Fried, sugared and holed. Doughnuts all over the world share it. Enter kuih keria, made from sweet potatoes and glazed with sticky melted suagr- the most amazing incarnation of the doughnut.
” A fabulous teatime treat! “
When I started eating cencalok, I guess I never really got the good stuff. Most of the time they are watery, a little too ‘off’ for me and I felt did not add anything much to what I was eating. I discovered it’s because they weren’t the 100% gragao stuff. Make no mistake folks, great cencaluk is only GRAGAO prawns some rice and a little salt fermented in a cool clay pot. It has to be at least 2 weeks fermentation or else you would get (and this has happened to me before) the great exploding cencaluk episode. Not as gross as the exploding tempoyak incident but will still have you stinking of prawns for a good two days.
But wow… once I had the good stuff, there’s really no turning back. I believe I have potential to be a cencaluk snob because folks the good stuff is heady. It’s brinny and a little funky but with an underlying savoury sweetness. It’s what we call ‘pembuka selera’. One mouthful of that crazy good sauce with some fresh onions and chillies, a squeeze of lime and some hot rice… you’re in umami heaven!
Here are 5 stonkingly great ways to eat cencalok.
This is the way the connoisseurs intend it (see main picture). A mark of a great cencaluk is that it stands on it’s own with a few fresh ingredients, not unlike a great belacan or budu.
2 tbs cencaluk, 3 chilli padi, 1 red chilli, 2 shallots, 1/ 2 calamansi lime (depending how you like it)
Slice chillies and shallots. Mix everything together, and just before you serve it squeeze the lime in.
Food pairing: Just hot white rice and something simple like fried kangkung and hot fried chicken. Also goes exceedingly well with ikan bakar.
OMG! This is so good. I dream about this in the late afternoons at my table, especially now since I’m fasting.
6 eggs, 2 tsp cencaluk, 1 red onion, 2 chillies
Slice onion and chillies. Crack eggs and stir in the cencaluk, onion and chillies. I like to use a few chilli padi in this to give it kick. You must use a wok for this recipe and put enough oil to cover the bottom (about 3-4 tablespoons). When the oil is super hot, drop in your egg and watch it blossom like a golden, delicious flower.
Food pairing: You can eat this on it’s own. But I love it with some hot white rice and a drizzle of sweet soy sauce on top of the crinkly egg. Some hot sambal belacan will also go a treat with this.
Stir-Fried Chicken Cencalok
This is a lazy person’s dish since it’s basically chop everything and stir-fry it together. I’ve taken it from Debbie Teoh’s Nyonya Flavours and use chicken instead of pork.
2 shallots + 3 cloves garlic (sliced thinly), 3 tbs cencalok, 2 chicken breast (sliced), 1 tbsp each sugar + tamarind juice, 2 red chillies (can use cili padi), salt, 2 tbs oil
Heat oil and fry shallots and garlic until crisp. Set aside. Add cencalok and fry until fragrant. Stir-fry in the chicken + tamarind juice + sugar + salt. Add in chillies at last minute. Scatter the crispy shallots and garlic on top.
Food Pairings: Again, hot white rice is the best though sometimes if I am not in a mood for rice, I cut a crispy baguette in half, stuff it with the chicken with some fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and eat it like a sandwich.
Nasi Goreng Cencalok
This is a modified recipe from an excellent nasi goreng belacan that I make sometimes.
4 cups cooked rice, 3-4 tbs cencalok, 2 shallots + 3 cloves garlic (pounded), 1 tbs each chilli paste + light soy sauce + dark soy sauce, 6 chilli padi (sliced) 1 cup mixed veggies, 1/2 cup prawns, Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the rice with the cencalok in a bowl (this is important to make sure that the cencalok is distributed evenly within the rice). Heat oil and fry shallots + garlic until fragrant. Add in paste + sauces. When that’s all merry toss in everything else. You don’t need to fry too long as the rice would turn mushy so about 5 minutes should do. Serve fried rice with chopped scallions, crispy shallots.
Food Pairing: I like to eat this with a nice gooey fried egg on top. Also goes delicious with some inchi kabin (Nyonya fried chicken)
Gragao Cencalok Fritters
1 cup fresh gragao prawns, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp each baking powder + corn flour (optional) + cencalok, 1 onion + 1 spring onion, some white pepper, enough water to make batter.
Mix everything together until you get a thick batter. Heat lots of oil and deep fry dollops of batter. Once it floats turn around. Once golden brown, you’re done.
Food Pairings: Perfect for tea time. Serve with a chilli, mayonnaise dip and a hot cup of black tea or coffee… Yum yum…