I traveled to Malaysia for the first time in May 2013. It was an amazing food experience and I am excited to share what I learned about Malaysian cuisine with you. The best part of the trip was watching my dad enjoy nostalgic food from his childhood. While souvenir shopping in a Malaysian grocery store, my dad spotted a bottle of cincalok and told me that when he was a child, his family’s servants would toss nets into the ocean during shrimp season to catch tiny shrimp for his mom to make cincalok from scratch. After hearing that story, I had to bring some home.
Cincalok is a Malaysian shrimp sauce that originated in Melaka. It is made of fermented tiny shrimp, it is very salty, and is probably an acquired taste. Although it doesn’t smell very good coming out of the bottle, the odour and flavour gets rounded out nicely when mixed with lime juice and other ingredients. Since cincalok has a strong and distinct taste, it is often served as a dip (recipe below) for blander dishes such as fish or steamed pork belly. Cincalok is also used in egg omlettes. Recently, my dad discovered that cincalok mixed with sriracha hot sauce makes a simple and delicious dip, too.
Cincalok Dip Recipe
1/8 cup cincalok (Malaysian fermented tiny shrimp)
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lime (or more to taste)
1 or 2 fresh small red chillies, stem and seeds discarded and then finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 small shallot, finely sliced (optional)
In a small bowl, stir together all of the ingredients until well mixed. Use in egg omlettes or serve as a dip for blander dishes such as fish or steamed pork belly (recipe below). Store leftovers in the refrigerator.
Steamed Pork Belly Recipe
1 1/2 lb (approx.) pork belly, rind on
Bring a pot of water with the pork belly to a rolling boil over high heat. Allow it to boil for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your piece of meat. Rinse the pork belly well under cool running water and pat dry with paper towels. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with vegetable oil and sear the skin side of the pork belly until carmelized, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, set up your steaming equipment. (See my post on How to Steam Cook Food here.) I use a steamer rack in a wok. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Transfer the pork belly to a heat proof dish, meat side down and place into the steamer. Steam for 1 hour.
Cut the pork belly into 1/2 inch thick slices. Then cut each slice into approximately 1 inch wide, bite sized pieces. Return the pieces of pork belly to the steaming dish. Steam for another hour. Serve immediately with cincalok dip (recipe above) and plain white rice.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Prior to reheating leftovers in the steamer, scoop off the white coloured fat that has solidified on the surface and discard. Some people prefer to make this dish at least a day in advance so that they can remove the solidified fat prior to serving. This dish freezes well too. Simply defrost prior to reheating in the steamer. Reheat leftovers in the steamer prior to serving.