Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pepper Crabs: Eng Seng...still good after all these years...

with office colleagues



ieat has written a few blogs about Eng Seng...so have many other bloggers, word of mouth-smiths, and reviews.

The queues used to be long...and as suggested by ieat, you needed to call up to make sure they have crabs. But we decided to play it cool...and only sent an advance party to chop seats at 6pm...the rest of the crew of 8 arrived variously from 7 to 7:30. Perhaps its due to the poor economic situation, but there were no long queues, plenty of crabs. Ah Hoon - the owner, whom some described as a Crab Nazi, was taciturn as usual...but did her walk around and even joked with one table.

We started with the deep fried, stuffed yutiao, and mee goreng.



The noodles were thick, yellow kee noodles. Fried Malay style with a bit of gravy soaked into the mee...and with vegetables, diced tomato and seafood...it was rather tasty. Unlike those served by mamak stores around the island, this mee goreng was not tainted with red coloring, and the noodles retained the kee yellow colour characteristic of Mee Goreng in Malaysia. But my favourite Penang Mee Goreng store will add tofu, deep fried tofu crisps, and even deep fried prawn fritters. In the Penang version, the cook would ladle a spoonful of mee rebus kuah into the fry, and allow infusion till the noodles have a wet texture, but with no gravy.

We also ordered the Joo Her Eng Chye...cuttlefish with kangkong, sesami seeds in a sweet spicy sauce...another very popular Penang dish...so for me, this demands a comparison...



The style is similar to a favourite store of mine in Gurney Drive. The cuttlefish used was similar...the large, cuttlefish, with huge tentacles. But the Gurney Drive version was fresh, sweet, and the texture firm. The Eng Seng version had good texture, but was bland tasting...The sauce which was pungent and spicy, was a bit watered down. The kangkong was a bit on the old side in Eng Seng's serving, but still edible.

Then a first serving of 2 Chilli Crabs:



This was very good. We asked for mantou, but for some reason, Eng Seng does not serve mantou but offered about half a loaf of regular sliced bread.

The gravy was very good, but I feel, loses out to the wonderful gravy dished out by No SignBoard and Jumbo. Both were more intense, and flavour-full than the Eng Seng.

We had a small interlude from crabs, and had a beautifully cooked plate of sweet sour pork ribs:



The sweet and sour sauce was beautiful...a masterful mix of sweet and sour. The meat was succulent and juicy. Nice dish!

But the piece de resistance is the pepper crab.



For the 8 diners, we ordered 8 pepper crabs. Smothered in the gorgeous black pepper sauce, this was the dish which puts Eng Seng up there with the stars when it comes to pepper crabs.

The crabs were fresh...of course, they were live about 10 mins before being served...and the black pepper brought out the fat, juicy, creamy meat much more than the similar crabs which were served with the chilli sauce. The pepper sauce was wonderful. And the way the sauce infused itself into the crab meat is amazing. The stuff of legends.



Eng Seng had cracked the crab shells at all the strategic places, that a nutcracker was not needed. AF even ate her share of crabs without using her fingers...and managed to attack all the savoury meat with just her chopsticks. Kudos to her style. The rest of us, of course got our fingers involved in the eating process...I thought it makes eating more fun with the fingers...and the ability to lick the remnants of the wonderful sauce off the fingers was a special treat.

We discussed having durians (Four Seasons was just across the road), and ice cream for dessert, but when we finished, we had no room left.

Eng Seng Seafood
247/249 Joo Chiat Place
Tel: 6440 5560
Open evenings only (4:30pm till they sell out...about 9pm.)
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