Alaskan King Crab, Shanghai Hairy Crab, Sri Lankan Crab, Snow Crab, Stone Crab, Flower Crab, Dungeness Crab, Horseshoe Crab - there are so many different types of crabs, each with their own merits. But more important than the species are the freshness and juiciness of the crab. If you have ever picked what you thought was a big and fat crustacean only to find it full of water instead of flesh, you will know exactly how important it is to know how to pick your crab.
How to Choose the Freshest Crustacean!
Select crabs that are at the end of their growth cycles. That is when they are at their plumpest. One sign of maturity is the look of the shell. Go for crabs with dull shells that look weathered. It is a sign that the crab is older. The crab should also have flattened molars on their claws from feeding itself to fill out its shell. This will ensure that your solid-looking crab is really as succulent as it looks.
Flip it over and the underbelly of the crab should be yellowish with clearly-defined bulging segments that are tough to the touch. Finally, only buy crabs that are not kept in water tanks. Those in water tanks tend to be very active, using up their reserve of energy and shrinking their flesh. When it comes to crabs, the lazy ones are the best.
If all this has made you hungry for crabs, there is no need to go to the market for some. CapitaMalls have several restaurants offering crabs in every possible style imaginable.
Singapore’s Signature (Crab) Dish
There can be no mention of crabs without talking about Chilli Crabs. This is a Singapore-created dish of stir-fried crab in a thick, sweet and savoury tomato and chilli-based gravy. The recipe is attributed to a hawker husband-and-wife team who was said to have created the first chilli crab dish in 1956.
If you want your seafood with a sea view, Quayside Seafood Restaurant will certainly fit the bill. The award-winning eatery sits by the Singapore River and offers two local-styled crab dishes: Sri Lankan Chilli Crab and Sri Lankan Black Pepper Crab (S$60 per kilogram, minimum 1.3 kilograms). The choice of Sri Lankan Crab is much appreciated because these crabs are huge and promise more meat. The deal breaker in any Chilli Crab dish is the gravy. The version here is an explosion of sweet, tangy, savoury and spicy that is thick and creamy without being overly starchy. If you prefer your crab drier, the Black Pepper option is a fragrant choice which packs just the right amount of heat.
If you are not up to cracking shells to get at the best morsels of crab meat, you can try the Wok-fried Rice with Fresh Crabmeat (S$25, S$38, and S$55). There is enough meat in it to satisfy any crab craving and the rice has the all-important wok hei (??) or fragrance from being stir-fried in a wok at high heat.
Southeast Asian Spins
Other countries in the region also have their ways of preparing crab. At Thai Express, soft-shell crab is the crab of choice for their crab dishes. Soft-shell crabs refer to crabs which have just moulted and so have very tender shells. Because of this, they are usually eaten whole, shells and all; and are preferred by those who do not want the hassle of struggling with de-shelling a crab.
At this casual Thai restaurant, you can have Poo Nim Ob Woon Sen (black pepper soft-shell crab with glass noodles in a claypot) at $15.60. The noodles are infused with the slightly sweet flavour of the gravy it sits in and the crab is fried to crunchy perfection. The other crab selection is Poo Phat Pong Kari (soft-shell crab in an egg and onion curry served with white rice) at S$12.90. The sauce is a cross between Chilli Crab and Thai Red Curry and is lip-smackingly satisfying when paired with steaming fragrant white rice. The portions of crab in both dishes are also generous and since crabs are expensive, they are certainly value-for-money given the affordable pricing.
Another place to get a taste of crab without busting your budget is at Vietnamese
quick-service noodle bar chain, NamNam Noodle Bar. At this place, you can have your Pho (noodle soup) with flower crab (Flower Crab Noodle Soup, S$13.90). The soup is flavoured flower crab stock and served with minced pork crab meat and a deep fried soft-shell crab.
Slurp It Up, Chinese-style
Crab lovers will love the deal Cantonese restaurant, Mouth Restaurant, is offering. Their six-course Buddha Jump Crab Dance set meal is going for half its usual price of S$69.90++ per pax (minimum two diners). It is a steal because one of the items is a whole Teochew cold crab. Only restaurants which are confident of the quality of their produce would dare to offer crabs prepared in this simple, fuss-free way because without gravy or spices to mask the taste, the freshness (or lack of) of the crab is immediately apparent.
If you are into soups, pop into Prosperous Kitchen for their wide selection of soups with crab meat: Crab Meat with Sweet Corn Soup (S$6.50), Fish Maw Broth with Crab Meat (S$7.50), Braised Shark’s Fin Soup with Fresh Crab Meat (S$9.50) and Braised Mini Superior Shark’s Fin with Fresh Crab Meat (S$16.80). The crab meat adds a sweetness to the soups, making them truly gratifying choices.
Best of the West
The West also has its way of dealing with crabs. Unique to America is the crab cake – patties made of crab meat mixed with bread crumbs, milk, mayonnaise, eggs, onions and seasoning that are then breaded and deep dried and served with a dipping sauce. In Singapore, you can have Crab Cakes with Cocktail Dressing (S$8) at the Boston Seafood Shack. They make great appetizers. If you want something more filling, try the Squid Ink Crab Cake Sliders (S$12 for two pieces) which has the crab cakes slathered with the same cocktail dressing and served between squid ink buns. Another appetizer worth sampling is the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Lobster Sauce (S$11). It is crispy down to the last claw.
If you like the idea of mixing and matching your meals, you will like Freemantle Seafood Market’s style of cooking their crabs. You can pick the type of crab you want: Alaskan King Crab (S$88), Dungeness Crab (S$78), or Sri Lankan Crab (S$68); and the way you want them done: Chilli Crab, Honey Mustard, Cajun Spice Garlic Herb, or Thai Green Curry. The advantage here is that you can compare the taste of the different types of crabs.
If you are eating in a group, the chilled platter (Hearty Chilled Platter at S$88, and Make Merry Chilled Platter at S$128) is a medley of seafood that includes oysters, Alaskan King Crab, sashimi, seafood tapas and Maine Lobster (for the bigger platter) so fresh, you can taste the ocean. Meanwhile, for an interesting East meets West take on crabs, the Chilli Crab and Scallops Pizza (S$20) will surely please. The lime garlic chilli sauce complements the seafood perfectly.
For the ultimate crab fest, Buffet Town has a Wholly Crab buffet from 1 October to 21 November. There is a selection of crab dishes including Chill Crab with Mantou, Crab Rendang, and Crab Meat Fried Rice.
Eaten whole, eaten cold, dressed in gravy, fried with spices, made into soups, scattered on pizzas, turned into burgers – there are so many ways to eat crabs. So, snap at the chance and go crab-y this month.
Dine with us:Quayside Seafood Restaurant
NamNam Noodle Bar
Boston Seafood Shack
Freemantle Seafood Market