April 25, 2010

Asian Flavours Part Two: Singaporean Chilli Crab

If you've ever been to Singapore, surely you have encountered Chilli Crab.  Served family style in restaurants all over the city, the crabs are swimming in a tomato-based sauce, and always come with deep fried sweet Chinese rolls called mantou that you eat by the dozen to capture the sauce.  There are variations on the theme, the most popular being black pepper crab.  The best places for Chilli Crab are the seafood hawker stalls or the waterside restaurants at and around the East Coast Seafood Centre, although the subject is one that causes heated debate amongst the locals. 

My favourite places are the cheap and cheerful places: very bright lights; plastic tablecloths; skimpy paper napkins; no atmosphere.  But amazing crab.  On this trip, though, we're being treated in style, so the restaurant is a step or two up from the ordinary: Jumbo Seafood.

At Jumbo, the open kitchen and floor to ceiling tanks of all manner of live crustaceans - including a particularly ugly geoduck - make for a different kind of Chilli Crab experience.  Still, the stacks of paper napkins, big water bowls and disposable bibs remind us that this is a place where messy fingers are expected.

 Appetisers include Fried Prawns with Cereal; Donut with Seafood Paste (essentially deep fried dough stuffed with cuttlefish paste); Deep Fried Bean Curd; Marinated Jellyfish

The delicious Chilli Crab

With nutcrackers, we take turns tackling the slippery obstinate shells, extracting the scant meat like so many rare pearls from oysters. Just one more mantou.  Let me try to crack that last crab claw.  Sated and happy, we pile into the waiting cars, fingers still sticky and fragrant.

Although I haven't tried this recipe from Tyler Florence, the ingredients look like they'd make a mighty fine mess 'o chilli crab.  Let me know if you try it!