As if the local delicacy that is belacan (processed shrimp paste) isn’t enough, Bintulu is also famous for cincaluk. Cincaluk is actually shrimp paste that is pickled and served as a side dish. Chilies and lime are added to give more zing to it and it can be eaten with cucumbers or in a meal with rice and other popular local dishes. Like belacan, cincaluk is an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with Sarawak cuisine. It has a strong aroma and a salty bite to it that might repel those used to less exotic foods. However for those brave enough to try this local treat it promises to grow on them.
Cincaluk is not eaten as much as belacan, but being that the chief ingredient is bubuk (shrimp), both share the same origin, only the production process is different. To make cincaluk, the shrimp is thoroughly washed, sieved and dried. The formula for making cincaluk is more precise than that of belacan. One gantang (approximately 3kg) of bubuk, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of sugar, ½ tablespoon of raw red rice (pounded finely) and 2 tablespoons of cooked white rice (low starch variety is used). The ingredients are mixed in a basin and stored for one week. Each night it is stirred vigorously for a short while.
The final product is pinkish in colour and has a watery consistency. It is filled into bottles and ready for consumption or sale. Like belacan, cincaluk is never eaten as it is, as the flavour and taste is too intense. In fact when eating cincaluk, only a little is used and suffice to say it goes a long way with rice. What makes Bintulu cincaluk a standout is the fact that it is much cleaner and nicer smell than the competition. The locals take pride in producing a quality product. The red and white rice used are also locally grown, and this further insures that the cincaluk is truly a Sarawakian commodity.
Both belacan and cincaluk sprouted from cottage industries. Today more commercialised ones are available, but the true connoisseur will always seek out Bintulu cincaluk. Cincaluk, like belacan, makes a welcome gift for those familiar with it. That’s why Malaysians from other states usually flock to Bintulu during the bubuk season to seek out the shrimp products available then. Today innovative chefs incorporate cincaluk into various dishes to help bring out the flavour of dishes and it has become common place at various fine dining establishments in the country. Those looking for something exotically Sarawakian should give cincaluk a try.