Eating at the cockles stalls in a back alley off Jalan Bunga Raya is an experience you won’t forget.
Think about this: you’re seated on tiny stools arranged between drains and while eating those half-cooked and still bloody cockles, motorcycles constantly ride past behind you – just inches away from knocking you off. So for those who are not as adventurous or place high priority on food hygiene when eating out, this is obviously not the thing for you. I am not going to lie, I had my reservations before coming here but I am glad I did it. It is not that bad after all.
Basically there are two stalls here, each endorsed by different celebrity/newspaper/tv show. One of them is Capitol, featured in 8tv’s HoChak before. I heard Captiol is not bad but it is also said that their dipping sauce is somewhat lacking the ooomph when compared to their neighbor’s.
Capitol’s neighbor is none other than Tong Bee, the original proprietor of this business for over 40 years and it has been recommended by Singapore celebrities, Ah Xian and such. Tong Bee’s Stall had a humble beginning before they enjoyed the current popularity. It was said that the uncle who started this food business was initially a taxi driver. But he lost one of his arm in an accident hence had to look for an alternative source of income, which is this.
We were there quite early so we had to wait until the water is fully boiled, then only the business will start. Believe it or not this is all they need as the kitchen: two pots of boiling water, a few strainers and a chopping board. The small plastic pails embedded in the table are actually for customers to discard the shells after eating.
While waiting for the water to boil, uncle would prepare the dipping sauces single-handedly.
A couple of seashells can be eaten here like siham (cockles), lala (which is actually kepah) and ‘luo’ (sea snails). But the actual star dish here according to the uncle is their Cuttlefish with Kangkung, which can be ordered either with boiled or grilled cuttlefish.
I don’t have a photo of the Cuttlefish with Kangkung even though we ordered it but it did live up to uncle’s recommendation and tasted quite good.
Each plate of cockles/lala/snail is priced at a flat RM1.50. The shellfish are fresh and meaty so I can’t think of any reasons to argue with that kind of pricing. One thing you should take note while eating here is the doneness of the shellfish, especially siham. If you do not specify anything, the siham will be blanched for only a matter of few seconds before being served to you. And in this case they are still quite bloody. When a group of guys next to us saw the bloodiness of our siham, they asked for theirs to be fully cooked lol.
The fat and bloody cockles, no weird taste or whatsoever.
But just fresh shellfish alone won’t make the cut, they must have a nice sauce to go with them. By mixing a few different sauces together and then topped with crushed peanuts and lime juice, Tong Bee’s sauce is one of a kind. It has all the necessary flavors of spicy, sweet and sour (if you did squeeze in the lime juice) to make it taste addictive and more importantly, go oh-so-well with the shellfish.
Sea snails, quite expensive stuff if you order this off seafood restaurants.
Do you dare to eat? Quite alien looking if you ask me.
As the day gets darker, the back alley gets busier too.
To look for the shellfish stalls, just keep an eye out for Madam King’s departmental store. The entrance to the back alley is just right next to it.
Just for the record, we did not experience any food poisoning or stomach upset after eating plates after plates of shellfish and bloody cockles. Come next day, we felt OK and still managed to continue our food hunt as normal.Tong Bee’s Cockles Stall
Off Jalan Bunga Raya Lane, Melaka
GPS Coordinates: N2 11.990 E102 15.110
Open from: 7.30pm onwards