One of my favourite fine-dining Chinese restaurants in Singapore, Hai Tien Lo at the Pan Pacific Singapore has launched a tasting menu as well as some a la carte items for the seasonal hairy crabs. I covered this promotion in a previous post, please click HERE to read more about it.
The prix fixe tasting menu contains seven courses (although it's really more like six and you'll find out why later) that are all carefully prepared to showcase the versatility of the hairy crab and more importantly to celebrate the goodness of the creamy roe.
The first dish of the special tasting menu is the Lobster with Hairy Crab Meat and Crab Roe in Thick Broth. The dish actually doesn't come presented this way and I have actually mixed the broth up a little to expose more of the ingredients underneath. The creaminess of the hairy crab roe makes this broth an absolute delight to savour. Fresh green onions and black fungus provide crunch and texture to the broth while the roe blends evenly into creating a flavourful thick broth. Healthy chunks of lobster meat and the delicate hairy crab meat also provides the dish with natural sweetness.
The second dish is possibly every hairy crab lovers' favourite. Steamed in fragrant perilla leaves with a hint of grassy liquourice, the relatively sizeable hairy crabs are showcased here in an almost au naturel fashion. It may look intimidating for first-time hairy crab eaters but don't worry as the friendly staff at Hai Tien Lo will be more than happy to guide you through this supposedly heavenly process that food aficionados swear by. The dish is also served with a special black vinegar that is slightly sweeter and milder to compensate for the delicate flavours of the hairy crab meat.
There are three basic steps to eating a hairy crab (after the mandatory Instagram shot):
- Enjoy the golden roe in the top shell with a small spoon.
- Break open the body of the hairy crab to enjoy more yummy goodness within.
- Savour the meat of the hairy crab (there's actually a pretty self-cannibalising way to do it).
Since the hairy crab is considered a "cooling" food according to Chinese philosophy - one that I have trouble explaining to my expat friends. As such, ginger tea is often served to balance the "cold" with "hot". Although I am personally not a fan of ginger generally, I thought the tea was extremely delicious with the right amount of heat to truly balance out your palate as well.
The fourth course of this menu is the Pan-fried Sliced Grouper Fish with Crab Meat, Crab Roe and Minced Pork. The grouper is a lean fish with a firm flesh and large flake. Paired with the delicious combination of hairy crab meat, crab roe and minced pork, this dish is definitely one that fish lovers will enjoy. The flesh of the grouper is firm and sweet, signifying the freshness of this fish (this is always important in Chinese cuisine). The minced pork adds texture and savouriness to the sweetness of the seafood to create a contrasting flavour profile that binds together with the creamy golden sauce.
The fifth dish, the Braised White Cabbage with Dried Scallops, Crab Meat and Crab Roe, is perhaps one of my favourite dishes in this tasting menu. Honestly, I did not think much about this dish initially when I saw it in the menu but this is an extremely flavourful dish with a good crunch from the vegetables. This dish truly presents a harmony of different textures and flavours that go together. The dried scallops were rehydrated but flavourful and the sauce was similar to the previous dish but somehow truly showcased itself in this course.
The final dish (before dessert) is always a carbohydrate - Wok-fried Rice with Hairy Crab Meat and Fish Roe. The fish roe provides crunch and texture to this delicious dish. One thing that I really like about Hai Tien Lo is the XO Sauce that they use in their dishes. My tip for you is to ask politely for a small dish of XO Sauce which goes incredibly well with this dish. The Chinese believe that a good fried rice will contain enough "Wok Hei" which metaphorically translates to the breath of the wok. This requires skills in fire control (unfortunately you can't get this through induction cooking) and tossing food around masterfully.
Finally. the Chef's Signature Dessert was served as a final course to bring this journey (for my taste-buds at least) to an end.
Hai Tien Lo
7 Raffles Blvd, Singapore 039595 - Level 3
This was an invited food-tasting session.