With so little time left till the Big Move, I should be packing instead of posting, but I can’t really go on without talking about one of the most loved foods in Singapore – CRABS. Actually, Singaporeans being who we are, I am selling us short by mentioning only crabs…my mistake. One of our most loved foods is SEAFOOD. Yeah…that sounds better…
Eating seafood when we were kids was always an adventure. Our parents would round up a gang of friends. Pile us into the car. And we’d bump and jolt down the unlit, unpaved mud track to Punggol Jetty, where an assortment of tin-roofed, wall-less, open-air restaurants sat at the edge of the murky water. Everyone would tuck noisily and happily into crabs, clams and assorted fish and shellfish before finishing off with durians for dessert. I remember enjoying ‘classics’ like deep-fried baby squid and chilli crab with that awesome spicy, garlicy, tangy sauce that you always mopped up with soft white bread.
Sadly, those days are long gone. The restaurants have moved on to air-conditioned, upscale locations like Dempsey and the East Coast Seafood Centre (which is actually more real than Dempsey because it’s still by the sea at least) and the people have moved on to more refined dishes. Of course the standards like chilli and pepper crab are still well-loved, but there’s a lot more variety, unheard of before, like salted egg yolk crab and crab roe noodles.
I hardly have chilli crab these days. Preferring black or white pepper or my favourite – the crab bee hoon (thin rice noodles) at Meng Kee Live Seafood.
The star admittedly, is more the noodles than the crab. The bee hoon is lovingly cooked in the roe/coral of the crab. A fixed amount of bee hoon is allocated for each crab ordered to ensure each and every strand is coated with the silky, eggy goodness. It’s rich and moist, with just the right amount of crab flavour and wok hei (the fragrant charred aroma from a searing wok).
The crab’s very good too. Unmasked by the absence of other over-powering flavours, you can really taste the sweetness of the meat.
For a bit more of a kick, their black pepper crab is seriously comparable to Eng Seng’s (the immensely popular pepper crab place at Still Road)
Being a Singapore restaurant, Meng Kee isn’t just about only crabs either, they do a lot of other really good seafood. My favourites are clams in garlic soy sauce and deep-fried fish skin.
Unbelievably sweet Philippino flower clams are steamed and doused in a sauce of light soy and finely minced, deep-fried garlic. I could eat a ton of these little yellow ‘tongues’ and pour the sauce over a bowl of rice and just eat that by itself!
Fried fish skin makes a great appetiser while you’re waiting for the rest of the table to arrive. It’s served with a similar light soy and cooked oil dipping sauce – the kind that’s traditionally poured over steamed or fried whole fish in Chinese restaurants. So in a way, this is a slightly deconstructed version of the traditional prep, no?
And yes…this last favourite of mine isn’t seafood , but hey, we’re Singaporeans remember? A small, cute suckling pig with a mop of curly spring onion slivers, accompanied with hoisin sauce. It’s my new favourite crab…
2013 update: I haven’t been back since, but I heard that the chef who created these wonderful dishes has left the place and moved a few doors down to start his own place. Stay tuned for a report from there.
Meng Kee Live Seafood556 Macpherson Rd