CINCALOK is an ingredient endemic to this region and is popular in a few Peranakan dishes in Penang and Melaka.
It is made with a mixture of udang geragau or krill and rice fermented in brine, creating a delicacy with a distinctively pungent flavour that some people say is an acquired taste.
It is quite difficult to describe its taste — the umami from the shrimp and salt plus a hint of sweetness, bitterness and sourness as a result of the fermentation process. Used in minute quantities, it can enhance the taste of some dishes, imbibing them with a flavour characteristic of the sea.
One such dish is cincalok omelette that is peculiar to the Peranakan community in Melaka. It is usually served with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of home-made sambal belacan.
I was a bit cautious the first time I tasted this dish because I was afraid the cincalok would overpower the other flavours. We had ordered the omelette with pork and it turned out to be a unique and delicious combination. It proved that when used sparingly, cincalok is a wonderful addition to even the simplest of dishes.
Traditionally, shallots were sliced into the omelette but these days it is common to substitute with an onion or red onion. You may also substitute the red onion with cili padi for an additional punch of spiciness.
I have included the recipe for sambal belacan here, another classic condiment to the Malaysian dinner table. I still make this in a mortar, pounding it with a pestle because I find that electric blenders and processors simply cannot do the job of mashing all the seeds. I had been taught to just aim for the seeds when pounding chillies, and when all the seeds are gone, the rest of the pulp, skin and membrane would have been mashed to perfection.
I also toasted the belacan before pounding them into the chillies but I know that some recipes do not call for them to be toasted. You may substitute with belacan powder which has already been toasted and ground into a fine dust.
Squeeze the calamansi lime into the sambal belacan just before serving. The tangy flavour of citrus complements cincalok very well, so don’t forget to include wedges of lime to the plate of cincalok omelette to bring out the zest of this truly Malaysian dish.
Cincalok omelette with sambal belacan
Ingredients2 tbsp cincalok
1 red chilli
5 large eggs
¼ tsp white pepper
4 tbsp oil
2 sprigs corianderMethodDrain excess liquid from the cincalok. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. Add in the drained cincalok and pepper and mix well.
Thinly slice shallots and deseeded red chilli. Heat oil in a pan and lightly sauté red onions and chilli.
Pour in egg mixture and cook until the bottom of the egg is set and firm, then flip over to cook the other side.
Dish out when the omelette is cooked on both sides. Garnish with coriander and serve with lime and sambal belacan.
Sambal belacan5 red chillies
6 bird’s eye chillies
5 calamansi lime or limau kasturi
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
InstructionsToast belacan until dry and fragrant. Cut red chillies and bird’s eye chillies into rough pieces, and pound in a mortar together with the belacan.
Once the paste is smooth, add sugar and salt and continue grinding. Do not add sugar or salt earlier as salt will draw out water from the chillies.
Squeeze the calamansi limes and add the juice to the mix. Stir well and serve.
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