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27 maret 2007 08:09

`Gonggong`: Unique Seafood of Riau Islands

You`ve never really been to Batam, Bintan or Tanjung Balai Karimun in Riau Islands province unless you have tried gonggong, a seafood dish unique to these three areas, Gonggong, which literally translates to barking, is the name of a sea creature. After just one bite, you`ll be hooked.

The snail-like gonggong has a yellowish white shell. The flesh is softer than that of a snail. The gonggong has no pincers and is not slimy.

The art to eating gonggong is to use a toothpick to slowly remove the flesh of the gonggong from the shell. Do it too quickly and you`ll fail.

Obviously it takes patience to enjoy a delicious dish of gonggong, which is considered an aphrodisiac. Although it is said that you must eat one kilo of gonggong for it to really work. If you suffer from hypertension, forget it as it could make your blood boil.

Practically every seafood restaurant in Batam and Bintan has gonggong on their menu. How to serve gonggong? Easy, just boil it and serve hot on a red plate. Why red? Well almost all plates used in seafood restaurants in Riau Islands are red.

Any visitor to a kelong (vendor selling cooked seafood at the seaside) or to an open-air food center in Batam, will surely order a dish of gonggong.

Aneka Selera, a popular kelong at Tanjung Kertang, Rempang Island, some 2.5 km to the southeast of Batam, is popular among locals and outsiders alike.

A favorite dish at this kelong is gonggong. A visitor is free to pick the gonggong of his or her choice in whatever amount he or she chooses. This restaurant has its own pond where gonggong and other sea creatures are kept.

Ali, who runs this restaurant, told The Jakarta Post that gonggong was often ordered by customers. Compared with other seafood dishes like fish and crab dishes, gonggong is not that expensive. One kilogram of gonggong costs Rp 40,000. before the fuel price hike one kilo cost only Rp 30,000 a kilogram.

"Singaporeans like gonggong very much because they believe it is an aphrodisiac. Some non-local visitors also come here to taste gonggong just out of curiosity," said Ali.

Seafood vendors and restaurants have developed various kinds of gonggong dishes. Some offer dishes of steamed gonggong or fried gonggong and garlic.

If you want to see gonggong in their natural habitat, the only place to go is Bintan island.

"Many people breed gonggong now because is a very popular food. Gonggong is always included in an order of seafood dishes," Ali said.


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