Perfecting Two Distinct Nyonya Flavours: Otak-Otak&Kuih Talam


Work commitments and exams unfortunately stilted our new found blogging enthusiasm these past couple of months. But in between a mountain of work and revision we somehow managed to squeeze in a Seafood supper club in February, which proved to be a lot of fun!We met some lovely people and the look of sheer pleasure on our guest’s faces as they tucked into some serious Malaysian chilli crab, getting their hands all messy as they soaked up the fragrant, flavoursome, heady chilli crab sauce with their fried mantou buns, was strangely gratifying.

We also tested out two new recipes which we think also seemed to hit the spot.

The first was our starter of otak-otak,below (Pic courtesy of Kay S


This turned out surprisingly well (otak-otak is known for being quite time consuming and fiddly to prepare). Thankfully we had some help in the form of the lovely ex-housemate Alex on hand. She did a great job of layering freshly filleted mackerel pieces onto banana and daun kadok leaves(known in vietanmese as ‘lalot’ leaves) that give otak-otak that distinct flavour, followed by a custard of lightly beaten coconut milk, eggs, kaffir lime leaves, chillies, galangal, belachan, lemongrass and tumeric(about 15 different ingredients went into this one dish!). The banana wrapped parcels were then steamed in bamboo baskets over boiling water for 10 minutes.I’m happy to say the results were pretty authentic!:) We used fresh mackerel for this version as we like the taste of real fish in our otak-otak(as in the penang version) compared to the more springy,minced fish versions you tend to get down south towards Melaka and Johor.

Then of course there was the Malaysian chilli crab that came after (Pic courtesy of Kay S Think this is definitely going to have to be one of Wild Serai’s definitive signature dishes!Only problem was that people dived into this dish with gusto and couldn’t get enough of the sauce,which they heaped on their rice, so much so that they were almost too full to enjoy the butter prawns, lala and kangkung belachan that came after.


But what proved to be a pleasant surprise was the perfect kuih talam.Nyonya kuih can be quite labour intensive to make, but the textures, colours and flavours, as any Malaysian worth his or her salt will tell you, are divine. We were actually surprised at how good this turned out- we used a recipe from a Penang Nyonya cookbook that I will post another day. This was by far the best kuih talam recipe I’ve tried, after testing quite a few the week before (some with disastrous consequences!). The top layer is made out of rice flour, thick coconut milk, green pea flour and tapioca flour whilst the bottom green layer is made up of the same flours again but with addition of sugar and pandan leaves. Fresh pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) are essential for giving the kuih talam that distinctly delicious aroma and flavour (and for giving it the strange green colour).This version went down a treat, so much so that one of our guests didn’t believe we made it ourselves! Will post the recipe and method another day.


One response »

  1. The Best Malaysian Chilly Crab this side of the world. Heck. The Best Malaysian Chilly Crab Period.
    Rating: 10
    Addie attended in February 2012

    What words to describe the explosion of flavours in my mouth that was Wild Serai’s exquisite chilly crab? Only one. Perfection. or perhaps Perfected. As in, now, WS has perfected the dish.

    As for the sumptuous buffet that followed, and make no mistake, this is in reality an all you can eat jobbie, what with the multiple calls of ‘would anyone like any more xxx?’

    Whilst the crab may have been the star, the otak otak was outstanding too. Lovely fragrant morsels of moist flavourful bites, as good as the best I’ve tasted. In fact, better.

    And the butter prawns! My only regret was not being able to eat more than one as I wanted to save space for the kangkung, more of that I’m really full but the chilly crab sauce is so nice please can I have more rice, kuih talam, teh tarik oooh, just an awesome evening of deliciousness that will leave you feeling sated for days.

    Take a taxi home when you’re finished though. Waddling home is so undignified. Because you will over eat. It’s inevitable. 🙂

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