If there's one thing you have to try while visiting Singapore, it would have to be the national dish, Singaporean Chili Crab. The crab can be a variety of sizes, but there has to be the signature red sauce made from chili paste and tomatoes. Some restaurants have a sweeter sauce, while others make it more savory. Spice levels can vary too, although in general this is not a very spicy dish. Eating with your hands is mandatory. They'll provide a bib and wetnaps to help you along.
If you really hate to get your hands dirty (like Bryan), you can even bring gloves. Heh heh, I think some people would say that we were wimping out, but Bryan ended up having the time of his life eating these crabs. He kept smiling throughout the meal saying things like "this is great!" or "this is really fun!" Ha! I'm sure that would not have been the case had I not bought him those gloves earlier in the day at the train station.
There are many chili crab places scattered throughout the city. Several of them are clustered together on the East Coast of Singapore facing the ocean. That would be Jumbo, Long Beach, and Red House.
More than one source told us that Red House had the best chili crab, Long Beach had the best black pepper crab, and Jumbo had the best view but not as good food. One local coworker described Jumbo to Bryan as the "McDonald's of chili crab." I have no idea if it's true or not. However, based on these recommendations, we decided to eat at Red House. Red House is set back a bit and does not have as good of an ocean view as the other two restaurants. However, it has still managed to be very, very popular. That says something about its food, I would think?
The view from these restaurants is pretty cool. Singapore is the largest port in the world, and it's fascinating to look out and see so many boats and barges coming in and out. Even at the Red House, you can still get a glimpse of the ocean, though admitted the view is much worse than at Long Beach or Jumbo.
Pretty much all seating is open air, with some covered and others not covered. We opted for a covered seat. Because we arrived so early (I think it was 6:00 PM, which is early by Singaporean standards), the restaurant was still pretty empty. It filled up as the night approached.
They have a whole wall full of tanks that house all different types of seafood, including various sorts of crabs, lobsters, and even geoduck (bottom right corner).
The moment you sit down, you'll see a small bowl of fried crunchies. There's actually nothing inside - it's just deep fried flour, I think. I read that they'll charge you for it if you eat it. I didn't really know that, so I went ahead and munched on it. It was fine, but not really that special. I'd skip it if you want to save stomach space for the good stuff to follow.
Tiger Beer is the beer of Singapore, and it's not bad. It's pretty light and refreshing, especially in hot weather. It didn't cost that much to get a pitcher, so we went with that.
We wanted some vegetables to balance out the meal, so we ordered a classic Singaporean dish, kangkung belacan, or hollow heart vegetable stir fried with fermented shrimp paste. The dish has a ton of deep umami from the shrimp paste, and the vegetables were fresh and crispy.
For some reason Bryan though the crab wouldn't be enough, so he also ordered a lobster noodle dish.
The flavors were fantastic, though it came at a pretty price. We hadn't inquired beforehand about the price per pound for the lobster. What a mistake. The lobster dish alone came out costing over a hundred and fifty Singaporean dollars, which really shocked us when we got the bill. Lesson learned: always ask about the price, especially if it's a "market price" item that's priced by weight. No regrets, however. The lobster noodles were delicious.
And then the famous chili crab! Because it was just the two of us, we ordered the smaller Sri Lankan crab, which has a softer shell and is a more manageable size. If you have a larger party, you can order one of the larger crabs. They even offer king crabs, which must be gargantuan.
The sauce is delicious, and you'll definitely want to mop it up with the deep fried buns (mantou) that they offer.
We initially only ordered four of them and ended up asking for a couple extra. They are delicious and go so well with the flavorful sauce.
See how happy Bryan is with his gloves?
Expect to get messy. That's why they give you the bibs.
It's so good, and totally worth it. Yes, I'm a wus too and I decided to also use the gloves. I must admit, it's harder to eat with the gloves if they aren't the right size, and these were a bit too big for me.
I would highly recommend coming to Red House to try their chili crab. If it's just the two of you, a Sri Lanka crab is probably a good enough size. There's no need to get the lobster noodles. Instead, order extra deep fried buns (yum!) and if you feel inclined, get some vegetables to balance out your meal.
We asked a friend who goes there on a pretty regular basis. If you have a big party, he also recommends the Crispy Cereal Prawns, Australian Lobster Sashimi, Pan-Fried Canadian Cod Fish with Teriyaki Sauce, Black Pepper Crab, Steamed Scottish Bamboo Clam, and the BBQ Squid with Crunchy Jellyfish.
Definitely try to make an effort to go. It's worth it!
This is the 19th post in the Malaysia and Singapore! series and the first one covering Singapore. Other posts in this series include Lot 10 Hutong - Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Hawker Stalls Under One Roof, LaZat Malaysian Home Cooking, Otak, Otak Fish Dumplings in Banana Leaf, Little Penang Cafe + Visiting the Petronas Twin Towers, Roti Jala - Malaysian Lacy Pancake, Nonya Malaysian Chicken Curry. Bijan, Onde Onde, Jalan Alor -Kuala Lumpur's Most Famous Food Street, Walking Food Tour of Kuala Lumpur, Mamak - Malaysia's Indian Muslim restaurants, Hiking the Rainforests in Malaysia (and swimming the waterfalls!) with Open Sky Unlimited, Din Tai Fung, Marina Bay Sands, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, Tim Ho Wan, and Food Republic.