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Looking For Singapore Chili Crab In San Francisco

Hi Everyone,

I will be visiting SF this summer, and I am on the lookout for good Singapore Chili Crab.

I have heard so many people raving about chili crab, and unfortunately, we do not have this dish in Toronto.

So please anybody in the SF area, can you please direct me to a good restaurant right in SF downtown area that has this dish?

Thanks in advance.

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    1. re: wolfe

      Under the Bridge crab is quite a different prep than a Singapore chili crab.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Maybe so but it's crab with chili, it's good and they may not have it in Toronto.

        1. re: wolfe

          Believe it, Under the Bridge crab is nothing like a Singapore chili crab other than that they're both crab and spicy. I'm trying not to mislead readers.

          FWIW, Under the Bridge (aka Wan Chai, typhoon shelter) crab can be found readily in Toronto due to the close ties of the Chinese community there with Hong Kong.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            The real deal is Singapore Black pepper crab. Does anyone in SF make Black pepper crab? I have had a couple of different versions in Singapore and loved it. It's made with butter and lots of black pepper and depending on the recipe can have other ingredients including marmite.

            1. re: Ridge

              I'm with you. I prefer the black pepper crab too. It's on the menu at both Lime Tree and Straits.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Anywhere in the east bay that makes it?

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Any feedback on this dish at Lime Tree? They can be good at times but are inconsistent in my experience.

                2. re: Ridge

                  Yum's Bistro in Fremont can do a black pepper crab 胡椒蟹 (might need to preorder to be safe when making the reservation), but I have never had it to know whether he uses butter or not.

                  1. re: K K

                    Shiok also.
                    SINGAPORE PEPPER CRAB $34.00
                    A very unique dish, starting with fresh Dungeness crab and Chinese seasonings, adding Indian black pepper, enriching the flavor with butter and then tossing in Malay bird's-eye chilies for a knock-out result. A must try!

                3. re: Melanie Wong

                  Melanie's right - Under the Bridge crab is a dry-ish preparation (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/821445) while Singapore chilli crab has a chilli-ketchup-eggy gravy: I don't have a recent photo of one but the chilli crayfish on this post gives a good idea (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/873952).

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Melanie is rarely wrong by my point wasn't the prep but the possibility that any spicy crab might suffice considering that neither of the Asian recipes utilizes Dungeness crab semi-local at this time of year, and if the Toronton(?) wanted authentic Singapore I am not sure that the local crabs are.
                    SINGAPORE CHILI CRAB $34.00
                    Virtually Singapore's national dish! Fresh Dungeness crab cooked in lots of delicious special house grav

          2. Not downtown, but at least in the City, you can find chili crab at Lime Tree. Not bad, biggest problem is that the crab itself was overcooked and no bread was provided for mopping up the sauce. Other dishes are quite uneven, so do your research before ordering.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/429070

            A much better version can be found in Fremont at Yum's Bistro where it's called Jakarta chili crab. But there's no easy way to get there from SF unless you have a car.
            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/777275

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              We will have a car on the last day so I will keep Yum Bistro on my list. Thanks so much.

            2. The Straits Cafe has Singapore Chili Crab (or Lobster) on the menu. They have locations in San Francisco and 3 other places in the Bay Area.

              http://www.straitsrestaurants.com/din...

              7 Replies
              1. re: DavidT

                This one will be really close to our hotel! Thanks.

                1. re: sillyputty999

                  Straits is kinda like the P.F. Changs of Malaysian/Singaporean food. In a pinch, it can sometimes work but mostly IMHO it's mediocre.

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    Okay, I'm not a fan of PF Chang. I remember visiting a PF Chang in Dallas and the waitress was educating us on mixing all the sauces together... We were so embarrassed we could not even look at her....

                    1. re: sillyputty999

                      Since we're mentioning westernized Asian chains, I'll point out for reference purposes that Trader Vic's has Singapore Chile Crab, $18 for 1/2, $33 for a whole.

                    2. re: goldangl95

                      THe original Straits in SF was a fine little place, nothing PF Changs about it. The one in Palo Alto was just substandard. I don't know of any of the other incarnations.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        There's one in Santana Row, Burlingame and Houston too. And the original Straits was a very poor approximation compared to Malyasian/Singaporean food found in the home country. It's current incarnation in SF is very PF Changs like.

                      2. re: goldangl95

                        I may try out Straits anyway because it will be close by our hotel.... and how bad can it be.... right?

                  2. If all else fails.
                    Lion City Restaurant
                    1177 Central Parkway W
                    Unit 70
                    Mississauga, ON
                    Singapore Chilli Crab $28.00
                    Singapore Peppered Crab $28.00

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: wolfe

                      Thats really funny that you referenced this place because its just 5 minutes from me, but for some reason, I don't really want to try that place. LOL!

                    2. Shiok in Menlo Park has this.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: K K

                        SINGAPORE CHILI CRAB $34.00
                        Virtually Singapore's national dish! Fresh Dungeness crab cooked in lots of delicious special house gravy. Great for sharing!!!

                        1. re: K K

                          I've heard about this place from "Singapore Flavours", a local TV food travelogue which explores places abroad which offers Singaporean dishes. Looks like the best option in the Bay Area.

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            One thing that's often overlooked is that the number of Singaporean restaurants actually owned and run by Singaporean expats in SF Bay Area, that are actually doing things the traditional way (whether they replicate the experience or not is another topic altogether), are quickly becoming extinct. Shiok is probably one of the (if not the only) last surviving ones, even if they have hired kitchen help. Then it becomes a matter of accepting reality as an expat (or a well traveled eater), of having something in a form or another versus not having it at all.

                            With Shiok it comes down to a broader menu, portion control in a nicer neighborhood (and higher rents), smaller sized restaurant, and varying degrees of service...but if you order right, the food can be decent when the kitchen executes on point.

                            1. re: K K

                              It's almost impossible to get good Singaporean/Malaysian food in California or the US - for a start, there aren't any large Singaporean/Malaysian community anywhere in the US.

                              When I first tried Straits in SF, I was shocked that their "Sayur Lodeh" was actually Thai green curry. But most of their clientele wouldn't know the difference anyway.

                        2. What about Penang Garden? Has anyone tried this place?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: sillyputty999

                            Thinking of going tonight -- also visiting SF and looking for chili crab.

                            1. re: masonuc

                              Y'all know we're no where near the local crab season, right?

                              1. re: bbulkow

                                Monterey Fish had local, live Dungeness yesterday. Yes, the bulk of crab is harvested earlier in the season. But it's still open in Mendocino County and north, and closes today for points south of there.
                                https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.as...

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Yes -- and it was great. As good as Singapore? No, but it was quite good. $38 so not cheap but everyone in my party enjoyed their (non-crab) dishes, too. I really like that place and will be back next visit. Best chili crab I have ever had outside of Singapore.

                                  1. re: masonuc

                                    Thanks for the review. This is the one I will try when I'm in San Fran. I was going to try out Strait, I think Penang Garden will be better.

                                    1. re: masonuc

                                      Thanks for letting us know. We haven't seen much about Penang Garden for a while. Is bread provided with the chilli crab?

                                      http://www.penanggardensf.com/

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        Group of us went there today for lunch - so yes I can confirm there were maybe four-six small mantou buns along with the dish. They were ok at best - guess I'd say "inoffensive".

                                        Quality crab, clearly fresh (not too surprising given the season just kicked off) and well-cooked. Nothing at all wrong that end.

                                        It was my own first time there so personally, I found the dish overall unbalanced - sauce was definitely on the sweet side and while listed as "spicy" I think you'd have to have an *extremely* Westernized palate to find it so. Three of us went through a whole side bowl of sambal (the dried-shrimp-spiked chili paste - I could have eaten a bowl of that stuff solo) hotting it up. May just be me but if Tyler Florence thought the chili crab here was one of the "Best Things He Ever Ate" guess I'm bummed for him - he needs to get out more...

                                        Seriously I looked up his own recipe for Singaporean Chili Crab (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...). If Panang was ratio-ing a whole serrano and 2 tbsp hot chili paste per 1/4 cup ketchup... then that heat and complex chili flavor (and other flavors like tamarind) definitely wasn't coming through all the ketchup and sugar. Certainly the part where he mentions getting the crab to "absorb" the sauce for a while wasn't going on - when you broke into the pieces they tasted completely unsauced, you had to stir the unshelled crab around to get any of that flavoring into the meat. If you're used to really "infused" crab like at say Thanh Long - whether you like that style or not - this was a far cry, more like a steamed crab with sauce poured over right at plating.

                                        Hope this isn't a case of a great dish getting popularized by mass media and then dumbed down - I'm sort of inspired now to try cooking his version myself with fresh ingredients and see if there was a totally different dish he was praising back then!

                                        In terms of other courses:

                                        - papaya salad: fresh, crisp, a bit bland. If you're used to either a minty-spicy style, or intensely fish-sauced style, it's neither. again, more inoffensive than anything.

                                        - penang asam laksa: good noodle soup. this was our favorite course, especially spiked with a healthy dollop of spicy sambal. I wasn't blown away by the noodles but they really got a deep and rich flavoring into the broth, and the veggies were perfectly cooked, not limp.

                                        - santan sea bass: expensive for the amount of fish you get, but well-cooked; it's hard to get deep-fry to hold up to a sauce like that, but even under the santan curry it came through. Favorite of one of our group and we all thought it was better than the crab

                                        1. re: barelydigestible

                                          I'll mention that chilli crab is not so very spicy hot, not nearly as hot as Malay dishes found in Singapore. TF's recipe looks suspect since it does not include egg.

                                2. re: sillyputty999

                                  I wasn't impressed enough to go back after the one lunch I had there but I don't think I tried the crab. It's apparently famous because Tyler Florence recommended it on "The Best Thing I Ever Ate."

                                3. Has anyone tried Merlion in Cupertino? It offers both chili crabs and black pepper crabs. I did a search for Merlion but didn't get any review hits. Obviously, nowhere near downtown SF.

                                  http://www.merlion.us/#50b2c7dc8ae8c2...