Sunday, June 03, 2007

Food: Sarikei Shellfish

Sarikei Cockles 2007

Cockles 2007
Source: Chen

Repeat this tongue twister after me. "She sells sea shells by the sea shore." OK, good enough. Today we revisit our favourite shellfish which some of you have probably forgotten. Firstly, the cockle or kerang which is a bivalve mollusc of the family Cardiidae. The white heart shaped shell has pronounced ribs. They burrow into the ground and feed by sifting plankton in the water. Cockles are hermaphroditic (i.e. have both male and female organs). Boiled cockles are delicious but their popularity waned after the link of raw cockles to hepatitis.

Sarikei Clams 2007
Find the sea weed in the background

Next is the clam (Lokan (Chinese) or lukan (Iban) or sea hum in Cantonese). Clams are molluscs that belong to the class Bivalvia. Clams feed on planktons. Clams do not have brains or eyes! Is the taste a delicious no brainer?

Lokan (Ploymesoda expansa) is found in mangrove swamps. It's found by tapping a sickle (sabit) into the soft mud. On a good day, the catch can be up to 30kg. It's sold at 80sen to RM$1/kg. It's best cooked in sambal or dipped in chilli.

Sarikei Snails 2007
Tekoyung songket

Sarawak's seashells are found in silty rivers. When the shellfish reached the market, they may look disgusting with all the mud. Well, patience will pay dividends. Wash, steam and feast on them.

Sarikei Balitong 2007.
Didn't your mum tell you kids not to play in the mud?

Balitong 2007 - Take a wok on the wild side
Source: Chen

Balitong 2007 - best served hot
Source: Chen

Finally, the popular balitong or siput sedut. After you buy them from the market, you have to put a cover over your pail as they will slowly crawl out. Use a clipper to chop off the tail end of the shell to facilitate sucking of the meat after cooking. Do you remember that routine?

Well, the world is your oyster lokan, choose your favourite local shellfish and enjoy.


Daniel Yiek said...

For those folks who bring visitors to Sarikei and say there's nothing much to do in small town...well, bring them to the local markets. Best to go early in the morning to avoid the heat and you get to see, feel and smell the local products. Truly rewarding.

Lidasar said...

You can't find cockles in Sarikei, they were imported from West Malaysia....not sure if this is still the case. The clams shown in the picture, in those days even the longkang infont of the post office or around Kwang Chiang Pri Sch has them. You run a parang down the mud and when you hear the right sound you could deep your hand into the mud to pull it up. The snails shown at RM6 per Kg, you cook them and need a needle to hook it up. The last two picture called Balitong? We called it "Cheng-Loi" in FooChow, is the most popular. In those days the shops sale the imported "Cheng-Loi" from Singapore traders until the local Ibans collect them from our local mangrove Nipak palm vegetation.

lynnx01 said...

I love these snails/clams/whatever-you-call-'em. Well, the recent trip back to Sarikei, my parents actually 'retimed' (hahah.. phrase learnt from AirAsia!) their departure because they were so busy buying things from the market. I think it's cheaper in a small town compared to Miri.

Kanga said...

Hi Lidasar,
I didn't know that the cockles were imported! from West Malaysia! I have friends in West Malaysia who warned me that if you don't know which area these shells come from, beware! (The up river may have a few factories which pollute the shells down stream)Now I am sorry if I frighten/upset a few people, SORRY!
I remembered how the shopkeepers put a layer of flour around the top rim of the sack to prevent the "Cheng-loi" from running away.
The hunting of the clams: "parang into the mud" technic worked well. I did try it but you have to fight with thousands of mosquitoes! The hunter got hunted too.
If you are in sitting next to people eating "Chen-loi", just close your eyes and listern to the symphony of the 'sucking' sound.

Sim Y said...

Cockles is one of my all time favourites.

Just boiled and serve.

Daniel Yiek said...

One more thing about the balitong or Cheng Loi...they have a protective round cover of concentric black and brown circles at the opening of the shell. After u suck out the meat, you can't eat the round cover. Balitong is available in West Malaysia too.

Lidasar said...

For the benefit of keeping up the Sarikei culture, we don't call it Balitong but we call it Ku-Yong by our local Ibans. If you go down the morning market asking for Balitong they might think you are asking for the Julotong wood...haha! Remember is Ku-Yong or simply Cheng-Loi.

Nelson said...

i thought koyong? anyway, i prefer it to cockles
used to see my mum chopping the 'koyong pointed heads'
the other day, i brought my west malaysian friends to the market and they were fascinated with the little baby chickens and the still-alive fishes that kept on greeting them by opening and closing their mouths. also, they like midin or bidin very much. oh yeah, they praised our beautiful toilet too. =) thumbs up!

Chen said...

i love shellfish and cockles, but not the "bloody or raw" type

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