First it was the handcrafted mooncakes to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore. Now the coveted autumn delicacy of Shanghai Hairy Crabs arrives at Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant. Located in Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel, this long-standing Chinese restaurant led by Chef Chung Yiu Ming has won many local and regional food awards. With more than 30 years of experience in Hong Kong, China and Singapore, Chef Chung delivers consistent Cantonese-style flavours to a large base of regular diners.
For this year's hairy crab season, Chef Chung introduced 3 dishes that accentuate the crustacean's sweet succulent meat and lusciously rich roe like braised bird's nest with hairy crab meat and crab roe and braised king prawn and sweet potato topped with hairy crab meat and crab roe. There's also a hairy crab degustation menu. I'm a fan of the whole crab and opted for the steamed version at $60 per crab.
To prepare for the hairy crab meal, different crab-eating accessories are laid out before me including the signature scissors combined with crab fork and a pair of disposable gloves. The hairy crab finally arrived in a dim sum bamboo steamer. Steaming may seem simple but a mistake with the temperature and time will result in overcooked meat and roe which completely destroys the dish.
The male crab was steamed perfectly, offering up rich yellow roe that retained a light oily consistency. Each spoonful delivered an intense mouth feel of sweet, creamy and fragrant roe unavailable from any other crustacean. The limited amount of delicate seafood sweet flesh was accentuated by the black vinegar and julienne ginger sauce.
One of the top reasons for indulging in hairy crab at Li Bai is that you don't have to deconstruct the crab yourself. The service staff are ready to takeover this tedious and time-consuming process. I left the de-shelling to the staff while I enjoyed the luscious roe in the crab carapace and bodice. For the price, Li Bai also served up a large crustacean accompanied by freshly brewed ginger tea that is sweetly thick and fragrant.
Although this small pocket of intense roe flavour is best enjoyed in bounty and cheaply at source, Li Bai Cantonese Restaurant is still one of the top venues for its regular diners in Singapore to savour this autumn delicacy in comfort. The season runs from 1 October to 30 November or while stock lasts. Just make sure you call in advance to reserve a table and a larger crab or two.
Lionel, Stop it! Stop it! You're killing me here! Your articles are like a bad car crash, I know I shouldn't look but I can't stop myself and all that happens is I start drooling and mess up my keyboard. Once again, thanks for the talk on Hairy Crabs - believe me, if I ever get the chance and money ($60 each??) one of those suckers doesn't stand a chance! Regards, Tony