Otak-Otak Bakar (Indonesian Grilled Fish Cake) Recipe

Otak-Otak (Indonesian Grilled Fish Cake)

We, the Asians love our fish or seafood cakes.  Here is one of Indonesians' favourites, otak-otak.  Three cities are famous for its otak-otak, Palembang, Jakarta and Makassar.  Which sauce do you choose? The Palembang or Jakarta one.  Cuko (spicy tamarind sauce) or peanut sauce.

In bahasa Indonesia and Malaysia, otak means brain. The name of Otak-otak is derived from the idea that the dish somewhat resembles brains, soft and almost squishy. We have two kinds of otak-otak based on how we cook them, bakar and goreng. While bakar means grilled or barbecuing, goreng means deep fry. In this recipe, I used a broil method in the oven instead as I don't have a charcoal grill.

In South Sumatra (Palembang), otak-otak is originally made from fresh water fish as this province has many rivers. Featherback fish (ikan belida) is a popular fish that is used for otak-otak and pempek in this province. I'm glad I have the access to get featherback fish in whole and minced/paste forms.

In Jakarta and South Sulawesi (Makassar), otak-otak is mostly used saltwater fish, king mackerel fish (ikan tenggiri) since these two places near by the ocean. I have the access to get king mackerel but I'm too lazy to fillet and mince the fish.

For vinegar in the peanut sauce, I usually use canesugar vinegar (cuka lahang) or nypa palm vinegar (cuka aren). But this time I added my new favourite vinegar, the Filipino spicy canesugar vinegar which consist bird eye chilies, onion, black pepper and of course canesugar vinegar.

Speaking about the wrapping materials, Indonesians adore banana leaves for that purpose. Besides otak-otak, pepes or brengkes (grilled/steamed any protein sources in banana leaf) is one of them.

Otak-Otak Bakar

- Indonesian Grilled Fish Cake -


1 package (250 grams) frozen featherback fish (ikan belida) minced/paste, thawed

100 grams sago or tapioca flour*

50 ml thick coconut milk

10 stalks Chinese chives (use 2 green onions if you don't have), finely sliced

sugar to taste

kosher salt to taste

ground white pepper to taste

banana leaves for wrapping

Cuko (Spicy Tamarind Sauce) <- click for ingredients

Spicy Peanut Sauce:

50 grams roasted peanuts (can be substituted for crunchy peanut butter)

2 toasted candlenuts (optional)

1 long red cayenne pepper

75 mL luke warm water

1 tablepoon raw sugar

1/4 tablepoon kosher salt

spicy canesugar vinegar to taste


In medium bowl, stir together all ingredients for otak-otak until well- blended.
Place 5 tablespoons (minimum) of otak-otak dough in banana leaves and wrap it.  Repeat this direction until done and steam.
In the oven, broil otak-otak on high for 6 - 8 minutes for each side.  Serve with either cuko or sambal kacang.

Cuko (Spicy Tamarind Sauce):

Please check on pempek pistel post.

Sambal Kacang (Peanut Sambal):

In small pot, add water and kaffir lime leaves, bring to a boil. In small bowl, add peanut butter, garlic powder and indonesian hot sauce, stir. Add the boiling water and stir.

Cook's Note:

* In this recipe, sago flour and tapioca flour can be used for arrowroot starch interchangeably.

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