Lunch In Singapore: Chili Crab

I hit one of Singapore's most famous seafood establishments, Long Beach, to try what's been called the most famous Singaporean seafood dish ever created. Ever eaten three pounds of incredibly spicy crab for lunch?

Upon opening the menu, I was a little startled to see that the first of Long Beach's myriad accolades was a wild claim from The New York Times. "The Only Recommended Seafood Restaurant In Singapore." What? What, New York Times, bible of my culinarily religious upbringing? I'm going to pretend you didn't say that, cause I've had some pretty sick prawns, clams, fillets and frogs from hawker centers and holes in walls everywhere I've been so far, fresh and tasty as can be. Frogs aren't seafood, you say? Okay, then what are they? Swampfood? Amphibi-yums? In any case, I ate 'em shortly after their final joyful hop.

Actually, it might have been that fact that caused the Times to shower this particular praise on Long Beach. The entire back wall of the restaurant consists of massive tanks of live seafood — awkward geoducks on top, followed by huge live fish with plenty of room to swim around, then lobsters, oysters, clams and finally the ubiquitous and exceptionally feisty crabs situated closest to the people eating them. You will see your prey before it's cooked. And it really does make a huge difference. The point of seafood, the way I see it, is to taste the sea. And the further away from the sea your food gets, the less of that you're going to experience.

The famed Singaporean chili crab's origins seem pretty logical: we have unlimited crabs, we love chilis, let's mash them together and see what happens. What happens is much more than just chilis and crabs, however. There is a veritable bucket of egg-spiked sauce involved, requiring fluffy little buns to soak up. Lava-like flecks of spicy sauce fly abound as claws are cracked and chopsticks are foolishly attempted to be used in a chopstick-like manner. Put down all utensils: this dish is eaten with your hands.

It arrived at the table, steaming in all its briny glory. This was more food than I ever planned to take down in one sitting. I took a deep breath, brandished my claw crackers, dove in and didn't stop until all three pounds of crab were finished. Then I mopped up the sauce. And then, then, I understood. And then I experienced severe jetcrab: jetlag meets crab nap.

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