How to Really Kiss!

“Why so much kueh?” Mother asks.

Zhi Pak Ho fishes out the huat kueh, ang koo, rempah udang, kueh kochi and chim tao kueh. Zhi Pak Ho in Hokkien means one hundred, which is the house number of Mother’s friend.
“These are for my AiAi! You know how much he loves his kueh. Too much sugar and too sweet for a diabetic like him. Now he’s dead, he can have as much kueh as he likes,” Aunty Hundred grins.

“Aiyah, now he’s dead, he’s suddenly your sweetheart darling,” Mother rolls her eyes heavenwards.

Aunty Hundred has a pet name for Uncle Hundred when he was alive.
It was: Balitong!

Balitong, a species of edible whelk is a mud dweller.

Seafood lovers will have this fried with chili, ginger, tomato sauce and soya bean paste. Sometimes it’s fried with curry paste and curry leaves until very aromatic.

However way it’s cooked, eating this is an art form. Describing how this is done sound terribly obscene.

Many people struggle to get the content out.  Due to the shape of its shell, it’s almost impossible to dig it out with a toothpick.
Sucking it from the big end like the uninitiated will leave you breathless and on the verge of collapse due to lack of oxygen. You’ll soon give up, throw that little monster away and end up frustrated like a scorned lover.

If you’re new to eating Balitong, say like you follow some Malaysian friends out to seafood dinner after work or over the weekends (read al-fresco, Aunty/Uncle run Zhu Zhar place either near the sea or under some big tree).

You wouldn’t want to start sucking from the big end; there is a little piece of circular flap of a main entrance door that cannot be digested. Peel this off first. The trick is to pucker up your lips and use your cheeks and tongue to create the suction.

Suck a little from the small hole first: this has been snipped off before cooking.

Then you turn it around and suck at the big hole, sometimes the whole Balitong shoots out.

The reward is amazingly satisfying; its flesh is not as chewy as other shell fish but is remarkably tender and juicy. Eat that with ice cold beer beneath balmy night skies… I tell you this; it puts fire in places that can’t be named politely.

And Ah, yes, coming back to nicknames. Now we know why Aunty Hundred calls Uncle Hundred, her darling Balitong!

That ubiquitous mud dweller, now we know these suckers by name; here’s a mug shot.


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