It’s the ‘bubuk’ season!


It’s the shrimp season again here, time to make cencaluk and belacan! (shrimp paste)

Bubuk sold at Pasar Nelayan Kuala Bakam, Miri

Bubuk sold at Pasar Nelayan Kuala Bakam, Miri

We bought some bubuk from stalls along the Bakam main road sometime last week. Each batch we bought were sold at different rate. One was RM 4 per kilo. Another was 3 kilo for RM 10. I thought my ears had some problem when I overheard a trader from Bintulu said bubuk was selling for RM 25 per kilo because bubuk is scarce over there. I’m not sure how true that is.

As I was gazing intently at a pile of bubuk at one stall, suddenly a creature crawled out from middle of the mount and fell right in front of me. I was taken aback, almost dropped my phone. “It’s a mini kraken!” The husband teased me. The creature happened to be a little crab. The lady who attended the stall informed us that her bubuk is fresh; just arrived from the sea as we stopped by her house. At the background I could see a man cleaning his fishing net. I believed her.

Bubuk sold at a stall along Bakam road

Bubuk sold at a stall along Bakam road


The Cincaluk that my husband made recently; it's barely one week old

The Cencaluk that my husband made recently

Cencaluk is not for everyone. Pity, I don’t eat them, though I have nothing against their smell or presence around me. In fact, I’m learning how to make them from my husband. He is good in making cencaluk. Once he brought a jar of cencaluk to his work place (offshore). Some foreigners exclaimed: “It smells like something had died here!” Indeed, cencaluk is not for everybody; just like durian. At the moment, mum and I are experimenting on various cencaluk-making techniques and recipes. We want to know which one is the ideal one, for us. Everyone has his/her own preference.

The Making of Belacan

We probably make belacan once every two or three years. My family do not consume belacan everyday so there isn’t a need to make it every year. Our stock of belacan usually last us for about two years. We don’t make much, just enough for our own consumption. The thing is – my mother refuses to eat belacan made / prepared by other people. She is fussy when it comes to food, especially belacan. You would understand why.

Belacan - compressed!

Belacan – compressed!

When we dry our belacan, we use nets or thin lining fabric to cover them. This is to prevent debris from landing on it and insects (especially flies) from laying their eggs on the belacan. Would you eat belacan that is infested with maggots and peppered with other impurities? Then again, maybe fly larvae has its own unproven healing properties, you never know. Still, yuck!

When necessary, we use double layer of netting to cover the shrimp paste. Also, need to keep watching over them while they are under the sun, in case my dog decides to sabotage our belacan because he is jealous. You never know. Thankfully we do not have any free range chickens and ducks around. I heard of stories about how people in certain places dried out their belacan in the open space without any cover, exposing the belacan to all elements – including the possibility of chicken and duck poop… Yuck!

How to prevent flies from making transits on your bubuk or belacan

How to prevent flies from making transits on your bubuk or belacan

We also use thin lining fabric to cover the paste. The one shown below is a lining cloth that costs RM 9.90 per meter. I thought it would be like, maybe RM 5 per meter but I clearly underestimated the quality of the thin fabric.

kain kasa melitupi belacan yang dijemur agar tidak dihinggapi lalat

Shrimp paste covered with thin lining fabric to prevent debris and flies from getting on them

I’m not saying that we produce the cleanest belacan around… but, IT IS CLEAN!

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