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Balitong Curry (Gulai Balitong)

Gulai Balitong (Balitong Curry)
Gulai Balitong (Balitong Curry) pictures (1 of 6)

As a big fan of shellfish, there is a ritual that I always practice whenever I go home to Penang–scouting for the scarce shellfish species and had a fix or two (or three) of them. They are the kind of shellfish that I constantly crave in the United States, but could never make them here because they are simply unavailable in the US.

This past trip home, I made no exception. The morning after I arrived, I went to the nearest wet market in search of fresh balitong (a kind of Malaysian sea snails) and gyowa (Hokkien name for a type of local clams with very sweet flesh). I was handsomely rewarded with abundant fresh supplies of them…

When I was growing up, my mother and my aunt would prepare a balitong concoction that I absolutely adore–made with freshly ground spice paste, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, and mung bean noodles/tang hoon (optional). The very thought of this sweet and savory curry never fails to make my mouth water. After consulting both my mother and my aunt, I cooked up a pot of balitong and sweet potato curry. Unfortunately, my mother is no longer cooking due to her health condition, but my balitong did win over my father. He hadn’t had this dish for a very long time that he finished more than half of them in no time. Eagerly, he sucked the flesh out from the spiral shell and devoured them with great satisfaction. When I asked him if I had cooked it well, he said “ho chiak” (meaning delicious in Hokkien dialect) and that was the sweetest accolade possible!

I have to confess that I used a tad too much ground spice paste in this first trial of mine, but it was tasty nonetheless. I am just glad that I now learn another much-cherished family recipe, one that I will keep with me forever…

Related Recipes/Posts:

  1. Stir-fried Savory Clams
  2. My Favorite Childhood Dish (Lala)
  3. Drunken Clams
  4. Shellfish Recipes
  5. Photoblog: My Favorite Shellfish

Note: I didn’t keep track of my measurement when making this dish; I also bought freshly ground spice paste from the wet market, so I don’t have a scientific recipe that I can share. If you are interested in the recipe, please email me and I will try to share the cooking method with you.

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32 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Anh

    RM, this is fantastic! I am a big fan of whelk or sea snails. And I believe cooking them in spicy paste is wonderful! Lovely photos, too!

  2. Piggy

    I’m a fan of balitong too! When I was a kid in Penang, my mom used to cook balitong or cockles as afternoon snacks!

    Btw, i didn’t know that the other clam is called gyowa… Other than balitong and cockles that I can recognise by the look, I call everything else “la-la”. ;-)

  3. team bsg

    imagine if one sucks out the curry juice from the dark chambers like a hiss of thunder & the thing goes oozing out the other end OMG !

  4. aria

    these is such a beutiful dish, i can tell i would want to eat about 50 of those little beauties! so tropical and exotic, i’m a jealous blogger.

  5. audreycooks

    Gosh, you are really hanging the carrot in front of me! The last time I had that was in Penang last year at Bali Hai Gurney Drive. It was soooo good.This kinda food, you gotta have friends eating together, slurping and sucking! hmmmm.

  6. lucia

    i love balitong but have problem sucking out the flesh. not used to it yet i guess. many a times after sucking hard both end, still the flesh refused to come out. can be very frustrating eating them this way.

  7. Wandering Chopsticks

    I had these snails in VN a few summers ago in a coconut curry lemongrass sauce and it was sooo good. I wish I could find those snails here too! :(

  8. joey

    That looks delicious! I like discovering new shellfish so I’ll take note of these just in case I get to visit Malaysia one day :)

  9. lucia

    er… where did my comments went to? i thought i had already made a comment but i don’t see it.

    anyway… my comment.

    i love balitong but i have problem eating them as most of the time despite sucking hard a few times, i find it hard to get the flesh out. did not ‘master’ the technique yet i guess! :)

  10. Ray Chung

    I’m no pro but have indeed picked up a trick or two from my “kampung boy” father. He taught me the art of eating balitong. The trick is to suck from the back end first. This places the ‘flesh’ flushed tight at the back end. Now, with a strong suck from the front end, the momentum should get the flesh out easy.

  11. The Expedited Writer

    OMG RM, I haven’t had balitong in ages! I love sucking their sweet flesh out and eating them is not exactly the most pleasant experience for others but I don’t care, it’s fun! HEhe…are you in Penang now? Will u still be around for CNY? Cos I’m going back to Malaysia for CNY, my “kampung” is Penang! :D

  12. teckiee

    hehehe… there was once I could not even suck the meat out of the balitong.. pai sheh cos I wasted about 20 over balitong until I decided not to try anymore.

  13. MyF

    Hi RM,
    Balitung is my fave!!! My godmother will cook it – Malay style for me – she knows I love it so much! You should try this type of cooking – Balitung masak lemak with nenas… Put chillis, fresh slices of pineapples, coconut milk, …. and the usual onions, asam, etc. Guaranteed satisfaction! I hope she cooks some for me to blog about it soon…

  14. Ming the Merciless

    Your photography is simply amazing. You must be super talented and artistic.

    BTW, did you go to art school? The photographs here all look very professional.

  15. Rasy

    One of my childhood all time favourite dish!! Though these snails are really hard to find nowadays in Cambodia..:( I haven’t had them for years!!

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