By : Neville Timothy Sanders
KUCHING: Suntong Tutok or Sotong Tutok has over the years become one of the most iconic Sarawakian dishes in Ramadan bazaars.
It’s a dish where the squid is grilled using charcoal before it is pounded and flattened with a hammer.
It has now become somewhat of a staple appetizer for breaking of fast meals and is available in almost every Ramadan bazaar.
Not many may know this but Suntong Tutok can actually be found at stalls all year round.
Salim Ibrahim, 64, the owner of Sotong Pak Salim, moved his stall to Pusat Penjaja Aneka Rasa near Jambatan Gantung Satok due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another is Linggam Van Samay, 53, the owner of Nasi Lemak Malam food-truck near Ohaaa Cafe, Jalan Kuching City Mall.
New Sarawak Tribune spoke to both the stall hawkers to get an insight on this iconic Sarawakian dish.
INGREDIENTS AND METHODS
Salim, who has been selling Suntong Tutok for over 32 years still uses the traditional method of making the dish.
“While some people are using machine to make the process much easier, I have always preserved the traditional method by only using hammer to pound and flatten the squid,” he explained.
He claimed that his sambal or sauce is what makes his Suntong Tutok outstanding compared to other hawkers.
Salim said the ingredients used in making the dish other than the sambal have never changed.
“Every hawker who sells this dish has their own way, methods and process of making it. However, I believe the ingredients and material used are the same.
“What sets us apart is, their way of making it is theirs and my way is mine,” he said.
It is a little different with Linggam who has been selling the dish for more than a decade.
He said when it comes to the method, he has always preferred using the pounding machine.
“It was bought by my mother and given to me,” he said.
“I learned how to make the sambal from my grandfather. Because he’s was selling the dish before so we called him ‘daddy sotong’. I tested it out and it was just the right taste.
“Some people prefer soy sauce with the dish because they want a different taste and flavour. But for me, the sotong dish I know is with the sambal. The squid can be the same, the sambal has to be the most important component,” he said.
PRICE AND RECEPTION
For Salim, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the reception in terms of the sales of the dish has not been as good compared to the previous years.
“So now I close my stall very early. Plus I am already aging so I’m not capable enough to do this all by myself. I usually close my stall at 10.30pm,” he said.
He admitted that the price of squid has increased from the time he started doing the business back in the 1990s.
“Back when I first started selling this, the price of the squid per kilogram was between RM18 and RM20. In 2016, the price per kilogram rose to RM70 to RM 80.”
“Now, in 2022, it has increased even higher and is selling for between RM150 and RM160 per kilogram. I’m saying this because I’ve been selling it everyday and not just during Ramadan,” he said.
As for Linggam the price is part of the reason why his sotong tutok dish is outstanding.
“A+ (large size) is RM20. A (medium size) is RM15,” he said.
For him sales has been good thus far as he is the only one who sells the dish in his area.
“There are three people who have booked for my dish today so technically I’m out of stock right now,” he said in the interview on April 8.
Much like any other business these days, many owners rely on social media to sell their product and food.
That is the case for Salim, who has his own Facebook account called “Sotong Pak Salim” so that he can get the word out there on his Sotong Tutok business.
He has also included his phone number for anyone who wants to book his Sotong Tutok dish.
However Linggam, instead of using social media to promote his Sotong Tutok, relies on his main business called Nasi Lemak Malam to promote his Sotong Tutok.
MOVING TO BETTER AREA
When business falters in the original place, the best choice is to move to a better location.
Salim, for instance decided to move his business to Pusat Penjaja Aneka rasa near Jambatan Gantung Satok due to the pandemic.
“That became my reason for not selling my Sotong Tutok at the Ramadan bazaar this year. Once everything is okay and safer again, I’ll head to the Ramadan bazaar again” he added.
As for Linggam, his business area originally was not in Ohaa Cafe, Batu Kawa but at Burney Pub near Jalan Ban Hock.
He said because of the opening of a bistro in the area sales decreased drastically. Therefore, he had to stop his business for a while.
“I have a full time job during the day and part time work during the night. So now, I have found a better place, so I continue doing it here. It is much easier for me, in terms of commuting” he added.
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