Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chili Crab

When reading up on Singapore eats, I learned that chilli crab is one of the island's signature dishes. What is it? Crab braised in a sweet chili sauce with eggy goodness mixed in. It's sweet, but with a surprisingly sharp bite that catches in one's throat at unexpected moments. I suppose it's part of the dish's charm. Mopping up the sauce with steamed rolls adds to the experience.

On my last night in town, I decided that a visit to No Signboard Seafood was in order. The name sounds pretty non-descript. I was expecting a casual spot. Contrary to my other hawker center meals, it turns out No Signboard is an air conditioned restaurant that seats about 100 people. There's even silverware a.k.a. fancy digs! So imagine my mortification when I sat down to discover that an order of chili crab is, well, a crab. An entire kilo's worth. The waitress assured me that such a dish was suitable for one. I had my doubts, but wasn't about to leave the island without tasting the dish.

Soon enough, a platter of crab arrived. They had kindly cracked the crab, but it was still buried in the sauce. The table of four people next to me was having the same dish. They stared at me. I smiled. I tried to use chopsticks, but soon realized the difficulty of shellfish and sticks, so gave-in to using my hands. Did I mention they provided me with exactly one napkin? It seemed that in my battle with this sweet, spicy, buttery, succulent crab, I was the loser. The waitresses stopped making eye contact with me. The people next door stole glances at my progress. Every time I poured myself a cup of tea, I left orange hand prints on the teapot. I was embarrassed to be seen with myself. But the chili crab, it was tasty.