Under Bridge Spicy Crab

Main branch: shop 1-2, G/f, Chinaweal Centre, 414-424 Jaffe Rd., Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2834 6268
http://www.underspicycrab.com/

You can’t really go to Hong Kong and not eat crab at some stage. Crab is one of those staple banquet dishes that turns up at almost every dinner I go to with extended family. Usually, we opt for it stir-fried with ginger and spring onion, on top of a bed of egg noodles. The egg noodle’s actually where it’s at, for me. The sauce soaks up the flavour of the crab, and soaks through the noodles. While I like crab, it’s often a lot of work, unless you’re lucky enough to get one of the meaty claws. And since I have best quality heart, I take worst quality crab.

Anyway, I was staying in the Wanch, a convenient part of town, not only because it’s near the sleazy hooker bars, but because it’s the Under Bridge Spicy Crab heartland. Near the corner of Canal and Lockhart Roads is a ghetto of seafood restaurants, specialising in ‘Spicy Crab’. The original is on the corner of Canal and Jaffe, but it’s hard to tell, because there are three or four other ‘outlets’ owned by the same chef, all proclaiming to be the original, and all on the same block. I think the name ‘Under Bridge’ refers to Canal Road, which is an overpass cutting across Lockhart and Jaffe Roads.

Before heading out for a night on the town (read boozing it up in Lan Kwai Fong), @eatnik and I met up with the @eatdrinkstagger kids for some crabby action. As I was staying around the corner, I’d stopped in earlier in the day to book a table, and lucky I did, because the place was pretty busy, with people waiting for tables as we arrived. Despite booking, we still had to wait about five minutes, which we spent perched on stools out the front, perusing the menu. I’m fairly sure the branch of Under Bridge Spicy Crab we went to was the original, but it’s hard to say for sure!

We started off the evening with some beers. SOME ONE LITRE BEERS. Oh yeah.
First up were some stir-fried pippies in a sweet, salty, spicy cause. I don’t think it was XO, but I could be wrong. Whatever sauce it was, it was a perfect way to start the meal, as the beer had arrived, but not the rice. The only problem was that in the stir-frying process, a lot of the pippies had escaped their shells, so often you’d pick up a shell to find yourself just sucking the sauce off of it. That did mean there was a fair amount of pippie flesh floating around under the shell debris, so it just required some eagle-eyed hunting!
We also ordered the pigeon, which appeared to be lightly dusted with the obligatory five spice and then fried. I wasn’t much of a fan of this dish – it was pretty dry, and pigeon doesn’t have the gamey taste quail has, which I love.
Seeing as this was turning into something of a meatfest, we ordered the snow pea shoots, stir-fried with garlic. A pretty standard Cantonese vegetable dish, and one of my favourite. The shoots here were a bit more mature than I’m used to back in Melbourne. This made it seem more of a substantial vegetable, but on the down side, the snow pea flavour was less fresh and intense. Still, it was a good counterbalance to the saltiness of all the other dishes.
Everyone at the table was a fully qualified tofu fan, so it seemed prudent to order some tofu. Deep fried, with salt and pepper – and GARLIC CHIPS – these were a delight. They weren’t as airy and ‘puffy’ as most fried tofu I’d had before, instead actually maintaining a smooth texture inside. The seasoning made these very more-ish, and we polished off the lot.
Then came the main event: the ‘Typhoon Shelter’ style spicy crab. As you can see, the deep fried crab is COVERED with a blanket of fried diced garlic, and depending on your order, a varying amount of chilli. We ordered it medium, but we probably should have gone for hot. This is how it arrives at the table.
If you make enough of a nuisance of yourself by taking photos – especially if ALL FOUR OF YOU are taking photos, with varying degrees of photographic technology in hand – you’ll probably attract one of the more friendly waiters’ attention. And he’ll jovially offer to re-style the dish so that it’s more visually appealing. At least, that’s what this fellow did for us!
It was a little embarrassing, but also extremely amusing. And hey, we all think he did a pretty good job! What do you think?
I quite liked the signature spicy crab, though I think the deep frying actually dried out the meat a bit too much. But the fried garlic and chilli topping is addictive. Five minutes in, and we were all spooning the stuff on our rice. Luckily, we were all just hanging out for drinks together later, so we’d all have horrendous breath together. I feel a bit sorry for @alexobov with whom we met up with later.

If you want to know more about Under Bridge Spicy Crab, there’s a really good article on CNNGo.

Jumbo Seafood

East Coast Seafood Centre, 1206 East Coast Parkway, Singapore
Phone: +65 6442 3435

When I told my cousin I was going to visit on my way through to Hong Kong, he immediately asked me, “What do you want to eat?”. Family is such a great thing sometimes.

I of course replied with a list of things, the top of which was chilli crab, because I had not been able to try it last time I was in Singapore, due to a bout of gastro. He replied that would be pretty easy, and then asked me a much more exciting question; “But have you tried the salted duck egg crab?” The what!? I’d never heard of that dish, but I knew of the technique involved, as in Melbourne you can quite commonly get chicken ribs cooked the same way. The thought of crab done this way was a little mind-blowing, but of course, I had to try this cholesterol bomb! What better way to kick off my #fatty adventure?

We went to Jumbo Seafood, which I understand is a local chain of seafood restaurants – probably something of an authenticity fail, but hey, we seemed to be surrounded by lots of Singaporean families, so it can’t be that bad, right?

In fact, it was all pretty good. Not good for me, but definitely good eating. We started off with some deep fried baby octopus.
The little cephalopods were super-crispy, and coated in a salty-sweet glaze. This is one of those near-ultimate beer snack dishes. I could, though probably shouldn’t, eat these all day.

My cousin got rather excited when it came to the next dish: cereal prawns. Sounds weird, right?

Basically, it’s some butterflied deep fried (sensing a theme here yet?) prawns, heads and shells still intact, coated with warmed, slightly sweet cereal crumbs. I’m not sure exactly what cereal it was, but it tasted slightly malted. In any case, they were great, and when we ran out of room at the table, and the waitress went to transfer what was left of the prawns onto a smaller plate, my cousin insisted that ALL of the remaining cereal be transferred along with the few remaining prawns.

Onto the main event. The salted duck yolk crab arrived at the table, and you could completely see why the Chinese call this dish gum saa hai (golden sand crab). The yolk was glistening all over the pieces of crab, and it tasted every bit as rich as the Chinese name makes it sound. Served on a bed of crisply fried battered basil leaves, this dish was probably the highlight of my short stay in Singapore.

Because you have the option of ordering different sized crabs, we ordered two medium sized ones between the four of us, which meant I finally got to try chilli crab in Singapore too!

To be honest, I was expecting a bit more spice. And I also wasn’t expecting it to be slightly sweet. I’m not sure if it’s all done this way in Singapore, and I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure it’s the stuff of legend. I’m guessing perhaps there are better versions of it to be found.

The next revelation, though, was a much simpler thing. Fried mantou (steamed bread). So these mantou are steamed, then fried to give them a crunchy ‘crust’. Mantou are the same bread as used to make bao (Chinese steamed buns – you know the ones, with the roast pork in them), so they’re slightly sweet. In this case, their express purpose is to be used to mop up the various sauces of the other dishes. Crunchy and yet fluffy and sweet? A total winner.

There was also a dish of mushrooms and greens, but as you can see below (on the right) it didn’t really attract as much of our attention as the other dishes.

All in all, this was a great meal. Anything involving two crabs usually is, hey?