Thursday, July 19, 2012

Singapore's signature seafood dishes

Black Pepper Crab
Black Pepper Crab is one of the most popular ways to prepare crab in Singapore and since I value it more than chilli crab, it tops my list of Singapore's signature seafood dishes :) It is prepared by using hard-shell crabs and many attributes the creation of this infamous dish to Long Beach Seafood Restaurant, and date to 1959. It has became a favorite among Singaporeans in 1980s and then became one of the most famous food to try in Singapore for visitors.

Here is how the dish is prepared:
"Hard-shell crabs are deep fried in very hot oil first, till the shell becomes red on both sides. Butter, garlic, ginger and chilli are then stir-fried into a thick, fragrant paste before adding oyster sauce, soya sauce and pepper. The crab is then added into the sauce and fried for a few minutes, and then served with garnish."[1]
So black pepper crab or chilli crab? Both are great dishes but as a long time resident here I observe that the black pepper crab is preffered over chilli crab by many locals and tourists. One of the most important reasonf for this is because of its drier. This is important since you need to eat crab by hand and drier black pepper crab feels less dirty in your hands compared to wetter chilli crab. But in my opinion, the fragrant pepperish taste of black pepper crab is better than chilli crab.

Chilli Crab
Despite its name chilli crab, prepared by stir-frying mud crabs  in a semi-thick, sweet and savoury tomato and chilli based sauce, is not a very spicy dish. As CCNGo says in  World's 50 most delicious foods article, you cannot visit Singapore without trying this spicy, sloppy, meaty specialty:

"While there are dozens of ways to prepare crab (with black pepper, salted egg yolk, cheese-baked, et cetera) chili crab remains the local bestseller. Spicy chili-tomato gravy tends to splatter, which is why you need to mop everything up with mini mantou buns."
Here is how the dish is prepared:

Belacan, onions, vinegar, tomato puree and tomato paste are first cooked into a thick paste. Then, starch, light soy sauce and the crab are added to the paste. The crab is cooked over high heat till the shell turns red. Beaten eggs are added last and stirred lightly to create the ‘egg ribbons’ that the dish is known for. It is commonly served with toasted mantou (Chinese buns) or plain white rice. [2]
Sambal Stingray
While most tourist will end up trying the crab dishes above, many will not realize the existence of this "must-try" delicacy. Chinese for centuries named stingray as "mo gui yu" or devil's fish in Chinese and threw them off their fishing boats when they were caught accidentally. On the other hand, Malay fisherman ate this fish curry and coconut masala. Then one day, Chinese street hawkers discovered the dish and modified it by grilling the stingray over banana leaves and served it with sambal and a chilli, onion and lime dip.

Sambal Stingray can be very spicy so if you do not have tolerance to spicy food, make sure that it is served less spicy. Make sure to turn the other, less meaty side once the thick upper wing is consumed. There is still some meat there you can enjoy.

BBQ Sotong (Squid)

Cereal Butter Prawn

Salt and Pepper Lobster

Ginger & Spring onion Lala

Fish Head Curry

Actually Malaysia, especially Johor is famous for this dish made of  fish meat and spices and even Singaporeans go to Johor to buy the famous bulk. You can find it in south Malaysia, Singapore and some parts of Indonesia. Otak means brains in Indonesian and Malay, and the name of the dish is derived from the idea that the dish somewhat resembles brains, being grey, soft and almost squishy. Otak-Otak is one of the most popular classic Nyonya dishes in Southeast Asia.

[1] - Black pepper crab
[2] - Chilli crab
[3] - Singapore Food Festival

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