Friday, November 1, 2013

chili crab @ chinatown seafood

Six days and five nights in Singapore, one of my favoritest places in the whole wide world. So much to eat, so little time. At the top of my list, the dish that I missed the most, the national dish, the often-imitated-never-equalled-outside-the-country dish: chili crab.

This was my fifth time in Singapore, but I'd only had chili crab three times because there are just too many delicious (and unhealthy) things to eat in that tiny country. During my trip last week, I knew that I would never forgive myself if I passed on it again.

So, where? I already tried No Signboard and Jumbo. I heard that Tung Lok Seafood Restaurant on Orchard Road was good. Also recommended were Roland Restaurant and Red House Seafood at Robertson Quay. But I was already in Chinatown and I figured that there should be decent chili crab in the neighborhood.

A quick Google search for "best chili crab chinatown" produced Chinatown Seafood Restaurant, just two blocks from my hotel.

In the daylight, it looked very nondescript and generic. Perhaps not a restaurant I would normally patronise, but I could not resist the chili crab's siren call any longer.

At night, the place was jumping. The dining area was huge and filled with a promising mix of Asians and ang mo.

When I saw the menu, for about five seconds I thought about getting the black pepper crab. But I forced myself to stick to the game plan.

The order-taker suggested a smallish crab, around 800 grams, price SGD48++ (US$45 nett). Of course, I had to have a plate of mantou to mop up the sauce, six pieces for SGD3++ (US$2.80 nett).

For those who are not obsessed with spicy crustaceans, some seafood fried rice. A small order for SGD10.80++ (US$10 nett).

And Thai-style spicy beef with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves for SGD16.80++ (US$16 nett).

But I was not distracted. I came to Singapore for chili crab, and I ate it like a goddam boss.

After seventy minutes... detritus.

I would have liked to say that I used tooth and nail only, but towards the end I needed some help from the nutcracker.

Verdict: The chili crab was amazing. Better than Jumbo's, almost up there with No Signboard's. My particular anthropod was quite heavy for its size and its meat was sweet, milky and perfectly cooked. The sauce, which some people say makes or breaks a chili crab, was excellent. Tangy and sweet when it first hits the tongue, with a slow not-unpleasant afterburn that fades after a few heartbeats. It left me wanting more. If I had to nitpick, I would probably complain about the egg-- too many discordant chunky pieces, but easily mashed up with a piece of fried bread.

The fried rice and the stir-fried beef, I am assured, were also wonderful. Beautifully fresh and plump shrimp and tender, aromatic beef. The chef of Chinatown Seafood deserves an award. This is not your run-of-the-mill tourist trap.

Chinatown Seafood Restaurant is located at the corner of Pagoda Street and Trengganu Street in Chinatown. Good eats, fantastic service, great spot for people-watching.

For more about my love affair with crab, read:
No Signboard in Singapore
Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Singapore
Anusarn Seafood Market Center in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Angel Wish Dish on Boracay
Hanoi Vietnamese Restaurant in Davao City
How to eat crab at home

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