and then preserve, marinate and flavour it with various spices. Along Muar River, there is an abundance of nipah palm trees where their leaves are suitable to be used as the parcel to hold the marinated fish paste for grilling over fire.

While Otak-otak Muar is usually made from mackerel fish, there are variations nowadays where it is made with crab, prawns, cuttlefish, clams, or even chicken. The leaf parcels are now made from not only the nipah palm leaf, but also coconut leaf and banana leaf, which will impart different type of fragrance to the Otak-otak.

There are several reasons why Otak-otak Muar is such a highly sought-after snack in Malaysia. One reason is that it has a unique texture and a delicious taste. The combination of fish meat and spices creates a balanced flavour profile of sweetness, spiciness, savoury, tanginess, making it a popular snack or appetizer.

Another reason for its popularity is its versatility. Otak-otak can be enjoyed in many different ways. It can be eaten on its own as a snack or served as a side dish with rice. It can also be used as a filling for sandwiches or served with noodles.

Please note that there are other variations of Otak-otak in other coastal towns of Malaysia like Penang and Terengganu, and also in neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Singapore.

Muar is known for producing some of the best Otak-otak in Malaysia, and many visitors to the town make a point to try this local specialty. The availability of Otak-otak in Muar is also high, with many street vendors and restaurants offering it. There are also commercially-produced and frozen Otak-otak being sold in shops and supermarket.