KL Food Trip: Fatty Crab

It being my birthday weekend, Noid tried to fatten me up as much as possible. She took us to Restoran Fatty Crab, a bit of an institution for the crustacean. We were told to turn up earlier or face a long wait as the place doesn’t take reservations. We were lucky enough to turn up just in time to grab the last good table there – good being far away from the sinks and the satay grilling area. All tables were covered by the same kind of maroon table cloth so threadbare there were plenty of holes in each. After each table was done, they wrapped up all the discarded shells in the cloth and whisked it off, laying a fresh holey one for the next set of customers.

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No matter, we were here for the food and started off with a small serving of four chicken wings. They were nicely marinated and generously portioned – see how we got a bonus drumlet? It was just enough to whet the appetite.

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We had mixed views of the other appetiser of century egg. While DC really liked the soft texture of the centres, I didn’t fancy the slight whiff of ammonia. DC was quite pleased to take the last piece that Noid found a bit too rich.

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Next came the fried rice, which was masterfully made. Each grain was firm and separate from the other. There was a nice crunch from lightly cooked long bean and carrot bits. But the best part was the crab roe fried into the rice. I liked how it lightly seasoned so that you could enjoy it with the other dishes. It complemented rather than clamour for attention against the piece de resistance.

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Ah yes, the crab! We ordered smaller crabs for sweeter meat. My first piece was a bit off, but the second piece was beautifully fresh and sweet. Even the meat within the spindly legs were worth my while. The sauce itself is quite different from the regular chilli sauce. Here, it’s more sweet and sour with pronounced chilli spiciness. It’s the slow burn type that doesn’t hit till you’ve dug in to at least half your crab piece and your nose starts watering from the heat. The sauce is especially good with the fried rice. DC walloped loads of it, but Noid found it a bit too spicy to eat that way.

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We were shocked to be told that the place doesn’t do any kind of vegetables. My jaw fairly dropped with surprise. This is the first place I’ve ever been in that simply doesn’t do vegetables. We went for the prawns instead. These were marinated and then fried in just their shells. They were fat, juicy and fresh – very good.

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This place is great for hardcore crab fans who are happy just eating from the limited range this place has. I like how it’s straightforward and no-nonsense. Not only do they provide de rigueur nutcrackers, they also put out mallets for the tougher shells to crack. A great touch for those who would leave no crab crevice untouched.

Restoran Fatty Crab
No 2, Jln SS 24/13 , Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya,
47301 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60-3-7804-5758

Western-Style Olive Fried Rice and Other Experiments

I experimented a bit with fried rice by using no obviously Chinese ingredients (aside from the rice itself). There were some pitted olives hanging around in my fridge, some fatty pork slices and a tomato, together with leftover rice. It worked quite well my dried mixed herbs and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, but didn’t taste very western at all. I guess you can’t run away from the Chinese-ness of garlic, pork and rice. But it’s so yummy from the interplay of soft tomato, pungent olive and tasty fatty pork that I might do it again even if I don’t have olives to finish up!

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Ingredients:
2 garlic cloves
20 pitted black olives from a can, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
100g fatty pork, chopped
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used herbs de provence, but it doesn’t really matter)
1-2 cups cooked rice
1 tomato, diced

Method:

  1. In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic and olives together till chopped fine.
  2. In a work, heat the olive oil and gently fry the garlic-olive mixture till fragrant.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the pork and fry till no longer pink, then stir in the dried herbs.
  4. Now add the rice and stir till well incorporated, heat through. Add salt to taste.
  5. Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes and serve.

Serves 2 or 3 (i.e. with 2 people you get leftovers, yay!).

To accompany the fried rice, I made some mushrooms braised in red wine. It’s a really simple dish that so luscious and sinful. I normally think of them with German sausages and thickly sliced bread, but they didn’t do too badly with the fried rice!

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Ingredients:

50 g butter
1 onion, sliced
300 g button mushrooms (1 punnet – brown ones are generally nicer)
1 wine glass of red wine (I normally freeze leftover wine for occasions such as these)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and sweat the onions gently. Let them colour a bit, but not brown.
  2. When the onions are soft, add the button mushrooms and stir.
  3. Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine.
  4. When the mixture starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes or till the gravy has thickened.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Serves 2.


Another day, the word “chermoula” kept floating in my head. I’d not really thought much about trying one out till now, and I couldn’t shake it off. Knowing that I had to get it out of my system, I went to the supermarket and picked up whatever seemed right to go into a chermoula. According to Wikipedia, a chermoula is of North African origin. Commonly found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, it’s a thick marinade or sauce made out of herbs, lemon, garlic, cumin and oil. It’s supposed to accompany seafood and fish, but I used it to top poached chicken breasts instead. It really livened up the plain chicken and added such zing to a simple dinner. For this meal, the poached chicken was accompanied by boiled beans, carrots and fennel, with a side of wheat berries done in the rice cooker. Top the chicken breast with chermoula and crispy chicken skin (20 mins in 160 °C) and it’s a fairly healthy dinner.

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Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves
1 pack coriander (50g?)
1 pack parsley (50g?)
3 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
4 tsp paprika powder
juice and zest of 1 lemon
olive oil

Method:

  1. In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic, herbs, powders and zest with half the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Keep pulsing till smooth, adding more oil to help the process along.
  3. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste.

Makes enough for 4.

A Trip to Hong Kong: Two Versions of Roast Goose

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By one of those strange alignment of stars, DC and I were on overlapping business trips to Hong Kong. A bit of canny planning brought us together over the weekend at the achingly modern and very comfortable Langham Place Hotel. The only problem in getting there was that I didn’t realise that there were two “Langhams” in Kowloon, one the Langham Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui and the other the Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok.

After a bit of confusion, I finally got to the hotel and DC took me to Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳). He informed me that Yung Kee was off the menu for this trip as he’d been and the standard of roast goose was abysmal compared to its price. So this place it was and we proceeded to order the roast goose noodles.

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Sure, the soup was full of msg, but the noodles were firm and springy and the goose. Mmm… the first piece of goose I put in my mouth was tender and flavourful. The fatty, savoury juices from the drumstick flowed beautifully with each bite. It’s a pity that not every piece of the drumstick was as tender. The skin was soggy – we couldn’t salvage it in time before it all sank into the soup. Still, for about HK$40 (S$6), this was a fantastic welcome to Hong Kong.

Sham Tseng Chan Kee Roasted Goose Restaurant (深井陳記燒鵝茶餐廳)
Reclamation Street, Mongkok 旺角新填地街427-427A號 behind Langham Place Hotel

DC promised me something better for dinner, something worth dressing up for. So I changed out of my denim civvies, slipped on a black dress and we headed downstairs to Ming Court Restaurant. It’s fantastic to have a 2-Michelin star restaurant right in the hotel. Disappointingly, it seemed like everyone else was dressed down, so not quite as posh as expected. But that was hardly a downer as the service was friendly and not at all snooty like you’d expect for a starred restaurant. (Yes it helps to speak even a smidgen of Cantonese.)

We dithered a while on which dishes to order. Greedy as we are, we realise that our stomachs nonetheless have finite capacities (sad to say, mine more so than DC’s). It went without saying that we would have the roast goose – chiu-chow style roasted goose (HK$148 or S$25). It’s almost a pity it came first as it was the star of the show. The best roast goose in our combined experience, and that’s saying something. Check out how tender the meat is in the pic below.

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One angle not enough? Look at this pic. See how crisp the skin is? And the thin sliver of fat under the skin? It was a sublime experience as each morsel was perfectly tender. I could taste both the slightly gamey flavour of the goose and the spices of the marinade in each bite. Then there was the wonderfully crisp skin; we were so glad that we asked for the drumstick portion with a higher skin to meat ratio. And something most amazing that put this in a class of its own: the marrow was still tender. It’s hard enough to roast a bird so that the meat is tender and the skin crisp, let alone stop the marrow from drying out. This goose scores full marks in our books.

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The rest of the meal simply paled in comparison after the goose. The vegetables were on the soggy side. I’m not sure if vegetables in Hong Kong cook down soggier or it’s just the style of cooking. I’ve had better vegetables elsewhere.

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And then the lowest point of the dinner. This was a gold award winning dish from 2010 – pan-fried chicken skin filled with minced chicken and black truffles, accompanied with sliced pumpkin (HK$288 or S$50). The first piece was interesting, with crisp pumpkin at the bottom and a very slight hint of black truffle in the sauce. Too bad the chicken skin wasn’t crisp as it was sandwiched between the meat and the pumpkin. My preference was to keep the skin on top to preserve the crispness for longer. There was also way too much for the two of us to work through that dish of maybe eight pieces. We really wanted to like this but it was too cloying and monotonous after the first piece. Next better player please.

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And a next better player did indeed step up. The signature fried rice. I hear you readers cry, “What? Fried Rice?! At a Michelin starred restaurant?” Let me explain. This version, fried rice with silky chicken, crispy conpoy and shao xing wine, served in a casserole (HK$198 or S$35) was made with black chicken and pine nuts, fried beautifully together, and placed in a hot claypot to accentuate the wok hei. The chicken was indeed silky as mentioned in the menu description and there was plenty of smokey charred flavour. The best part was the layer of “fan jiu” (飯燋) or burnt rice at the base of the claypot. Beautiful.

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By the end of our dinner, I was so stuffed by the rich food that I couldn’t handle any heavy dessert. Very unwisely, we didn’t take any of our friendly waiter’s recommendations. They were mainly fried or incredibly rich, like deep fried egg fritters, birds nest soup, giant longevity bun stuffed with lotus paste and salted egg yolk. And we ordered osmanthus jelly with wolfberry. While it was very pretty, it was nonetheless a foolhardy choice as the jelly was too sweet and rather too firm for my liking.

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Altogether, the meal was good with a modest damage done of HK$1000 or S$160 including tip. The downer was the overly oily and too monotonous chicken and pumpkin dish. We would definitely order something more classically Cantonese next time, and maybe save a bit of space for a richer dessert. And the roast goose? I’ll fly to Hong Kong just to eat that again.

Ming Court
Langham Place Hotel
555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3552 3300

June in Thailand: Near the Burmese Border

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Mae Sam Laeb was an odd little border town consisting of only one dusty street containing a few little shops. These shops sold all sorts of odds and ends from army supplies to live fish from an aquarium! An equal oddment of people were on the street, from hardy looking men to saffron-clothed monks and little children just come home from school (wherever that was).

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Even odder was a huge carp breathing its last, seemingly abandoned after being weighed.

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The poor bug-eyed fella was simply left on the concrete to gasp its way to death. I felt so sorry for it.

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The real purpose of stopping here was to sign in with the Thai border guard as it was hard to monitor the border, especially at night. I wondered what they’d do with our details and how they’d find out about any mischief we’d get up to anyway.  I unashamedly asked the very obliging men in uniform for a picture.  They seemed fairly pleased to have their pictures taken, though I didn’t get their address to send them a copy!

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After Jare and Kiat took away fried rice in styrofoam boxes for lunch (a yet odder start to our back to basics nature trek),  we waited at the pier for a public boat to go down the Salawin River.

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This time there weren’t chickens but motorbike and children instead.

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The views were very beautiful as the river wound past lots of forested slopes, much more rugged and impressive than any other Southeast Asian river I’ve been on.

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It was also strange to look on the other side of the river: the Burmese side controlled by Karen rebels. It was dotted with little huts — outposts of the Karen army.

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November in China: Fried Rice Un-Paradise

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Since Yangzhou was on the way back from Nanjing and Tangshan, we thought we’d stop by at the capital of fried rice. In Mandarin, fried rice is generally referred to as Yangzhou fried rice, just like fried beehoon with curry powder is called Singapore fried noodles and chicken rice is called Hainan chicken rice. We stopped for lunch at a fairly large restaurant and had an abysmal Yangzhou fried rice, complete with yucky extra-large and extra-starchy frozen peas. Yuck. It wasn’t the best experience, especially since the wait staff starting changing into their street clothes and switching off the lights at 1.30pm even though we weren’t even halfway through lunch!

We also stopped by Yangzhou’s biggest attraction, Shou Xihu (literally: skinny West Lake). It’s modelled after the many West Lakes all over China, in particular the one at Hangzhou. There’s of course a skinny lake and it’s surrounded by atmosherically grim weeping willows and lots of bridges and pavilions. The dreary weather, for once, added to the feel of the place.

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It was a long walk round the park and we only made it halfway round before giving up and heading back.

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Grey weather and tourist hordes notwithstanding, it was a decent place to spend a few overpriced hours. It is in the end just a garden.

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Though it did have some pretty but ageing flowers.

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Yung Kee Roast Goose

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Yung Kee is the possibly the most famous place for goose in Hong Kong. Sure, people with any familiarity with Hong Kong each claims a better place, but who’s willing to schlep it out to some godforsaken out of town location? It’s the cake in the your plate instead of pie in the sky thing again.

In my last trip to Hong Kong, I met a friend for dinner here after an almighty bout of shopping. Even though we got there pretty late at 8.30 pm, we still had to wait half an hour before getting a table for two. It sure did work up an appetite and we ordered up a storm. It was a blessing in disguise that goose web was sold out if not we would probably have burst from the amount of food we ingested that night.

We had of course started with roast goose, then char siew, yau choi (mustard greens in oyster sauce), chau fan (fried rice), and double boiled soup. The pièce de resistance, roast goose, was impeccable. Upon the first bite, my teeth sank into crisp-chewy skin, then oil from the fat oozed onto my tongue and I closed my eyes enjoying the tender piece of smoky, lightly spiced meat.

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If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re probably only interested in the goose, so the rest of the food doesn’t matter that much. The char siew was OK. My friend likes it a lot but I prefer mine to be a bit more charred and not left soaking in sweet sauce. The fried rice was surprisingly good though I was too full to enjoy it much. The best of the other dishes was the double boiled soup. We started with one order of a family-size earthen pot and enjoyed it so much that we had another. The server raised his eyebrows when he took the extra order. Hey, we can’t help being Cantonese girls.

The damage was horrifying, the equivalent of S$160 for both. Very expensive by Singapore standards but it’s not often that one eats at a Michelin one-star restaurant. That this place got a Michelin star means that lots of places I’ve eaten at are worth at least two or three. It’s still a good place though.

Yung Kee Restaurant
32-40 Wellington Street, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2522 1624
Fax: (852) 2840 0888
Email: info@yungkee.com.hk