Cincalok is an ingredient that is 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 how it tastes–the umami in the shrimp mingled with salt plus a hint of sweet, bitter and sour from the fermentation. Used in minute quantities, it can enhance the flavour of some dishes, imbibing them with a characteristic flavour of the sea.
One such dish is the cincalok omelette that is peculiar to the Peranakan community in Melaka. It is usually served with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of homemade sambal belacan.
I was a bit cautious the first time I had this dish because I was afraid that the flavour of cincalok would overpower any 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 dish.
Traditionally, shallots were sliced into the omelette but it has become more common to substitute with an onion or a red onion. You may also substitute the red onion with chilli 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 by pounding in the pestle and mortar 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 the 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.
- For Cincalok Omelette
- 2 tbsp cincalok
- 100g shallots
- 1 red chilli
- 5 large eggs
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 4 tbsp oil
- 2 limes
- 2 sprigs cilantro
- For sambal belacan
- 5 red chillies
- 6 bird's eye chillies
- 5 calamansi lime or limau kasturi
- 50g belacan
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- Drain excess liquid from the cincalok. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk. Add in the drained cincalok and pepper and mix well.
- Toast belacan until dry and fragrant.
- Cut red chillies and bird's eye chillies into rough pieces, and pound in a pestle and mortar together with the belacan.
- Once the paste is smooth, add sugar and salt and continue pounding.
- Do not add sugar or salt earlier, as salt will draw out the water from the chillies.
- Squeeze the calamansi limes and add the juice to the mix. Stir well and serve.