Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Smelly Thing We Love. Making Belacan at Chop Kim Hoa Penang 骆金和峇拉煎廠

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

When we are away from Singapore and Malaysia for a long time, one of the things we miss most is this smelly thing we put in a lot of our cooking - belacan or fermented shrimp paste.


Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

I had the opportunity to see how this essential ingredient in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesian cooking is made in Penang, Malaysia. (There are many variations of fermented shrimp paste throughout Asia.)

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

We visited Chop Kim Hoa Belacan Factory 骆金和峇拉煎廠 of the Lo 骆 family in Pulau Betong in Penang. Mr Lo Eng Joo (left) runs the business with the help of his brothers and their children (fourth generation). The belacan business was founded by Mr Lo's grandfather over 60 years ago.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Belacan is basically made with krill (tiny shrimps) netted from the seas around Penang island. Chop Kim Hoa was in Batu Ferringhi before they moved south to Pulau Betong in Balik Pulau.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

In the old days, Chop Kim Hoa used to catch their own krill with large hand nets. Nowadays, Chop Kim Hoa mainly import krill from other parts of Malaysia such as Terengganu.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

The krill (tiny shrimps) are first drained and impurities like sand and fish are sieved out. It is then mixed 9 parts shrimp and 1 part salt. The mixture is pulped and left to ferment in large tubs reducing it to a pungent wet mash.

(Lower grade "belacan" contain bulk fillers like sweet potatoes and rice but Chop Kim Hoa belacan is 100% shrimp with salt.)

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

The reddish brown fermented shrimp pulp is laid out on canvas and dried in the Penang sun.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Till this day, the fermented shrimp pulp is still broken and spread out on canvas sheets by hand. These had to be turned a few times a day to ensure even drying. It's hard, labour intensive work under the scorching sun.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

You can smell the rotting shrimps from 100 metres away especially when the wind carries the pungent smell of uric acid to you 😂 But, for us accustomed to belacan, we thought nothing of it love it 😄 People encountering it for the first time have described it as poop. The same can be said of exquisite Blue Cheese 😛

That's why I believe that taste is subjective as it is tied up with our personal experiences.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

The fermented shrimp pulp drying in the sun and Penang sea breeze.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

When the sun sets, the fermented shrimp pulp is collected in large plastic tubs. They are grounded again, left to ferment for another 2 weeks and then brought out to the sun again.


Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

In the past, the fermented shrimp pulp was pounded by hand. Now, it is mashed with the help of grinding machines.

The process is repeated at least 3 times - ground, sun, ground, sun. At each ground and sun cycle, the fermented shrimp pulp becomes finer. The whole process from fresh krill to packs of belacan ready for sale takes at least 6 months (depending on the weather).

There are short cuts and easier ways to make belacan but the product is, of course, different.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Once the fermented shrimp pulp is mature, judging by it's colour, aroma, taste and texture, they are ready for packing - in the same way as fine wine is judged ready for bottling. (Wine connoisseurs, please pardon the analogy 😂)

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

The grinder press the fermented shrimp pulp and sends them out in the form of long, firm but not hard compacted bars.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

The long bar of compacted fermented shrimp pulp is cut with a simple wire saw into smaller pieces like blocks of butter.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Mr Lo neatly arranges the reddish brown blocks of belacan in a wooden box.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Once the box of belacan blocks is full, it is carried over to the packing machine.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Putting the butter blocks of belacan through the packing machine.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Chop Kim Hoa belacan is sold all over Malaysia including in Johor. Visitors from Singapore, Indonesia and even Holland would buy cartons of belacan to bring home because of its high quality.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

Penang locals walk in at Chop Kim Hoa and buy these hand packed belacan. They actually cost more than the machine packed ones as these are premium grade.

Sambal-Belacan-Kang-Kong

Sambal belacan kang kong - one of my favourite dishes. Humble fresh kang kong greens stir fried with belacan and chili. Full of leafy crunch and deep rich savoury flavours spiced with a hot sting.

Cost - one or two US dollars at most in Malaysia

Shiok quotient - priceless.

Belacan-Chop-Kim-Hoa-Penang-骆金和峇拉煎廠

🍤 When you are visiting Penang and have time to get out of Georgetown, take an hour drive out to Balik Pulau. There are many interesting sights and food here in the rural part of Penang. One of the interesting sights is one of Malaysia's few remaining traditional belacan factories at Chop Kim Hoa 骆金和峇拉煎廠.

Chop Kim Hoa Belacan Factory 骆金和峇拉煎廠
Address: 300, Mk 7, Pulau Betong, 11020 Balik Pulau, Penang, Malaysia
GPS 5°18'14.1"N 100°11'42.6"E | 5.303911, 100.195153 (approximate GPS - it is about 5 minutes drive from Jia Siang Cafe)
Tel+604 866 8245

No pork, no lard, no Halal cert

Date visited: 4 Sep 2017

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints as it makes this blog better :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is unethical in the same way as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...