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Eng Seng 永成餐室 – Great Black Pepper Crab and Chili Crab in Singapore

l
Lau Nov 9, 2010 01:31 PM

**For full post and pics**: http://www.lauhound.com/2010/11/eng-s...

When I studied abroad in Singapore a local buddy showed me this place. I liked it so much that we started coming here once every other week. So coming back to Singapore for the first time in 8 years, this was a place that I really wanted to come back to (I still remembered the cross streets after 8 years).

Eng Seng 永成餐室 (yong cheng can shi) is pretty famous specifically for it’s black pepper crab. However, when I lived in Singapore I also really liked their chili crab. The place is very well known and you need to make a reservation and show up early as the lines can be really long. They also sell out of crabs fairly early like by 7 or 8pm. The lady who runs the place makes things run very efficiently, but is kind of a food nazi-esk and is a bit gruff. She came by and I flagged her to take our order, I started ordering food and then told me in Chinese “my English is better than your Chinese, your Chinese is bad, you talk to me in English” haha and her English was surprisingly good.

I think the place might’ve been a small hawker center before, but now Eng Seng takes up the whole place. There is no real décor to speak of, but you’re not here for a service and décor you’re here for one of the messier and delicious dishes in Singapore.

- Mee Goreng: mee goring is basically a Chinese-Indonesian-Malaysian version of chow mein. It is made with thin yellow noodles fried with garlic, onion, prawns, calamari, bean sprouts, chili, vegetables, tomatoes, egg, and acar (pickles). You can have it with other ingredients as well, but that’s how they serve it here. It’s a bit on the sweet side and they serve it here with a chili sauce you can dip it in. It’s not my favorite dish, but she recommended it so I ordered it. I thought there version was good, but wasn’t mind blowing although I am probably the wrong person to ask as it is not something I all that keen on.
- Sotong You Tiao: I loved this dish when I used to come here, so I was excited to order it again. This is a you tiao (fried crueller) filled with sotong (squid paste), I actually always thought it was a fish paste, but someone corrected me and told me it was sotong. They then top it with the asian mayo (it’s sweeter and lighter than the US mayo), I actually hate mayo, but this is one of a few dishes that I make exception for. It’s definitely not a healthy dish, but it is really good and it’s not remotely fishy or anything like that to those who are worried about that. I really like this dish
- Baby gai lan sautéed with garlic: I love gai lan (jie lan 芥蘭) also known as Chinese broccoli. I particularly like the way they cook it in Singapore. It’s a pretty simple preparation just stir-frying the baby gai lan in some oil, garlic and ginger then topping it with tiny golden fried onions that are completely crispy (I found out from a Vietnamese restaurant in CA that you actually need to fry them for 45 minutes to get them so crispy). The version here was good and complemented the meal well.
- Black Pepper Crab: here’s one of the signature dishes at Eng Seng. This dish is large Sri Lankan mud crabs that have been stir fried in a jet black pepper sauce that is slightly sweet and not too spicy. I like the Sri Lankan mud crabs as the meat tastes good and there is so much of it. Even though I like chili crab better, the black pepper crab is excellent here
- Chili Crab: This is still one of my all time favorite Singaporean dishes. It is the same Sri Lankan mud crabs that are stir fried in a semi-thick sauce that is a bit sweet and tangy made from chillis and tomato sauce. It’s also flavored with garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and eggs are beaten into it creating yellow ribbons in the sauce. It’s really good and I really like to slather the sauce on every bite. At the end you ask for bread and they bring you out sliced white bread to dip in the sauce which is awesome. This dish was great and I still love the version here.

Overall, it was excellent although I will say that I don’t think it was as good as it was when I was here 8 years ago, someone told me the food quality had gone down slightly although it was still very good and I would agree with that statement. That said I’d definitely recommend coming here if you’re in Singapore.

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  1. k
    klyeoh RE: Lau Nov 10, 2010 12:43 AM

    That gruff Crab Nazi lady's name is "Ah Hoon" - she IS one tough cookie, but seemed to have a soft spot for an English colleague of mine who's her regular customer. He'd call her up on the phone, reserve a table & the number of crabs, and everything would be ready when we arrive. Personally, I found their crabs (chilli as well as black pepper) too spicy for my taste, but that's just me. Eng Seng had been voted as serving the best black pepper crab in Singapore during a survey organized by the Singapore Tourism Board a few years back, and their popularity & reputation had never waned since, even if the standard of cooking (as you'd experienced) did!

    247/249, Joo Chiat Place
    Singapore
    Tel: +65 6440 5560
    Operating hours: Thu-Tue 5pm – 10pm (Closed Wed)

    12 Replies
    1. re: klyeoh
      l
      Lau RE: klyeoh Nov 10, 2010 03:51 AM

      well to be clear it's still very good, just not as good as when i first started coming here and i think maybe their reputation has grown b/c there were more tourists there this time, when i first started going there there were very few tourists and i remember it being less english friendly

      i like pretty spicy food, so i didn't think it was too spicy

      whats your favorite chili crab place?

      1. re: Lau
        M_Gomez RE: Lau Nov 10, 2010 04:22 AM

        I love Eng Seng's black pepper crab - the spicier the better. But that's because my mouth & throat's lined with asbestos. Ha ha!

        1. re: Lau
          k
          klyeoh RE: Lau Nov 10, 2010 06:45 PM

          I have a sweet-tooth & a rather traditional taste where chilli crab is concerned (i.e. I liked my chilli crab sauce to have that tomato ketchup meets sweet chilli paste flavor), so my personal preference for chilli crab in Singapore is:

          Hua Zhu
          Blk 4 Queens Road
          #02-101
          Singapore
          Tel: +65 6479 4075

          Hua Zhu's version may not be spicy enough for most Singaporeans, but its sweet, tangy sauce seemed to hit the spot for my Thai/Malaysian guests & visitors.

          1. re: klyeoh
            l
            Lau RE: klyeoh Nov 10, 2010 07:11 PM

            interesting, never been there or heard of it...will put it on my list

            1. re: klyeoh
              FourSeasons RE: klyeoh Nov 10, 2010 11:26 PM

              Hua Zhu's chilli crab...that is not for Thai or Malaysians, it is more for Ang mo :-)

              Sorry to say this but definitely not my type of chili crab.

              1. re: FourSeasons
                l
                Lau RE: FourSeasons Nov 11, 2010 03:40 AM

                haha chili crab and chicken rice always start good debates

                1. re: Lau
                  k
                  klyeoh RE: Lau Nov 11, 2010 04:36 PM

                  Oh yes.
                  BTW, many Singaporeans' favorite seemed to be Long Beach.

                  ADDRESS DETAILS:
                  Main outlet
                  Long Beach Seafood Restaurant
                  1018 East Coast Parkway
                  Tel: 6445 8833
                  Operating hours: 11am-3pm & 5pm-12.15am (Daily). Opened till later on Public holidays & weekends.

                  Branches in Dempsey Hill, UDMC Seafood Centre, IMM Jurong and also at Kallang Park.

                  1. re: klyeoh
                    l
                    Lau RE: klyeoh Nov 11, 2010 05:11 PM

                    interesting, i remember not being a huge fan of some of the places in east coast, but that was a long time ago and there were a whole bunch of them....too many places to try, why is singapore so far from the US!

                    1. re: Lau
                      FourSeasons RE: Lau Nov 11, 2010 07:55 PM

                      I don't really like Long Beach too, but it has been a long time since I last visit there. Many of these seafood restaurants (include Jumbo, No Sign Board) over expanded and quality has gone downhill. My favorite remains Palm Beach at One Fullerton. Unlike others, they did not expand thus able to maintain the same quality standard. Website: http://www.palmbeachseafood.com/index...

                      1. re: FourSeasons
                        l
                        Lau RE: FourSeasons Nov 12, 2010 03:26 AM

                        i wasn't a fan of no sign board even when it was one restaurant and still popular

                        interesting about palm beach, another unexpected place....adding to the never ending list

                        1. re: FourSeasons
                          ponocat RE: FourSeasons Dec 4, 2010 05:18 PM

                          FourSeasons: I have enjoyed reading some of your posts and thought that I would read more about your 5 favorite restaurants in Singapore in preparation for my upcoming visit there. (It will be my first and probably only time in Singapore, so I won't have room for a lot of experimentation.) This mention of Palm Beach is the only one of the 5 on which I could find anything on chowhound. Do you have reviews or comments on Fifty Three, Waku Ghin, Yuan Wei, and Shinji Kanesaka on chowhound or somewhere?

                          1. re: ponocat
                            FourSeasons RE: ponocat Dec 4, 2010 07:10 PM

                            Just use the Search function at the upper right hand corner of the Chowhound site. They have been reviewed before:
                            Fifty Three: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6472...
                            Waku Ghin: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7282...

                            You can also check out the reviews of most restaurants in Singapore on the hungrygowhere site: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/

                            Judging from your blog, you focus more on high end upscale restaurants, so I will not recommend Yuan Wei to you. It is an obscure Cantonese coffee shop style known for giant garoupa dishes, virtually no decor to speak of, not very comfortable in the sitting as well, I don't think it is your type of restaurants. Shinji Kanesaka is a high end Sushi restaurant but since I notice you did not review any Sushiya in Japan, I assume you will have less interest on this one too.

                            Notice you have not visited Hong Kong before (at least no review), so probably you should take a look at the Cantonese restaurants in town, since the standard here is superior to any Northern American cities on this cuisine. I will recommend Hua Ting at Orchard Hotel.

          2. s
            schung RE: Lau Dec 18, 2010 01:47 AM

            by far the best back pepper crabs i've ever had. addictive. they even take reservations now.

            4 Replies
            1. re: schung
              l
              Lau RE: schung Dec 18, 2010 07:19 AM

              well they always took reservations for crabs, but in my experience it almost doesnt matter. even when i went this time i went with a reservation and it didn't even matter when i got there, i was like i have a reservation and she was like ok whatever, how many are you? there was a 10 min wait and im pretty sure none of the people ahead of us had a res

              1. re: Lau
                s
                schung RE: Lau Dec 18, 2010 05:57 PM

                i never tried to book before. i just try and get there before 5pm so that i'm in the first seating. they usually run out of crabs during that first seating.

                1. re: schung
                  l
                  Lau RE: schung Dec 18, 2010 06:05 PM

                  yah thats what i used to do too

              2. re: schung
                h
                hong_kong_foodie RE: schung Dec 20, 2010 06:46 AM

                Where else have you had black pepper crab?

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