Otak-Otak Muar: The Most Iconic Fish Snack in Johor
Otak-otak Muar, also known as Otak-otak, Otak, or Otah, is a popular fish snack that hails from the town of Muar in Johor, Malaysia. This delectable treat is made by combining fresh fish paste with a variety of flavourful ingredients such as coconut milk, chilli, turmeric, galangal, and lemongrass. The mixture is then wrapped in long parcels made from leaves of the nipah palm, coconut, or banana, before being cooked through grilling or steaming.
The name Otak-otak is derived from its soft texture and pinkish hue, which resembles brains. Local folklore suggests that Otak-otak Muar was invented by fishermen in Muar as a way to utilize leftover fish meat that would otherwise go to waste. They ground the leftover fish meat into a paste and then preserved, marinated, and flavoured it with various spices. Along the Muar River, an abundance of nipah palm trees provided leaves suitable for creating parcels to hold the marinated fish paste during grilling.
While Otak-otak Muar traditionally uses mackerel fish, there are now variations that incorporate crab, prawns, cuttlefish, clams, or even chicken. The leaf parcels used for wrapping have expanded beyond nipah palm leaves to include coconut leaves and banana leaves, each imparting a distinct fragrance to the Otak-otak.
Otak-otak Muar is highly sought-after in Malaysia for several reasons. Its unique texture and delicious taste make it a standout snack. The combination of fish meat and spices creates a well-balanced flavor profile with elements of sweetness, spiciness, savoury notes, and tanginess, making it a popular choice as a snack or appetizer.
The versatility of Otak-otak is another factor contributing to its popularity. It can be enjoyed on its own as a snack or served as a side dish alongside rice. It can also be used as a filling for sandwiches or served with noodles, providing a range of culinary possibilities.
It’s worth noting that Otak-otak variations exist in other coastal towns of Malaysia, such as Penang and Terengganu, as well as in neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Singapore.
Muar is renowned for producing some of the best Otak-otak in Malaysia, attracting many visitors who make a point of trying this local specialty. The availability of Otak-otak in Muar is widespread, with numerous street vendors and restaurants offering it. Additionally, commercially-produced and frozen Otak-otak can be found in shops and supermarkets, allowing enthusiasts to enjoy this delectable treat beyond Muar’s boundaries.