Yesterday I got the urge to cook. I felt like eating cockles. Then I remembered this recipe which I managed to get (believe it or not!) from a hawker at Tepian Tebrau, Lido Beach years ago. Now Tepian Tebrau has moved to a new place at Jalan Sungai Chat. As a matter of fact, it was only just last week my wife and I went to the place.
Usually hawker will keep recipes as trade secret but I was a regular at his hawker stall. I will usually order "ais kacang" and "kerang bakar". Then one day I tried my luck. Lo and behold, he told me all the ingredients including the special ingredient that he used for his famous "kerang bakar". What so special about his "kerang bakar" is the cockles are grilled with chilli paste in half-shells. Elsewhere e.g. Umbai, Melaka, "kerang bakar" means cockles grilled in whole shells over hot coal.
Actually, I had tried this recipe once long time ago. But my maid did it all. It didn't turn out well. So you can call this an experiment per se. Maybe last time I tried to cook too much. This time I will try with small amounts i.e. 1 kilogram of cockles only.
1 kg cockles, scrubbed & washed
2 cloves garlic
5 dried chilli, soaked in hot water & deseeded
1 stalk lemongrass
1/2 cm shrimp paste ("belacan")
50g dried shrimp ("udang kering") the more the better
2 tbs curry powder
Boil cockles in hot water till shells open up.
Remove half of the shells.
Put all ingredients except curry powder in blender.
Fry blended ingredients till fragrant. (you can do this in a wok or a flat grill)
Add curry powder then add cockles.
Add a little oil if too dry.
Cover & stir once in a while.
Season to taste.
The experiment last night was a success. It tasted almost like the original. Thumbs up from my wife. However, it was not enough. It turned out that 1 kg of cockles only filled a small bowl at the end. It was yummy, though. The lesson learnt after this experiment and the last one is: this recipe is best done in small batches. You can blend all the chilli paste that you want but cook the cockles in small batches.