29 November 2009

Chinese mitten crabs


When I was in Shanghai last year for a dreaded work-trip, the only silver lining of the trip was one of the meals we had there that featured Chinese mitten crabs, more commonly known as hairy crabs. It was my first time having it, and I was fortunate a Shanghainese fluent in English was seated next to me and gave me some tips on the most efficient way to extract its sweet flesh and enjoy the abundant, uber-rich roe.

I had fallen in love with the elusive crab ever since and was elated when Ed spotted an advertisement in the newspaper for a hairy crab menu at Ah Yat Abalone Restaurant (Allson Hotel) and suggested we try it. We had one relatively large hairy crab - 250g - each, with plenty of roe. Like in Shanghai, they were served whole at our table. However, unlike in Shanghai, a waitress snipped each hairy crab into neat sections for us. The main body was snipped into two, while the skinny legs were separated into neat segments for us to push the meat out with even skinner chopsticks.

The roe was, as expected, incredibly creamy and unctuous. We savoured every little bit of the roe, and spent near to an hour ensuring the shell was stripped clean of every ounce of its delicately sweet flesh. Given its size, persons who consider eating normal Sri Lankan crabs a chore would certainly find eating hairy crabs too fussy.

Two of the other items on the menu - sharksfin soup with hairy crab roe, and abalone - were superb as well. I was pleasantly surprised that their sharksfin soup surpassed any of the other sharksfin soups I had tried even at restaurants specialising in sharksfin. And the abalone, well it was about three quarter the size of my palm and unbelievable sweet to the last bite.

Knowing how much hairy crabs cost in Shanghai, the price of SGD$168++ per person for a full hairy crab menu was quite alarming, but it was truly a spectacular meal.

25 November 2009

Eating like a man


While I grudgingly admit my appetite is usually no different from any other Singaporean female (I hear Taiwanese and Japanese ladies have incredibly tiny appetites), I relish in being able to 'eat like a man'. This involves consuming vast quantities of food, a significant portion of which is of meat.

Occasionally, I find myself with an insatiable appetite, needing to eat every 3 or 4 hours, and always craving for something savoury. This is a great departure from my past self where I would happily start at the dessert station of buffet spreads - now, I may even skip the dessert! Whenever I crave for a huge hunk of meat, the uber tender steak at Hooha Cafe immediately comes to mind. Perfect grill marks adorn every piece of 1.5 inch thick steak. Every tenderloin, the epitome of tenderness. Happily, not many people have heard of them, but more on Hooha another time.

When I visited Magma with a couple of friends for dinner, I was having one of those massive meat cravings. The delightful service staff recommended the steak tartare, declaring that many of their diners have said theirs is the best. I snapped up the offer and could not wait to tuck in. The waiter wheeled in the raw mince with all the condiments on the side in pretty sauce jugs then went through evidently well-practiced moves of mixing the condiments with the raw mince then making quenelles out of the final product. Each quenelle was scooped onto a small square toast then served.

It was a dish meant to be shared as a starter, but I had it all. By myself. It had a good balance of flavours and texture, and remains one of the top few carnivorous dishes I'd choose whenever I have a massive meat craving. If not for the fact it is not easy to find, I would be having it far more often.

23 November 2009

When salad gets boring, and Thomas Keller


My favourite addition to salads has got to be fried haloumi cheese. You get a beautifully crispy crust and totally awesome salty molten cheese that makes any boring old salad alive again. Best results come with sufficient oil - something I learnt not to stinge on from Thomas Keller's latest cookbook "Ad Hoc".

I haven't tried any of his recipes but the book has been an exciting read so far. Yes, I'm one of those freaks who actually reads cookbooks from cover to cover within a day. Meanwhile, the copy of Milton Friedman's 'Capitalism and Freedom' has been sitting on my desk for the longest time and I'm barely past chapter 2. I barter traded reading a book for my boss to watch a video I thought would change her life. It was a 3 part 20 min Youtube video and I now realise I got the shorter end of the stick.

Anyway, back to the book. I love the conversational tone in the book and all the little tips Thomas Keller added. I was worried the recipes would still be somewhat fussy but was significantly relieved when I read the part about not being silly about having to cut carrots into perfect batons. I hope to try one of the recipes soon - CH already has and gave awesome reviews. I'm also still working towards visiting Per Se and The French Laundry someday, soon.