Belacan in Bagan Parit Baru

Wafts of salty prawn odour are sent along with the ocean breeze. On the wooden platform just in front of the house, plain brown belacan are spread out neatly to be sun dried, some already pressed into bricks, some minced and unprocessed. This family-run belacan factory is operated by the second generation successor, Mr Kee Bok Wah (transliteration) and his family, being one out of the two belacan factories in Bagan Parit Baru which is sparsely populated by only 300 people.

Similar to other fishing villages, Mr Kee’s house is built along the estuary, the river flowing towards the sea, easing the passage of small fishing boats. Building a wooden platform as well as a small harbour in front of the house is convenient for their own fishing boat to unload fresh fish and prawns, also enabling immediate sorting and handling. At the same time, Mr Kee built a small scale factory opposite his house with a larger surface area, mainly for marinating and fermenting procedures. 

Belacan is made up of small prawns (Acete Chinensis) and salt, after mixing, marination, and sun drying, belacan is loaded into casks for a month-long fermentation to absorb flavours. Afterwards, processing is carried out according to different demands, and frequent sun drying, then only packaged. The entire process takes months, having complicated procedures, the quality and quantity easily affected by factors such as weather, season, saltiness of the water etc.

Even though manufacturing belacan may be a tough task, the Kee family continue to use the traditional way of manufacturing. Under the cooperation of the whole family, Mr Kee’s children also adhere to their duties, inheriting the family business, maintaining the legacy. 

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Cliffsides


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