Eng Seng 永成餐室 – Great Black Pepper Crab and Chili Crab in Singapore

When I studied abroad in Singapore a local buddy showed me this place.  I liked it so much that we started coming here once every other week.  So coming back to Singapore for the first time in 8 years, this was a place that I really wanted to come back to (I still remembered the cross streets after 8 years).

Eng Seng 永成餐室 (yong cheng can shi) is pretty famous specifically for it’s black pepper crab.  However, when I lived in Singapore I also really liked their chili crab.  The place is very well known and you need to make a reservation and show up early as the lines can be really long.  They also sell out of crabs fairly early like by 7 or 8pm.  The lady who runs the place makes things run very efficiently, but is kind of a food nazi-esk and is a bit gruff.  She came by and I flagged her to take our order, I started ordering food and then told me in Chinese “my English is better than your Chinese, your Chinese is bad, you talk to me in English” haha and her English was surprisingly good.

I think the place might’ve been a small hawker center before, but now Eng Seng takes up the whole place.  There is no real décor to speak of, but you’re not here for a service and décor you’re here for one of the messier and delicious dishes in Singapore.

Mee Goreng:

Mee goring is basically a Chinese-Indonesian-Malaysian version of chow mein.  It is made with thin yellow noodles fried with garlic, onion, prawns, calamari, bean sprouts, chili, vegetables, tomatoes, egg, and acar (pickles). You can have it with other ingredients as well, but that’s how they serve it here.  It’s a bit on the sweet side and they serve it here with a chili sauce you can dip it in.  It’s not my favorite dish, but she recommended it so I ordered it.  I thought there version was good, but wasn’t mind blowing although I am probably the wrong person to ask as it is not something I all that keen on. 7.75/10

Sotong You Tiao:

I loved this dish when I used to come here, so I was excited to order it again.  This is a you tiao (fried crueller) filled with sotong (squid paste), I actually always thought it was a fish paste, but someone corrected me and told me it was sotong.  They then top it with the asian mayo (it’s sweeter and lighter than the US mayo) and I actually hate mayo, but this is one of a few dishes that I make exception for.  It’s definitely not a healthy dish, but it is really good and it’s not remotely fishy or anything like that to those who are worried about that.  I really like this dish. 8.75/10

Baby Gai Lan Sautéed with Garlic:

I love gai lan (jie lan 芥蘭) also known as Chinese broccoli.  I particularly like the way they cook it in Singapore.  It’s a pretty simple preparation just stir-frying the baby gai lan in some oil, garlic and ginger then topping it with tiny golden fried onions that are completely crispy (I found out from a Vietnamese restaurant in CA that you actually need to fry them for 45 minutes to get them so crispy).  The version here was good and complemented the meal well. 8.5/10

Black Pepper Crab: 

This is one of the signature dishes at Eng Seng.  This dish is large Sri Lankan mud crabs that have been stir fried in a jet black pepper sauce that is slightly sweet and not too spicy.  I like the Sri Lankan mud crabs as the meat tastes good and there is so much of it.  Even though I like chili crab better, the black pepper crab is excellent here. 8.5/10

Chili Crab:

This is still one of my all time favorite Singaporean dishes.  It is the same Sri Lankan mud crabs that are stir fried in a semi-thick sauce that is a bit sweet and tangy made from chillis and tomato sauce. It’s also flavored with garlic, rice vinegar, soy sauce and eggs are beaten into it creating yellow ribbons in the sauce.  It’s really good and I really like to slather the sauce on every bite.  At the end you ask for bread and they bring you out sliced white bread to dip in the sauce which is awesome.  This dish was great and I still love the version here. 8.75/10

Overall, it was excellent although I will say that I don’t think it was as good as it was when I was here 8 years ago, someone told me the food quality had gone down slightly although it was still very good and I would agree with that statement.  That said I’d definitely recommend coming here if you’re in Singapore.

247 Joo Chiat Place
(Joo Chiat Place and Still Rd)
Phone: 64405560

Qiao Tei 橋底辣蟹 (Under the Bridge Chili Crab) – Amazing Chili Crab in Hong Kong

Qiao Tei (橋底辣蟹) is one of several places on Lockhart Road in Wan Chai that is famous for their chili crab, not Singaporean chili crab, but rather a Cantonese chili crab that is completely different.  My friends in Hong Kong recommended this place as they said it’s their favorite one out of the bunch.

It’s a pretty rowdy place (I loved the atmosphere) that is super crowded and has lots of people happily eating and drinking.  It’s definitely not an upscale place, but rather a no-frills type of place to eat some great food and have a good time with friends.  The service was fine, they were pretty nice, but they are running around a lot since the place is very busy.

Let’s get to the food:

Chili Crab:

This is going to sound like a bit of a bold statement, but this is single handily one of the best dishes I’ve ever had. As much as I like very refined food, my favorite foods are generally much more low key foods that are delicious and this is a perfect example. Its crab fried that is covered in a huge amount of fried crispy garlic, scallions and peppers. This garlic is weird because it’s super crispy and it’s not nearly as strong as regular garlic cloves, so you can eat a lot of it, I was literally eating spoonfuls of it. The crab meat has such a good sweet flavor and combined everything else is just so good. I just can’t say enough about how good this was. 9/10

Spare Ribs:

I don’t know what this was called in Chinese b/c I didn’t order anything (big group of like 8-9 people and I let my friends order since they knew more about the food there then I did).  These were awesome. They were battered and fried and then glazed with a sweet and sour sauce, but these were different than jing du pai gu as they were less sweet and brownish as opposed to red, there were some pineapples in the clay pot as well. The meat was nice and tender, the sauce wasn’t overly sweet. Overall, just really awesome dish. 8.75/10

Braised Fish Head:

This is the one thing I ordered, I showed up a little late so they had already ordered, but I saw fish head soup on the menu and it looked good. The guy told me they ran out, but he had braised fish head that was very good, so I said okay. This was awesome.  It was chunks of fish head braised in a sort of spicy soy sauce with chilis and scallions; similar to a hong shao preparation (red cooked). The meat on the head was so tender, not fishy at all and the sauce tasted amazing with this dish, super good. 8.75/10

Spicy Clams:

My friend ordered this, another “wow” type of dish. Clams stir fried in this brown spicy sauce, so flavorful. The sauce was amazing, wasn’t heavy or goopy, not too salty just really good. The clams were very fresh tasting too. 8.75/10

Chili Mantis Prawn:

Same preparation as the chili crab with mantis prawn and it was really good.  I forgot how good mantis prawn can be if you cook it right.  It tastes like a slightly sweeter lobster.  This was another huge winner. 8.75/10

Overall, I really like this place a lot.  If you happen to be in Hong Kong, I highly recommend going here, it’s a lot of fun and a great restaurant.

Shop 6-10, 429 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai
灣仔駱克道 429 號 6-9 號舖
Phone: 2573 7698