In general, I find Cantonese food to one of the more recognized cuisines to those in North America. Due to the predominance of Cantonese restaurants in many Chinatowns across the United States, most Americans are familiar with classic dim sum staples like fried turnip cakes, steamed shrimp dumplings, and rice rolls. I definitely had my fair share of egg tarts in the US, and I loved pineapple buns (or polobuns) and charsiu roast pork.
However, there are so many other types of Hong Kong specific dishes that I didn't discover until I moved here (and I'm still constantly exploring and learning about new dishes every day!).
One absolutely delicious specialty I discovered recently was the typhoon shelter fried crab.
A very, very iconic Hong Kong local cuisine, typhoon shelter crabs supposedly arose from boat dwellers that used to live around Causeway Bay. They brought in fresh crabs from the Harbour and set up shop in typhoon shelters, frying up these mud crabs with loads of garlic and spices.
The resultant dish is intensely flavorful and downright addictive.
We decided to try the typhoon shelter crab from Hee Kee Fried Crab Experts, an old-time local favorite that has been around since the 1960's. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is a huge fan of the place, and other Hong Kong celebrities have also been spotted there.
You pay by weight, and they bring out a few of live crabs of different sizes to let you choose. We went with the smallest one they had, since it was just the two of us. The price for that was still around $100 USD.
You choose your spice level. We went with medium, which was fine, but in retrospect it's possible we could have gone a bit more spicy.
The Hee Kee typhoon shelter fried crab comes pretty much whole, so be prepared to use your hands! They give some rudimentary tools, but it's pretty hard to get at all the meat without using your hands. I forgot to bring disposable gloves for Bryan (oops!), so he definitely didn't enjoy the meal as much since he hates getting his hands dirty.
Contrast with our crab experience in Singapore, where I remembered to bring gloves! heh heh . . .
It definitely takes effort to eat this, but it's worth it!
All in all, the dish most certainly lives up to its hype and I would totally come back again. The flavor of the crab with the garlic sauce explodes with powerful flavors of garlic, chili, salt, and all sorts of umami. I loved the huge mound of crunchy garlic bits, and everything was just so fragrant, flavorful, and downright addictive.
I really really wanted to take the rest of the garlic dry "sauce" home, but alas we were going straight to a movie afterwards (I think it was Star Wars?) and we couldn't take it with us.
A nice side vegetable to order with the crab is stir fried Chinese chives, which were good and balanced out the meal nicely.
General Thoughts on the Hee Kee Typhoon Shelter Fried Crab
There are now many different restaurants that serve this style of crab, and many of them are located around the Wan Chai / Causeway Bay area. I can't say for sure which one does it the best. Hee Kee does come highly recommended, but I wouldn't be surprised if the other places are pretty good too. We decided to go to the original location of Hee Kee partly because it was recommended by a friend, and also because we figured we could trust Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. There are several other restaurants in the vicinity with the name Hee Kee as well. I believe they are all the same restaurant, but I'm not positive.
If you really love their garlic chili sauce, you can buy bottles of the sauce, which they sell at the restaurant. Bryan was encouraging me to buy a jar since I was so sad that we couldn't take our leftover sauce home, but I refrained (ha ha, now maybe I regret that decision!).
In any event, if you're visiting Hong Kong and you feel like you've had enough light Cantonese seafood flavors, consider coming here for a much spicier, bolder, garlicky, and flavorful experience.
Hee Kee Fried Crab Experts / Hee Kee Typhoon Shelter Fried Crab
Shop 1-4 379 Jaffe Rd, Wan Chai, 2893 7565
Note: for a slightly more upmarket experience, consider visiting the Hee Kee Crab General restaurants from the same restaurant group, with locations in TST (Isquare) in Hong Kong, as well as in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Guiyang in China.