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Chili crabs in Singapore? Of course it must be done (despite pepper crabs
seeming tastier in appearance and by description). We decided to head out to
the East Coast Seafood complex on a Friday night. I'd actually made
reservations, but it didn't really matter because you were still given a
number scrawled on a yellow plastic square (which I still have) and made to
wait like everyone else. They just kept adding more tables and chairs as
more people showed up. We were practically at the water's edge, the furthest
table, until a group of Germans (I don't actually know that they were
Germans, but I like to scapegoat them for all the annoying tourist behavior
in S.E. Asia) insisted on having their table put between ours and the river.

The funniest part was how immediately a woman came up and asked if we
wanted satay with our meal. James was irked, thinking it was a pushy
waitress and said he wanted to look at the menu first, which we hadn't
received yet. I didn't think they even served satay, and it turned out they
didn't. She was just a renegade satay hawker, which seemed way more like a
Thailand move than a Singapore one where everything's so darn orderly and
regulated. Being semi-clueless we ordered a large chili crab for the two of
us and were told that we really wanted a medium one. Ok, fine enough. And we
ordered a female because I think the roe is supposed to a selling point. We
also got a side of green vegetable (Chinese broccoli, I think). Yes, the
crab was big and swimming in sauce. A huge red, sticky, eggy mess, in the
best way possible, of course. Yes, I know that's how chili crab is, but I'm
weird about getting my hands dirty so had to just dig in and worry about
napkins later (they give handy wipes, but you burn through them in no time
flat). I did know enough that you're supposed to order mantou, little fried
buns to daub up the sauce, which we did. But apparently not to our
waitresses liking who told us we needed to eat the sauce (I was totally
bursting at the seams by this point) and that she'd bring out mantou (she
didn't realized we'd already gone the mantou dipping route). After the
second bun sopping routine there was still tons of sauce, so we tried to
scoop it into a pool and hide it under the crab shell. I've never had to do
something like that before, but I don't think I could stomach another course
of fried buns, and I love fried buns. Next time I'll try the pepper crab
(it's not so saucy).

Jumbo * East Coast
Seafood Centre, Singapore

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