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一个人的午餐 – Belachan Bee Hoon 古晋峇拉煎米粉

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This month’s Malaysian Food Fest brings us to Sarawak and this is really quite a challenge for me as I’d never been to East Malaysia, let alone sample the delicacies over there. From the more asli fanfare of Pansuh Ayam to the more familiar Sarawak Laksa, Sarawak is not short of good food. Problem is, I’d never had a chance to sample any of these. Unlike their Penang and Melakan counterparts, sarawakian cuisine isn’t very well represented over here in Singapore, with only a sparse speckling of shops selling Kolok Mee and even then, the authenticity of their renditions are in question, probably highly adapted and colloquialised to suit the local tastebuds. Alas, I turn to recipe books for help and thankfully, good recipes of Sarawak culinary delights are fairly well documented and published! Thus I embark on my Sarawak food journey with a popular hawker fare, Belachan Bee Hoon.


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Sarawak Belachan Bee Hoon, as the name implies stems from the “Land of the Hornbills”, or more specifically from the capital city, Kuching It started off from a chinese coffeeshop just a couple of decades ago and soon became popularised and “replicated” by other entrepreneurial hawkers throughout the “City of Cats”. Though probably not as well-known as Kolok Mee or Sarawak Laksa, Belachan Bee Hoon is nonetheless regarded by some foodies as one of the signature dishes of Sarawakian cuisine.
legacy-cookbook
The recipe I’m using comes from the “Sarawak Eurasian Association (SEA) Legacy Cookbook” published last year. This beautifully crafted recipe book compiles over 60 recipes from 23 Eurasian families who have made Sarawak their home since the days of the White Rajahs. Some of these recipes are uniquely Sarawakian, like the popular confinement dish Kachang Ma, the Iban housebrew Tuak, as well as not just one, but several recipes for Tempoyak, each family having their own nuances in preparatory methods. The book concludes with a section “Recipes of the Land”  showcasing well-loved Sarawakian classics like Sambal Belachan Midin, Terung Asam, Dabai, to some which require more of an acquired taste, like Umai and Ulat Mulong. There is a recipe for Sarawak Laksa in there but alas, it calls for “Sarawak Laksa Paste” which is not available over here. Hence, I had to settle for “second best”, Belachan Bee Hoon which can be made from scratch using readily available ingredients. The book went on to win “World’s Best Local Cuisine Cookbook Award” on the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2011 .
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Sarawak Belachan Bee Hoon (serves 4 – 6) adapted from the “Sarawak Eurasian Association (SEA) Legacy Cookbook”

Ingredients

1 large cured cuttelfish, cut into strips

1 packet of dried bee hoon (rice vermicelli), blanched in hot water until soft and just cooked. Drain and set aside.

200g bean sprouts, rinsed and roots removed. blanch in hot water until just cooked. Drain and set aside.

1 small cucumber, finelyu juilenned

3-4 century eggs, peeled and quartered

for rempah

250g dried shrimp

2 large red onions, peeled

100g dry toasted belachan

1 bulb of garlic, peeled

2 tbsp chilli paste

2 fresh red chilies

for kuah

3-4 tbsp of asam pulp (tamarind)

4 tbsp fish sauce

4-6 tbsp brown sugar

water

oil for frying rempah
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Method

to prepare rempah,

soak dried shrimp in some water. drain and set aside. Retain soaking liquids for futher use.

Peel and chop onions and garlic coarsely.

Deseed fresh red chillies and chop coasely.

Pound or blend dried shrimp, onion, garlic, chilli paste and red chillies until smooth.

to prepare kuah,

first rub asam pulp in a bowl of water to prepare tamarind juice

Heat wok until it begins to smoke.

Add oil and stir-fry rempah paste until fragrant (appro. 8-10 min)

Add tamarind juice.

“Rinse” the remnant tamarind seeds and pulp and give a final rubbing to “extract” more juice. Add juice to kuah mixture and discard seeds and pulp.

Top up with more water for sufficient kuah for number of desired servings. The amount of water can be controlled, depending on the consistency of the kuah desired. Add shrimp soaking liquids at this point if using.

Season with fish sauce and brown sugar.

Bring the kuah to a boil and turn down flame to a low simmer.  Add chopped cured cuttlefish strips into kuah

to assemble,

place blanched bee hoon and bean sprouts in a serving plate.

ladle kuah with cuttlefish slices over beehoon and bean sprouts.

Garnish with finely juilenned cucumber strips and century egg slices

Serve immediately with sambal belachan.

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Truth be told, I was quite skeptical on how the dish would taste. Belachan and bee hoon aint exactly the most ideal pair of ingredients to go together which I would think of. But I’m glad I made it because I love it! The sweet and savory tones, owing to the liberal use of fish sauce and brown sugar, with hues of heat and spiciness from the rempah worked very well for me. The flavours though not exactly spot on, are very robust. Some tweaking needed for sure, as I overlooked at the collective savory components used in this dish, i.e. belachan, dried shrimp and fish sauce. I’d deliberately left out salt as in the original recipe but I still found it a tad too salty, but still within acceptable means. The brown sugar provided and additional earthy dimension to the dish which rounded it off beautifully. The garnishing of cucumber and century egg, seemingly bizzare worked surprisingly well! One of life’s very many surprises, and in this case, a rather delicious one!

I am submitting this dish to Malaysian Food Fest, Sarawak Month hosted by Sharon of Feats of Feasts
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18 responses

  1. very interesting dish, first time i saw and looks delicious :)

    September 18, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi Alice, its my first time cooking it! and I’m glad that i did!

      September 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

  2. some belachan is not as salty, especially those fairer looking ones, so, the amount of salt is rather…. hmm…. up to u lor

    eh, I also saw the book 2 days back, wanted to buy too, heehehe

    September 18, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yah lor…. different belachan different grade, different levels of saltiness… same with fish sauce actually. so must try, test and taste lor.

      buy the book la! quite interesting! LOL

      September 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

  3. jingyu

    感谢分享,看起来好可口:)

    September 18, 2012 at 4:56 pm

  4. 鲸鱼蓝蓝蓝

    抱歉,楼上的是我:)
    呵呵~~

    September 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm

  5. at a glance, it looks like satay beehoon. Interesting.

    September 18, 2012 at 7:32 pm

  6. This is something new to me. Look at the ingredients I think I am gonna like it. U have done a good job Alan!

    September 18, 2012 at 11:06 pm

  7. looks like satay mee hoon but with century egg, I love century eggs lol.

    September 19, 2012 at 9:47 am

  8. Alan….looks good leh….something new to me..thanks for the introduction :) I love the fact that it has century egg and cuttlefish in it. The soup must be tasty and flavorful too…mmmm I shall try this out one day :)

    September 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

  9. You really “got heart”. Can be so meticulous in the ingredients. Looks really like our Satay Bee Hoon. So yummy!

    September 20, 2012 at 2:28 pm

  10. i must admit, even i have not really heard of this dish but appreciate greatly how you did your research. Thanks for submission!

    September 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

  11. Hmmm this dish sounds very interesting. Honestly i cant quite imagine how the flavours would gell together, but will take your word for it and give this a go. Something like assam laksa perhaps?

    September 25, 2012 at 10:54 pm

  12. Pingback: MFF (Malaysian Food Fest) Round-Up for Sarawak Month (Sept 2012) | Feats of Feasts

  13. Pingback: 一个人的午餐 – Linguini con Salsiccia e Porcini Balsamico « travellingfoodies

  14. udang kering

    I dont remember having seen dried prawns in the belchan bee hoon that I have eaten in Kuching….this is something totally different..neither have I had century eggs with it..I guess to each its own kinda of thing……thanks for sharing

    May 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Well, perhaps the ones you tried didn’t offer century eggs. A quick Google and I found photos some folks took at several kedais showing generous portions of century eggs on the bee hoon. The recipe came from a compilation of heritage recipes fr various families in Sarawak. I assumed that what is provided is credible and true to the local cuisine. :)

      May 12, 2014 at 7:30 pm

  15. Pingback: Laksa Lemak | travellingfoodies

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