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Looking For Singapore Chili Crab In San Francisco

sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 09:40 AM

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. wolfe RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 12:07 PM

    Wrong city but still chili crab.

    11 Replies
    1. re: wolfe
      Melanie Wong RE: wolfe Jun 17, 2013 12:11 PM

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

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        wolfe RE: Melanie Wong Jun 17, 2013 12:31 PM

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

        1. re: wolfe
          Melanie Wong RE: wolfe Jun 17, 2013 12:40 PM

          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
            Ridge RE: Melanie Wong Jun 18, 2013 11:00 AM

            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
              Melanie Wong RE: Ridge Jun 18, 2013 11:13 AM

              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
                Ridge RE: Melanie Wong Jun 18, 2013 02:32 PM

                Anywhere in the east bay that makes it?

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  osho RE: Melanie Wong Dec 8, 2013 06:50 AM

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

                2. re: Ridge
                  K K RE: Ridge Jun 18, 2013 11:31 AM

                  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
                    wolfe RE: K K Jun 18, 2013 12:06 PM

                    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
                  klyeoh RE: Melanie Wong Jun 23, 2013 11:30 AM

                  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
                    wolfe RE: klyeoh Jun 23, 2013 11:56 AM

                    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. Melanie Wong RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 12:15 PM

            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.

            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.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong
              sillyputty999 RE: Melanie Wong Jun 17, 2013 02:26 PM

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

            2. d
              DavidT RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 12:26 PM

              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.


              7 Replies
              1. re: DavidT
                sillyputty999 RE: DavidT Jun 17, 2013 02:23 PM

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

                1. re: sillyputty999
                  goldangl95 RE: sillyputty999 Jun 19, 2013 03:00 PM

                  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
                    sillyputty999 RE: goldangl95 Jun 19, 2013 05:37 PM

                    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
                      hyperbowler RE: sillyputty999 Jul 10, 2013 05:12 PM

                      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
                      bbulkow RE: goldangl95 Jun 23, 2013 10:01 AM

                      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
                        goldangl95 RE: bbulkow Jun 23, 2013 09:05 PM

                        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
                        sillyputty999 RE: goldangl95 Jun 23, 2013 10:03 PM

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

                  2. wolfe RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 01:14 PM

                    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
                      sillyputty999 RE: wolfe Jun 17, 2013 02:17 PM

                      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!

                      1. re: sillyputty999
                        wolfe RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 03:23 PM

                        Old advice but still relevant.

                    2. K K RE: sillyputty999 Jun 17, 2013 02:47 PM

                      Shiok in Menlo Park has this.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: K K
                        wolfe RE: K K Jun 17, 2013 03:30 PM

                        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
                          klyeoh RE: K K Jun 23, 2013 11:20 AM

                          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
                            K K RE: klyeoh Jun 23, 2013 09:36 PM

                            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
                              klyeoh RE: K K Jun 23, 2013 09:47 PM

                              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. sillyputty999 RE: sillyputty999 Jun 19, 2013 05:39 PM

                          What about Penang Garden? Has anyone tried this place?

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: sillyputty999
                            masonuc RE: sillyputty999 Jun 22, 2013 05:39 PM

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

                            1. re: masonuc
                              bbulkow RE: masonuc Jun 23, 2013 10:01 AM

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

                              1. re: bbulkow
                                Melanie Wong RE: bbulkow Jun 30, 2013 08:47 PM

                                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.

                              2. re: masonuc
                                Melanie Wong RE: masonuc Jun 30, 2013 08:43 PM

                                Did you give it a shot?

                                1. re: Melanie Wong
                                  masonuc RE: Melanie Wong Jul 10, 2013 12:09 PM

                                  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
                                    sillyputty999 RE: masonuc Jul 10, 2013 03:19 PM

                                    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
                                      Melanie Wong RE: masonuc Jul 14, 2013 06:52 PM

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


                                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                                        barelydigestible RE: Melanie Wong Dec 6, 2013 11:07 PM

                                        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
                                          Melanie Wong RE: barelydigestible Dec 7, 2013 09:11 PM

                                          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
                                  Robert Lauriston RE: sillyputty999 Jun 23, 2013 10:58 AM

                                  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. Peter Yee RE: sillyputty999 Jun 30, 2013 09:51 PM

                                  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.


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