Snakehead-wrapped Otak-otak Braised with Bamboo Clam and Singgang Tempoyak

Originally an easy catch for kampung dwellers surrounding rivers, lakes and paddy fields, the snakehead (ikan haruan) today has become a prominent dish in Malaysia cuisine. It is often fried, grilled or put in soups, and is said to have healing properties for those in recovery from surgery and for new mothers in post-natal healthcare. This recipe utilises the distinct, delicious taste of ikan haruan for the making of one of Malaysia's favourite appetisers, otak-otak, which is cooked in a sauce of tempoyak (a filling made of durians). This delicious mix of flavours is wholly unexpected, yet entirely Malaysian.


Serves 4.



150 g snakehead meat

400 g snakehead fillet, sliced into 4 strips, 100 g each

150 g prawn meat

150 g crab meat

50 g shallot, minced

5 shallot, skinned and cleaned

50 g ginger, minced

5 cloves garlic, sliced

50 g lemongrass, minced

50 g galangal, minced

50 g chili paste

10 g salt

10 g black pepper

10 g turmeric powder

20 g mint leaves

5 g kesom leaves

10 g ginger flower

4 g bamboo clam

50 g tempoyak

200 g clam stock, recipe follows



30 g pucuk paku, wild fern shoots

10 g pegaga

1 large red chili, thinly julienned

3 spring onion, thinly julienned

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

4 cherry tomatoes, pan roasted



1. In a food processor, mix together snakehead meat, prawn meat, crab meat, shallot, ginger, lemongrass, galangal, chili paste, black pepper, turmeric powder and salt. Blend ingredients to form a paste and keep aside until ready to use.

2. Lay snakehead fillet flat on clean surface, then spread otak-otak mixture on the fish. Roll it up to form a roulade, then tie the roll up with a length of butchers' string to hold its shape. Keep chilled in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. To make the braising broth, mix together kesom leaves, ginger flower, whole shallot, garlic, clam stock and tempoyak in a saucepan over medium-high. Allow liquid to boil, then decrease heat to medium and add snakehead roulade. Allow to simmer until fully cooked, about 15 minutes.

4. To make garnishing salad – Soak julienned red chili and spring onion in cold water. Blanch fern shoots in boiling water and immediately soak in the same bowl of cold water to retain green hue. Toss fern shoots and pegaga leaves with olive oil, salt and black pepper.

5. To serve – remove butchers' string and arrange fish roulate on a plate. Place a bamboo clam atop the fish arrangement. Pour tempoyak broth over it and garnish with red chili and spring onion curls, fern shoots, pengaga and roasted cherry tomato. Serve warm.

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