Brunei was home to me for about a decade and a half. And if there is anything I miss a lot — it’s the food.
During a recent visit to Manila, my good friend Anyati Orcullo (or Mama Ann as we fondly call her), one of the most successful Pinays in Brunei, brought home an interesting pasalubong I never expected — a block of belacan, a Malay variety of shrimp paste, made from fermented ground shrimp, sun dried and then cut into fist-sized rectangular blocks.
The belacan (pronounced as bala-chan or blachan) is also one of the main ingredients of my favourite Malay dish — Kangkong Belacan, which I have been craving for the longest time since leaving Brunei three years ago. Kangkong Belacan is a spicy dish of stir-fried kangkong (water convolvulus or water spinach) with belacan or shrimp paste.
While preparing this dish to pair with Daing na Bangus and Lechon Kawali for one of our weekly lunch meetings in the orphanage, it suddenly occurred to me that even though this is one easy dish to prepare, I never really cooked it at all while I was still in Brunei!
- 500 grams kangkong (water convolvulus or water spinach)
- 50 grams belacan
- 5 bulbs shallots, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
- 1 tomatoes, chopped
- 4 red chilies, chopped
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- Heat oil in a wok over high heat and saute garlic, shallots, chilies, and tomatoes.
- Add belacan and cook until dissolved and blended well.
- Add kangkong and stir briskly for about 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat immediately and serve with steamed rice.
The above recipe is for the ‘dry’ version shown in the photo above. Should you prefer an output with a bit of sauce (second photo below), immediately add a ladle of water after adding the belacan. This would also help dissolve the belacan faster.