4.265 Chilli Crab

-Cycle 4, Item 265-
27 (Fri) September 2013

Chilli Crab


at Redhill Rong Guang BBQ Seafood (Makansutra Gluttons Bay)

-Marina Bay, Singapore-


The Singapore Diet: Day 1.

Touchdown Singapore.

Based in Manila until the end of next week, working on a pair of WHO-sponsored projects, one down and one to go, I found myself blessed with a free weekend in between.

To make the most of it, I've come to Singapore on a gluttony excursion.  While here, for approximately 48 hours, from Friday evening to Sunday evening, the plan is to consume as much as I can, both in terms of variety and volume, via the Singapore Diet, developed expressly for this purpose, which simply involves eating a meal whenever I'm not feeling stuffed from the prior meal.  Due to time constraints, I wasn't able to research specific venues and items, so I'll be winging it for the most part.

Marina Bay as seen from Makansutra Gluttons Bay.

I did manage to fire-off a last-minute inquiry to a former classmate from Yonsei Grad School, a native Singaporean, Bernard Tan, who gave me a few restaurant/dish recommendations and even went to the trouble of making reservations for me, even though he's in New York at the moment, what a pal!

Upon seeing this, I actually chortled like a cartoon villain and rubbed my hands together in pure joy.

An ideally named venue for the initial meal.

Even more apropos, the first "die die must try" item on the list is chilli crab.

hawker centre is a type of food court found in certain parts of Asia.  In Singapore, the centres are an integral part of the country's culinary tradition.  Typically open-air, often roofed in some form, but sometimes fully indoors.  Comprising a collection of stalls, ranging in number from 10 at smaller neighborhood centres to over 100 at major centres in prime locations.  Each stall, barely big enough to fit the owner/chef and an assistant, is equipped to offer only a handful of items within a general category (e.g., noodles, skewers, seafood).  While many dishes reflect the eclectic cultural influences from neighboring countries around Singapore, notably China (e.g., dim sum), Malaysia (e.g., satay), and India (e.g., curry), the dynamic blending of those influences have also given rise to dishes uniquely Singaporean (e.g., chilli crab).

The Singapore Diet was designed with the hawker centres in mind.

Come to think of it, why/how would a hawker stall take reservations?

Despite Bernard's insistence on white pepper crab, all the hype was on chilli crab.

For starters, Bernard suggested white pepper crab at No Signboard Seafood in Marina Bay.  Idiotically, however, I misinterpreted Bernard's email to mean that the restaurant literally had no signboard, just some nameless seafood shack on the waterfront.  When I got to the general vicinity and came across a newly renovated hawker centre with a stall specializing in crab, lined with customers, located at the very end nearest the water, I assumed that it was the no signboard place, now with a sign, a recent development that had perhaps occurred during Bernard's absence.  So, what the hell, either way, it seemed a good way to initiate The Singapore Diet.  After finishing the meal, I walked around the corner and discovered, in the same complex 50 meters away, No Signboard Seafood, which turned out to be an ultra-fancy/pricy restaurant, quite the opposite of what I'd imagined.  I remade reservations for tomorrow.

Beverages are sold separately in hawker centres, a major pain in the ass, though the arrangement makes sense given the size of the stalls, no room to store drinks.

Makansutra Gluttons Bay is a hawker centre.  Gentrified and cleaned up for the tourists, with uniform signage and bright photos and cutesy blurbs, careful vendor selection to ensure coverage of all the classics and no overlap, higher prices.

I'm a tourist, a food tourist, so it was just the place to be.

Meal 1 / Venue 1: Redhill Rong Guang BBQ Seafood at Makansutra Gluttons Bay.

Item 1: chilli crab (1.5).

Item 2: baby kailan in oyster sauce--nice flavor, but leafier than regular kailan and not enough bite (2.5).

Item 3: seafood fried rice--I got this out of habit but regretted filling up on something so pedestrian, even if it was pretty good (3.0).

Chilli crab is a Singaporean crab dish.  It consists of whole mud crab, and often egg, stir-fried in a sweet/spicy tomato/chili sauce.  Widely regarded as Singapore's national dish.

On my first chilli crab experience, I wasn't that impressed.  For starters, I found it too difficult to pick at the little meat there was, which is why I'm not a fan of crab in general, so I eventually gave up trying and began to chew through the shells, much harder and more brittle than, say, the dungeness or king crab shells that I'm accustomed to.  With the sauce, what a mess.  Being a female crab, it had eggs, but they were dry and crumbly.  Most importantly, the sweetish/spicyish flavor of the sauce, somewhere between ketchup and sambal olek, both very probably involved, wasn't really my thing.  Oh well.

Total: SGD 42 (+ 10 for beer).

Past midnight, after the booze cutoff, I was surprised to see so many customers, just eating.

Available 24 hours a day!

I booked the cheapest room that I could find.  Pitching the idea for the trip to the wife--for the record, I don't require authorization per se, but I do prefer approbation--I swore to keep spending down to a bare minimum; I even checked out my hotel in Manila over the weekend to cut costs.  That's how I ended up at Fragrance Hotel - Emerald.  As long as cockroaches aren't nibbling on my toes at night, I've never really cared about the quality of hotel accommodations, especially when I'm traveling for fun, when I'd rather be spending my money on food.

Meal 2 / Venue 2: Mongkok Dim Sum.

Item 4: sambal kangkong--okay but a bit too spicy (2.5).

Item 6: sugar cane shrimp balls--don't know why I got these, because I hate chewing on sugar cane (1.0).

Total: SGD 11.50.

Located in Geylang, a neighborhood that appears to be a Chinese ghetto of some sort, a bonus is the abundance of late-night/24-hr eateries within blocks of the hotel.  That will significantly facilitate implementation of The Singapore Diet.

I can appreciate a hotel with a vending machine out front.

Geylang happens to be a red light district, as apparent from the streetwalkers--the most disgusting, unglamorous hookers that I've ever seen--roaming in front of the hotel.

The photos are all vertical because the spaces were too narrow to shoot wide.

 Meal 3 / Venue 2: Mongkok Dim Sum [takeout] [in my hotel room].

Staying in a hotel that didn't provide proper glassware, I was forced to enjoy this Clynelish 14 Single Malt Scotch Whisky in a coffee cup.

Item 6 (right): (pea) sproutlings with garlic--one of my favorites from back in college, but a bit overcooked/mushy here (2.5).

Item 7: crispy noodles with meat and seafood--never fails (3.0).

Total: SGD 14.

Good night, Singapore.  See you at the breakfast table in a few hours.


  1. Gluttony? I thought that was a mortal sin? Aren't you a Catholic? ;)

    All that food looks really nice! I can't wait to go there and try it all!

    Regarding the question of the quality of the hotel, I couldn't agree with you more. I could even have stayed at jjimjilbang for my entire trip in Korea if it wasn't for the fact that I had a big bag and that I needed to recharge stuff from time to time...

  2. i'll bet catholics are more sinful than anyone, if only because we have a set list of sins, so it's officially more fun to commit them. some of them, especially gluttony, but lust, pride? come on! it's what makes life so good.

    funny, though, i was actually thinking about u, both about eating as much and as often as i could, which seemed to be your MO in korea--at one point, i was really full but thought, "i gotta have more, gotta make gustaf proud"--and also about the hotel room--as soon as i saw the room, i actually thought, "well, gustaf was okay in a jjimjilbang, so i guess i shouldn't complain."

  3. I couldn't agree more! We only have one life, so we should try to live it to the fullest. (Speaking about that, I should get of my ass and go out to enjoy the beutiful fall weather...

    I'm actually pretty flexible when it comes to eating.. I can both make due with a tiny tiny meal, but also eat crazy amounts of food as long as the food is good... But yeah, that was kinda my MO in Korea. Since I had already seen most of the touristy places (at leas the ones I would find interesting), the point of my trip was to visit friends and enjoy drinking and eating, and the atmosphere of course...

    I think I will try to stay at hostels when I travel in the future, at least as long as I can put up with the clientele and those places... Staying alone in a hotel room seems pretty depressing. I don't need to engage the place, but I feel a need to at least be surrounded by people... That's partly why it feels so weird to live alone in my apartment right now... (the other reason is because it's 55 sq.meters and I lived in 13 sq.meters in Uppsala, and probably like 7 sq.meters in Korea..)