Kuala Lumpur - A Taste of Malaysian Chilli Crabs!
Aaah, Chilli Crabs - the quintessential must-order dish for many a foreign gourmet/gourmand/glutton visiting Singapore for the first time. Chilli crab to me is comfort food, a taste of childhood, something I virtually grew up with. And nowhere in the world can one find great chilli crabs except, where else, but Singapore.
Now, we come to Malaysia - our next-door neighbor, and with whom Singapore shared inexorably similar culinary history. Somewhere, sometime ago, and somehow, our cooking styles somewhat diverged. What we ended with are "regional variations" of similarly-named dishes - so Singapore's milky-rich Katong laksa is virtually irreconcilable to Penang hot-sour assam laksa, Singapore-style pale-colored Hokkien mee seemed a totally different dish compared to KL's dark-as-night Hokkien mee, and Singaporean fried "koay teow" noodles, with its sweet flavor & dark soy-tinted color is a complete contrast to Penang fried "koay teow", with its salty-spicy flavor and light natural colors. Usually, I liked both the Singaporean and Malaysian versions of each of these dishes.
But good chilli crabs (just like good Hainanese chicken rice, or good kaya toasts) seemed almost impossible to find in Malaysia ... until lunch-time today. The place: Bangsar Venicia, a very inconspicuous little eatery in Bangsar with a very talented Hainanese (?) chef manning its kitchen.
The crabs used for his version of chilli crabs were smallish Malaysian crabs - unlike the ubiquitous, gigantic Sri Lankan crabs used in Singapore for this dish. But his cooking was pitch-perfect, resulting in a slightly spicy, sweet-sour sauce blanketing some very fresh crabs (Malaysian restaurants inexorably keep their crabs alive till just before cooking). What seemed missing were the egg-ribbons which Singaporean chefs would create by pouring beaten eggs into the bubbling sauce in a thin stream during the cooking process just before they turned off the cooking heat/flame. There was also a bit more gingery effect than I'd have preferred, but that's okay nonetheless.
Our vegetable dish was "yau mak" (Chinese Romaine lettuce) stir-fried with "nam yue" (little cubes of fermented beancurd in chilli-wine marinade) - robust and delicious.
Complementing the strong flavors from the chilli crabs and the vegetables was a tasty Yangzhou fried rice. It was a simple but well-cooked meal on the whole. I'd still prefer to have my chilli crabs back in Singapore. But if I need to have that here in KL, then Bangsar Venicia it is then.
41 Jalan Medang Serai
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2094 2010
Ha ha, your post's title is almost a precursor to a food fight.
Very interesting observation on the size of the crabs also. A couple of old-school places in Singapore, including my favourite Lai Huat, used to serve smaller "local" crabs. I suspect the mighty dollar drives the desire for luxury, just as kampung durians seem to be ignored these days in favour of D-X clones, maoshan wang, etc.
On an interesting side note, a recent edition of Flavours magazine ran a story on Zak Pelaccio, who introduced chilli crab as a mainstream dish to the US. He first tasted the dish in Malaysia and the version he is cooking up (presumably diluted spice-wise) for the Americans is based on the Malaysian recipe.
re: Julian Teoh
LOL! I hope it won't deteriorate into a food-fight of sorts! :-D
I like Penang street food and do think it's miles ahead of Singapore street food in terms of taste and variety, plus the talent and sheer passion of the Penang hawkers/cooks, many of whom are "living treasures". But I couldn't but help feeling more than a little annoyed when many Penangites (perhaps whipped up by the Govt-controlled media in Malaysia) started whinging about why Penang was rated below Singapore in Virtual Tourist web-site's global survey on the top street food destinations in the world, and started bad-mouthing Singapore street food - it was in the Malaysian papers like "The Star" for days! Hey, we in Singapore did do *some* street food better than Penang: Hainanese chicken rice, kaya toasts, and fried carrot cake, to name a few.
Anyway, back to Chilli Crabs - I actually think the smaller Indonesian crabs have sweeter, tastier flesh than those humongous Sri Lankan crabs. In fact, the famous Two Sisters Crabmeat Fried Rice which operated in Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore, in their hey-days from the late-70s till the mid-90s would use only cooked Indonesian crab-meat (and no other) for their legendary fried rice.
I had Papuan crabs from New Guinea at a popular seafood in East Java (Indonesia) last year, but the crabmeat was not as exceptional as I'd expected http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/818824
My personal list of top 5 crab meal experiences are:
1) Steamed crabs from Resto Sarang Kepiting, Jl. Gunung Sahari, Jakarta
2) Chilli crabs from Hua Zhu restaurant, Farrer Road, Singapore
3) Tasmanian King Crab, cooked 3 ways, Golden Century restaurant, Sydney
4) Dressed crab, Bibendum, London
5) Curried crabs, T-Pochana, Bangkok
I must try Lai Huat when I'm back home during the Hari Raya Aidil-Fitri holidays next weekend.
Indeed. There are better ways to get the point across, such as blaming the website and its contributors. At least you don't tread into diplomatic quicksand.
Funnily enough, Mooi Chin just got back to me on my corkage enquiry this morning (trouble with their email, apparently), so I will visit soon and report back.
A silly question - is the "yau mak choy" (油麥菜) used in KL or M'sia or S'pore all uniformly like what is shown in your pic (and in others you posted before this one), which definitely looks like a smaller version of Romaine in the US (or Cos, in the UK) ?
Is what is also called Taiwan A Choy also a.k.a. "Yau Mak Choy" also used?
I myself remember the mini-romaine rather than the Taiwan A choy type...
I'd not had "yau mak choy" very often in Singapore, but it's pretty common in KL & is on the menu of virtually *every* Chinese restaurant. Yes, "yau mak choy" here in KL & also in Singapore certainly referred to the ones seen on my photo, and different from the ones on your links. Interesting, huh? Different vegies referred by the same name in different countries. But it won't be the first - note how "soon kueh" in Malaysia & Singapore are made from shredded jicama (Chinese turnips), but bamboo shoots in China or amongst Thailand's Chinese community.
Yet if you look at the links I provided they clearly show Taiwan A choy being called "yau mak choy". If you google the name 油麥菜 and look at both the "normal" (full) answer set as well as the "images" part of the answer set one sees depictions or references to *both* Taiwan A choy and romaine.
In fact, "油麥菜" appears to be used as a generic term for "lettuce" with some frequency.
The other term used for "lettuce" is, of course, "生菜" ("sang choy") although I myself would tend to think of it (生菜) as that slightly floppy crisp green-leaf/semi-iceberg type of lettuce so often used to accompany fried rice, for example, as a garnish. If one googles *that* term one sees the overlap with the other term but where one now sees largely the leafy-types - including romaine - but basically Taiwan A choy is now not present in the answer set.
(I can certainly buy Taiwan A choy in my local Chinese and certain International groceries so I understand from first-hand experience that they are not the same as romaine hearts)
You could well be right.I have only tasted "yau mak" in KL on about 3 occasions and they, to me at least tasted very similar to romaine hearts.Whether they were romaine hearts or were in fact A Choy,my reaction was that restaurants charged a relatively premium price for a what seem to me to be a inexpensive vegetable here in Toronto.
Oh, I'm sure they *were* romaine hearts, and as I mentioned in an even earlier post that is what I remembered eating in KL and elsewhere in Malaysia when I still lived there. It's just that A Choy is *also* called "yau mak choy" elsewhere/in some other places - and I was asking if klyeoh had ever seen that one served when he ordered "yau mak choy" in KL & etc nowadays.
Certainly when Taiwan A Choy is stir-fried they come out looking somewhat different than what is shown in klyeoh's picture, and as I can also attest to from personal experience. :-)
[See, e.g., that 4th link in my post at the top of this subthread]
Does this place count as a "detour" also, since it is just a stone's throw from Vintry et al.? :-)
I can't say I've ever been that keen on curried crabs, nor having any serious hankerings for them - whole crabs, that is - even though I do have nice memories of evenings spent munching on, cracking them and sucking out the flesh bit-by-laborious-bit. I remember in particular one evening on the beach (actually on the sand)(EDIT: On reflection, not on the sand itself, that was just beyond the table. It was a long time ago.) somewhere on the east side of Singapore, at a "famous" shack of a restaurant, where we had many platters of crabs of various sorts & prawns and fish etc etc. But the most memorable bit was the waitress standing at one end of the LONG wooden table with a stack of plates in her hand and sliding the plates to each of us, down the table, to stop in front of each diner! You just had to keep your hands OFF the table until she was done. :-)
I never looked into it before, but Yangzhou fried rice** wasn't invented in Yangzhou, it seems... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeung_Ch...
**(I know it by the Cantonese equivalent -"Yeung Chow" fried rice [Yale: yeung4 jau1 chaau2 faan6])
It's the last weekend leading up to the Eid celebrations (in Malaysia, as in Singapore, it's the Hari Raya Aidil- Fitri) on 19-20 Aug. There's a nightly food bazaar outside the Bangsar Mosque, near Bangsar Village - cars parked haphazardly all over the place, crowds thronging the Ramadhan food stalls everywhere, so I'm giving that area a wide berth for the moment!