Buying 'bubuk' early morning near to Bintulu's tamu or local market.
The season of shrimps in Bintulu has been exceptionally good this year. The fishing folks have been kept busy for a full month now. Before the shrimps land on the negotiation table or roadside market the fishermen have packed them into plastic bags weighing a 'gantang'' which is equivalent to about two and a half kilo. The gantang is always the preferred weight measure for sentimental and traditional reasons, I guess. At the inset is shown the main ingredients for the making of belacan. These are - fresh shrimps, coarse salt, pounded red rice for colouring. The steps in making belacan can be described briefly here. Firstly, the shrimps are marinated with salt and red rice and kept for 24 - 48 hours. Then, it is dried on mats in the hot sun. Next, the men and ladies folks alike pound it into a fine paste. More pictures below.
The dried shrimps are pounded in a special vessel called the ' lesung' which is a wooden mortar. In Bintulu, people prefer to use the mortar from the hardest timber species here called the belian. The 'anak lesung' or the pestle is also made from belian timber as seen in picture above. It takes about 2-3 rounds of pounding to obtain a fine paste of belacan. The pounding process can stretch to several days. Above is the finished belacan product. Each piece is about a kilo in weight and the selling price currently in Bintulu tamu or local market is RM 40-60 depending on quality and availability. Normally for a small family a kilo of belacan will last for about a year or slightly less depending on usage. That's about it folks. If you haven't try Bintulu belacan please do so. Put it in your list of 1000 things to do before you die!