Cincalok (or Chinchalok/Cencaluk) is a Malaccan food made of fermented small shrimps or krill. It is usually served as a condiment together with chillies, shallots and lime juice. It is similar to Bagoong Alamang in the Philippines.

In Melaka, the shrimp is called udang geragau. The shrimp in the pinkish coloured cincalok are readily identifiable and the taste is salty. This shrimp is available in particular season in Pantai Klebang, Limbongan, Tanjung Kling and several coastal areas.

Cincalok Manufacturing

The process of making cincalok requires several steps. Fresh small prawns (udang geragau) are added with salt and rice in equal proportions. After the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, it will be sealed in a jar and allowed to ferment for three days. There are also cincalok-makers who increase the proportion of rice in the mixture believing it to enhance the taste of the finished product.

As the finished product is fermented in a glass container, the fermentation process causes pressure to build up inside the container. Hence, care must be taken when opening the pressurised container containing ready-made cincalok.

Availability and Substitutes

  • Cincalok is generally available at Asian Grocery store and most certainly can be found online.
  • This is tiny shrimp fermented whole in a salt brine, difficult to substitute. Korean salted shrimp look similar but are much saltier and don’t have the fermented pungency. Thai shrimp paste doesn’t have whole shrimp, is a more refined product and often contains some oil, but it’s a better substitute. Philippine Bagoong Alamang is closest but the shrimp aren’t whole and they often dye it a horrid maroon colour.

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