Well soft being the theme for the week, I immediately thought of otak otak. A dish that I have had a few times in various forms, but then ones that I particularly prefer are the soft, squishy ones that remind you of the texture of brains. After all, otak apparently means brains in Malay.
The best otak otak that I recall eating was prepared by Annie Lee at a cooking school in Penang. It had such a delicate, soft texture and melted in the mouth.
Usually the otak otak is cooked in a banana leaf or pandan leaf deftly folded before grilling or steaming. The fish mixture is flavoured with a spice mix that usually has turmeric and chilli, but other ingredients seem to vary.
One simple method of cooking for larger groups is to place the otak otak mixture into greased dariole moulds and cook in a bain-marie in the oven or steamer.
The Thermomix is great for making the spice mix, for chopping the fish and blending the custard mixture and then steaming the little custards.
The cookbook that I used to prepare a simple otak otak was Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food . It has an easy recipe that does not require unusual or difficult to source ingredients.
Rather than embarrass myself with poor banana leaf folding technique, I opted to cook the custards in dariole moulds.
It is a simple dish with great flavour and, as long as they are not overcooked, soft texture.
3 dried red chillies, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes (or 1 tsp chilli powder)
1 lemongrass, white part only cut into 2 cm pieces
1 clove garlic
2 candlenuts (or macadamias)
1 medium onion
1 kaffir lime leaf, thick stem removed and thinly sliced
6 Vietnamese mint leaves
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp belacan, toasted (optional – even 2 tsp fish sauce)
500g firm white fish, in 2 cm pieces
200ml coconut milk
1 Tbsp rice flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 greased dariole moulds
Place spice mix ingredients into the TM bowl and blend for 40 seconds at speed 7. Scrape the bowl down after 20 seconds.
Add fish and blend for 10 seconds on speed 5. Then add remaining ingredients and mix for 10 seconds on speed 3.
Place mixture into the moulds and put into the Varoma tray. Roughly clean out the TM bowl and add 700g water. Place lid on and position the Varoma and steam the custards for 20 minutes at Varoma temp on speed 1.
Serve warm with a suitable sauce.