“Sorry, girls!” our Singaporean friend Mandy said. “I know all the tourists want to eat chilli crab when they go to Singapore, but I’m not taking you out for chilli crab. This is much better!”
We were at Keng Eng Kee Seafood for dinner and what we got instead was a whole cooked crab, chopped into chunks, claws pre-cracked, all smothered and dripping in salted egg yolk sauce. Mandy had pre-ordered the crab when she made our booking. On the night, we also ordered steamed rice, Chinese spinach with three egg sauce, ‘Choy Hiang’ beancurd topped with stir-fried pork mince and canned vegetable, and a favourite of mine, Marmite chicken.
To get your money’s worth when eating a whole crab, you must surrender to the process to have any chance of extracting all the goodness from the shell. Admittedly, when I was younger, I was reluctant to eat whole crab. It seemed to me too much effort and dirty work, and I was squeamish about handling the ugly creatures.
I still think crabs are ugly, but this ugly brute was spectacular. The thick, flavoursome sauce was littered with curry leaves and was finger-suckingly, plate-lickingly good. The meat in those heavy claws was especially sweet. We were seated right next to a sink where we were able to wash our hands, but I felt like I needed a bath after eating the crab – if only I could clean myself like a cat (what a happy little cat I would be).
BYO napkins – when eating in coffee shops, hawker centres and other casual eateries in Singapore, napkins are not usually provided, so make sure to always bring your own tissues or wet wipes. You may sometimes be approached at your table by someone (usually elderly) selling packs of tissues. We prefer to bring our own. With a high chance of unscheduled snacking throughout the day, it’s handy to be prepared.
Thankfully, our other dishes required considerably less effort to eat. I reckon I prefer the Marmite chicken at Hawkers Cuisine in Northbridge (Perth) – Keng Eng Kee’s version had more batter and less chicken, but we enjoyed every last crispy crumb. The savoury minced pork piled on top of the deep-fried homemade tofu had an addictive chilli bite. The soft Chinese spinach was drenched in a sauce made with regular chicken egg, salted egg yolk and century egg – a slippery, stringy, wonderfully sloppy mess.
Staff from a separate drinks stall will come to your table and take your drinks order – you pay them directly. Jac had a Tiger beer while Mandy and I ordered iced lime juice. No lime juice drink I’ve ever had in Australia tastes as good as this iced lime juice that’s sold by at Singapore coffee shops and hawker centres – these days, in most establishments the secret recipe may just be commercially produced cordial instead of hand-squeezed calamansi lime juice, but I just couldn’t get enough while I was in Singapore.
It was non-stop bustle at Keng Eng Kee Seafood, with only a few Westerners among the many diners. Staff wove around the tables to deliver food, remarkably fleet-footed in flip-flops. Wherever we go, Jac loves to watch people and soon became transfixed by all the activity around us.
We never did eat chilli crab while we were in Singapore. I’m sure there’ll be another chance on another trip… maybe!
Keng Eng Kee Seafood
124 Bukit Merah Lane 1, Singapore 150124
Telephone: +65 6272 1038
Open 12pm to 10pm
Jac and I were in Singapore for 8 nights in July 2014. We paid for this trip ourselves and our friend Mandy was our local guide and makan kaki.
- Ice cream wafer
- Al Tasneem
- Forget chilli crab! Keng Eng Kee Seafood – this post
- Chomp Chomp Food Centre
- High tea at the Raffles Hotel Singapore
- Tian Tian and Zhen Zhen, Maxwell Food Centre
- My Singapore durian fest
- Azmi Chapati
- Yet Con
- LEGOLAND Malaysia
- Dong Po Colonial Cafe
*A Malay phrase. ‘Makan’ means ‘eat’. ‘Kaki’s original meaning is ‘leg’ but in this context means ‘friend’ or ‘buddy’. ‘Makan kaki’ is your ‘eating buddy’.
TFP in USA
Jac and I have been in the United States for the past 3 weeks. I’ve been posting updates from our trip on my social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can get a sneak peek of the Instagram and Facebook feeds in my blog’s right sidebar. There’ll be more detailed USA blog posts in the months to come. We went to Oahu and Maui (Hawaii), Austin and Dallas (Texas) and Fredericksburg (Virginia). We’re on our way home to Perth now (I’m typing this right now at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, in between flights!). We’ve had a terrific trip but I’ll be glad to be home.