Category: Local specialty Product

Happy otak-otak

The third generation successor of “Happy Otak-Otak,” 28-year-old Xie Shun Loong said manual baking of otak-otak could no longer catch up with the current demands. As such, Xie commissioned experts to come up with this sophisticated otak-otak baking machine some ten years ago.

A row of otak-otak is seen neatly placed on the automatic baking machine for baking, after which the baked otak-otak will drop into a collecting basket.

The process looks simple but it took the machine designers plenty of effort to ensure that the heating is uniformly controlled.

Only ten minutes

Xie pointed out that the machine could churn out 200 sticks of otak-otak within ten minutes, doubling the speed from manual baking.

He added that an average of 5,000 to 6,000 sticks of otak-otak are exported to Singapore daily while the production could go as high as 40,000 sticks a day during the festive seasons. Only an otak-otak baking machine could possibly handle such demand.

“Singaporeans, Taiwanese, local and oversea tourists are very fond of otak-otak and would buy in large quantities as a souvenir from Muar. Demand for otak-otak is on steady rise now.”

More and more otak-otak makers adopt semi-mechanised production approach nowadays, unlike in the olden days when they purely relied on manual production. The current approach is in fact time-saving, labour saving and remarkably improving the yield.

The price of 50 cents per stick is considered affordable. Xie hopes to promote his product overseas to become a household name in this Muar specialty.

32 years of great taste

Xie’s mother Yen Ya Zhu said her mother-in-law Hong Mei Xiang loves otak-otak very much, and since she married to the Xie family, she spent around one year with her family to develop an otak-otak taste that would meet public demand and this taste has since been preserved for 32 years now.

Yen said due to limited funding and manpower shortage during the early years, otak-otak was sold in retail and small scale wholesale operations. Otak-otak later became a popular local snack and the Xie family decided to adopt the name of “Happy Otak-Otak” and started its own retail business..

She added that there are currently about 20 otak-otak producers in Muar.

Best selling

Yen told Sin Chew Daily in order to meet the requirements of local gluttons, businessmen have developed many different flavours of otak-otak such as fish, shrimp, fish head and crab.

However, the best selling otak-otak in the market now is still fish and shrimp flavours.

Japanese Spanish Mackerel and eel are the two main types of fish used to make otak-otak. Mackerel is used for box-packed otak-otak while eel is mainly for otak-otak sticks. In addition, spring roll otak-otak has also been developed for supply to local restaurants.

“The stick form otak-otak is wrapped in attap leaves while spring roll otak-otak is wrapped in handmade Vietnamese spring roll wrappers.

“Otak-otak” literally means brains in he Malay language. In early days when the people produced the otak-otak, all ingredients were blended together to look like a human brain. As a result, it was called otak-otak by the people.

Otak-otak is considered a snack that originated from Palembang in South Sumatra, Indonesia. Besides Palembang, otak-otak is also sold in Jakarta and Makassar although it is marketed in strips wrapped in banana leaves.

Dipping sauce

Indonesian otak-otak is made of ikan parang blended with pickled spices, coconut milk, pepper and starch. The colour is greyish white and not too spicy. It is normally served with assam sauce or peanut sauce.

Besides southern Malaysia, otak-otak is also sold in Nyonya style in northern part of the country, namely otak-otak fish. Due to Thai cultural influences, its packaging is more yellowish, similar to nasi lemak. Since the recipe has included lime leaves, kaduk leaves, egg and turmeric, the taste is somewhat different from the Muar variety. With additional spices like curry powder, dried chilies and galangal, the otak-otak assumes a reddish orange colour.

[Courtesy of Sin Chew,]

Category: Local specialty Product