August 5, 2017

Sarawakian Local Delights : Cincaluk or Fermented Shrimps

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Bubuk of Miri, Sarawak

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Cincaluk or fermented shrimps is  made from bubuk, or krill which come in swarms in the shallow waters of South China Sea, along the Sarawak coast, usually after the first lunar moon.

In Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia,Korea and Fujian these tiny shrimps can be found too and they also come in different seasons.

The Fujian people of China, my ancestral people, enjoy eating Ha Cien (cincaluk in Foochow) since time immemorial. Thus my maternal grandmother would always enjoy a bottle of freshly made cincaluk which is an equivalent of her Fujian version,after the Chinese New Year in Sibu. She would even make her own Ha Cien if she could get hold of some bubuk from the Melanaus and Malays who rowed their boats to her jetty in the 1920 -1930's.

 虾[虫千] (Mandarin: xia qian), where [虫千] is now an obsolete character made up of radical 虫 ('chong' means 'insect' but read as 'hui-3' if acting as a radical) and 千 ('qian' means 'thousand').(How K. Wuong)

Today cincaluk could be store bought or just simply made at home if the housewife would like to make her own. Fresh bubuk or shrimps(aka udang geragau or krill) must be bought fresh off the boat if possible. Salt is added to the bubuk and one must never use chlorinated water to wash the shrimps. Some rice or gluey rice water must be added too. After the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, they are stored in a jar and allowed to ferment for three days.

To make the cincaluk pinker or redder many makers use Chinese red wine yeast to enhance the colour. Some also add sugar to improve the taste of the cincaluk.

Ha cien is usually served as a condiment or a dipping sauce, in a small bowl with chillies, sliced shallots and lime juice.Image may contain: food

It can be used as part of a dish e.g. a popular Foochow dish is a slice of toufu topped with thin slices of belly pork and cincaluk and chllies, steamed quickly and served with hot rice. Another popular Foochow dish is boiled belly pork served with cincaluk dipping sauce.
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A word of caution. Once the cincaluk is bottled, fermentation will be ongoing and pressure will build up in the bottle. So care must be taken when opening the pressurized bottle containing cincaluk. It has happen to many a housewife. The bottle of cincaluk may end up on the kitchen ceiling and the aftermath can be a horror story for any cleaner.

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