Our one week-long stay in Singapore in August 2011 turned us in total Sea-food and Crab Addicts! Our family, already obsessed with good and tasty food – went ballistic. We ate everywhere – in Chinatown, from the food hawkers at Newton Food Centre, in polished restaurants at the elite Clark Quay and at various food stalls thronging the random alleys in the city. Posts documenting our gastronomical exhilaration – Eating Out Is A National Pastime – Singapore and Singapore at Night. Singaporean Pepper Crab and Singaporean Chilli Crab, the two celebrity Singaporean dishes have crossed the Singaporean boundaries, and have spread across the globe. They have also remained etched in our taste-buds. A peculiar Crab-itch develops in our family sometimes and we practically run down the streets, hunting for Crabs cooked either in the Malayalee or the Singaporean style!
A long ‘Crabby’ affair back home in Dubai: A few weeks back, suddenly, we spent days eating only Crabs. Day 1 – we had some brilliant home-cooked Thai Chilli Crab (above) over a Friday dinner at a very close friend’s place. The very next day – Day 2, we tasted Singaporean Chilli Crab and Singaporean Pepper Crab at a restaurant called Chimes in Al Barsha. We ate to our heart’s content, bringing back home big parcels with the left-overs. The result? Day 3 of Crab eating at home! The following Friday (just 3 days later!), we met Shiv Chowrasia, the Indian golfer who had come to play for the Dubai Desert Classic. A very humble man with an inspiring story behind his rise to the level of a professional golfer (Chowrasia’s father worked as the greenskeeper at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club in Kolkata, India. It was at this golf course that Chowrasia picked up golf at the age of 10. The self-taught golfer is nicknamed “Chip-putt-sia” because of his short game.Before entering professional golf, he was a caddie for a few years! Info courtesy: Wiki), he just happened to mention that he loved Crabs and ‘would dig his hands into the plate if there were Crabs’.
Yes, you guessed it right – we were into our Day 4 of Crab eating. The next day Chowrasia came home and we ordered Singaporean Chilli Crab (below) and Singaporean Pepper Crab (above) from Chimes. Each Crab weighed about 800gms – 900gms – quite huge ones. Day 5 was spent finishing the left-overs from our previous dinner (we had ordered 2 portions of Singaporean Chilli Crabs and 1 portion of Singaporean Pepper Crab for 6 adults. Naturally, hoping deep down in my heart that we wouldn’t be finishing all of them on the first day itself!).
Discovering Crabs that have been cooked well is pretty much a pleasure as well as a novelty. I was so taken up with the dinner at Chimes that I was all over the Twitter and Instagram (to which I have been inducted very lately) till the wee hours of the morning. We started our dinner at 8:30pm and walked out of the restaurant around midnight. The dinner at Chimes dug up a lot of Srilanka nostalgia (our past Srilanka connection in my earlier posts – Living by the water with sunset as prop – Colombo and the Indian Ocean and Red Tuk-Tuks and Triumphant Rides – Colombo, Srilanka]. Incidentally, Shenika, the Partner and Managing Director for Chimes came over to say a Hello and we ended up discussing about Srilankan food, Singaporean food and how her husband and her passion for cooking Singaporean, Malay and other South Asian cuisines led to the opening of the restaurant. We bid adieu to her around midnight!
And the sweetest thing of all (of-course, apart from the desserts!), Chimes is giving my blog readers a brilliant blog giveaway – a chance to win an amazing Valentine’s Day Dinner for two – along with the candle lights and rose that can be enjoyed at the comforts of your own home!
Food in Chimes, in one word, is damn good. Their Far Eastern menu options include cuisines of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We knew what we would order for the main course (!) and kept our Starters and the Soup very simple.
For Starters, we had ordered Chicken in Pandan Leaf – deep-fried marinated Chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves (used widely in Southeast Asian cooking as a flavoring. More here) that came with Thai Sauce and Sambol. We also ordered a Tom Yam Kung Soup (above left)– an oriental tangy prawn soup seasoned with Galangal (very popular in Thai food. More here) and Kaffir leaves (Kaffir limes are used in Southeast Asian cuisine. More here)
For the Main Course, a Singaporean Chilli Crab (below left) and a Singaporean Pepper Crab, with each mud crab weighing around 700gms – 800gms, were enough to last us till the next day. We had ordered a Fried Rice along with the Crab. Check out my pic (above right) reading myself for ‘Project Crab-fix’. No contact lenses please and definitely requiring some spare aprons!
The Desserts were presented uniquely. Kao Niew Ma-mwong (above right) is sweet Sticky Rice and is a fairly popular Thai dessert. Topped with Sugar Syrup and Coconut Milk, the green colour comes from the Pandan leaves and the yellow ones are flavoured with Mangoes.
The Verdict: Ask for the home-made Sambol instead of the regular one to accompany your Starters, provided you love the flakiness of chillies and the spunk of other spices hitting your tongue. The sea-food Tom Yam Kung Soup was strong and tangy with generous chunks of Mussels, Prawns and Calamari – the aroma of Galangal and Kaffir leaves seeped through the pores! The Singaporean Chilli Crab and the Singaporean Pepper Crab – the very reason for our visit to Chimes, was truly justified. While the Chilli Crab had it’s ‘signature’ slight sweet tasting gravy sticking to the innermost part of the shells of the Crab, the Chilli hit the tongue softly but surely! I loved the Chef’s innovation in sprinkling the Pandan Rice Cakes with Sesame and the Mango ones with mildly salty crispy fried Onions!
My observation here – the menu is quite vast consisting of dishes coming from various South Asian regions. Making it simple could probably make life much easier for diners. The decor of Chimes is elegant and tasteful, the service is prompt, the staff is well-versed with the different regional variations offered in the Menu. It’s location in Al Barsha probably hinders its visibility though there are many repeat – diners coming in from very far, only because there is a lot of goodwill that has been generated through word of mouth.
Casual Dining; Far Eastern Cuisine
If you wish to order a big mud Crab cooked in the Singaporean style, do tell them before! They also do catering services.
I wrote about this utterly, hopelessly romantic Dining by Design in my last post (Desert Islands Resorts by Anantara at Sir Ban Yas Island) – a super romantic concept where Chefs will prepare food in unique and intimate settings or exotic locations by the sea or high up in the mountains or by the Wadi waters – perfect for Valentine’s Day. A utopian concept for our family with two kids in tow. I had promised that I’ll have to find a way where a romantic candle-light Valentine’s Dinner comes home… well, I didn’t have to look very far when Chimes informed me about their innovative Valentine’s special package for home (above; Image Courtesy: Chimes).
♥ The special Valentine’s Dinner-for-two package consists of a four-course dinner ♥
Along with the dinner, comes an assortment of pampering treats from Herbal Home Boutique (in Dubai Marina Mall and Dubai Festival Center), candles, a fresh rose. It costs Dhs 300/, the best part is that you can enjoy this special Valentine’s dinner in the comfort of your home! However, orders need to be placed by 3pm on 13th February and can be picked up on the Valentine’s Day – noon onwards.
Talking of Singaporean Food, I am very excited that the Singapore Food Festival is coming to Dubai. Taking place from 20th February till 2nd of March 2, this is a promotional festival held in LuLu’s supermarkets throughout the UAE. Foods from Singapore will be available, and there will be a full program of cooking demonstrations, tastings, and other events – Francine writes all about it in Life in the Food Lane. I’ll be meeting up with Singapore’s celebrity Chef Violet Oon. Chef Oon’s Singapore Food Festival repertoire will include the famous Chilli Crab. Other dishes include: Singapore Satay – spiced meat skewers served with a velvety peanut-based sauce; Laksa – smooth rice noodles in a spicy coconut broth; and Chicken Rice, succulent bites of chicken served on fragrant rice.
Waiting to learn how to make Singaporean Chilli Crab from the expert herself. Fingers crossed!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Disclaimer: Our dinner was hosted by Chimes. For the home-delivery, the Singaporean Chilli Crab (large) cost us Dhs 129/ and the Singaporean Pepper Crab cost us Dhs 125/. The opinions stated here are my own and are independent of the complementary dinner or the Blog Giveaway provided by Chimes. I hope you enjoy reading the posts with lot of visuals but please do not use any material from this post. You can see more pictures of my travel and food journey here.