Tag Archives: Hawker Market

Singapore: Chilli Crab

Chilli Crab is the national dish of Singapore – a whole fresh crab cooked in a spicy tomato and chili broth. We’d been craving Chilli Crab for about a year before we went to Singapore, when the dish was introduced to us by way of a recipe attached to a miniature chilli crab stuffed animal, who took part in our chilli crab adventure below. There’s nowhere to get it in Chicago, and we are definitely not ambitious enough to do it on our own in seafood-starved hometown (Here’s a Recipe if you feel like DiY-ing it). We saved our chilli crab experience for our last hawker center experience in Singapore, saving the best for last, you could say.

We went along with one of my (L’s) colleagues, who had recently moved to Singapore, along with two other friends to the Newton Food Center, just outside of the Singapore city center. The Newton Food Center specialized in seafood, and it shows the second you enter. There were many chilli crab stalls with many eager chefs ready to call us to attention. The stall we settled on was my colleague’s favorite, and when we saw a cage of real live crabs for picking we knew we were in the right place. Once we picked out our crab (Sorry little guy!) we paid by weight and went to sit down for our chilli crab to arrive.

After about 15 minutes a gargantuan plate landed before us. The chilli crab, still wholly intact arrived steaming in a plateful of spicy hot bright-red tomato and chili broth. The only way into the dish was with our hands. Good thing we had a lot of napkins….  It took some elbow grease to crack the claws, but the reward was great. The crab couldn’t have been fresher and the chili sauce was the perfect blend of sweet and savory. Despite the intimidating name, the dish itself wasn’t terribly spicy (perhaps to the disappointment by the heat-seeking M).

For side dishes we got mantou and the misleadingly named carrot cake. Mantou are tiny steamed wheat rolls taken from Chinese cuisine which are perfect for sopping up the chili broth. Carrot cake, as we described in our Malaysian post is a stir fry with eggs and root vegetables. Our final Hawker market experience in Singapore was definitely our best and our group ate like kings. We will be thinking about our swan song meal in Singapore for years to come.

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Singapore: Nonya Cuisine

Another cuisine unique to the culinary playground that is Singapore is Nonya (or Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine) a mix of Chinese techniques and Malaysian spaces a product of marriages between Chinese workers and local Malays in the early days of Singapore’s history.

Possibly the most famous Peranakan dish is Laksa Lemak, which we sampled in a hawker market in Chinatown. Hawker Markets are basically giant food courts (either open-air or inside) with tons of stalls specializing in different cuisines and sometimes different foods. We enjoyed our Laksa in a hawker market in Singapore’s Chinatown, which was also the site of our first Durian encounter.

Laksa is quintessentially Singaporean and Malaysian and is a spicy seafood curry, and one of the most popular Nonya dishes. The primary ingredients are coconut milk, chili paste and shrimp, though depending on where you get your laksa you might get a dish with the addition of blood or cuttlefish. Rasa Malaysia has a recipe for Laska, as does Top Hat, a famous KL eatery.

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