Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tasting Singapore: Part Two

Chilli Crab at Jumbo SingaporeAfter an elaborate seafood buffet and an exciting Taiwanese 'soupy' dim sum experience, what next? Actually, some even more interesting food to write about. Have you heard of Sundanese people and their cuisine? And no, that wasn't a typo; Sundanese are an ethnic group from Indonesia. Also, my first experience of Singapore's Chilly Crab, which many will declare is this country's 'national dish'.

Sundanese Sayang in SingaporeThe Sundanese are a people native to the western part of the Indonesian island of Java. They are thought to have orginated from Taiwan and migrated to Indonesia over 3000 years back. About 27 million people speak the Sundanese language today and is the second most widely spoken language in the country today (after Javanese).

Sundanese Sayank in SingaporeThe restaurant I visited is called Sundanese Sayang located in City Square Mall. The interior was decorated with local Indonesian artifacts and there was a display of traditional ovens and cookware at the entrance.

They served us an Indonesian sushi roll as we ordered. We sipped on a sweet-sour drink as we waited for our food.

Rice in Sundanese SayankSteamed rice was served in a bamboo basket lined with a banana leaf to enhance the flavor of the rice inside. A number of dishes had made their way to our table by now.

The Ayam Pangang Sunda is a chicken dish in a delightful semi-sweet marinade that was tender and flavorful. The beef Rendang had a thick curry bursting with the fullness of a multitude of spices.

Ayam Pagang Sunda at Sundanese Sayank
Beef Redang at Sundanese SayankThen came their signature dishes. The Sedap Ikan Bakar is a whole sea bass charcoal grilled in Sundanese style with a unique basting process. Prepared with exotic spices, this dish was amazing and worthy of a feast. The other interesting dish was the Ikan Nila Goreng, Sudanese 'dancing' fish. As you can see from the picture, the whole fish is served artistically with its body sliced through but the head in one piece. The fish was expertly deep fried retaining the juiciness of the fish.

Bakar at Sundanese Sayank
Ikan Nila Goreng at Sundanese Sayang in SingaporeThe squids were very nice too, in both presentation and taste. Slowly grilled, this dish is usually had with sambal belachan by the locals.

Squid at Sundanese Sayang in SingaporeFinally, we ended with a cup of Indonesian coffee in brightly colored cups.

Coffee at Sundanese Sayang in SingaporeHow could I leave Singapore without digging into their famous Chilli Crab. So, off we went that evening to Jumbo, Singapore most famous seafood restaurant on Dempsey Hill.

The evening was warm and muggy, so we ordered a jug of Tiger beer with our food. All we wanted tonight was crab, so we chose a medium-size one. Now here I must warn my readers from India. These crabs are far larger than the ones you eat back home. A medium sized crab may be good for two, especially if you are ordering desserts or starters too.

Jumbo Seafood in SingaporeAlso remember to order some of those (tiny) buns; they are very good with the chilly crab.

The dish, when it arrived, looked suitably imposing, in a large cast-iron skillet. Enough crab and gravy for four people (by Indian standards).

Chilli Crab at Jumbo SingaporeTime to get our hands messy. Thankfully, they give you large bibs to wear before you attack the crab. Even with the implements to crack the shells and pry out meat, there is no avoiding some mess. The crab was delicious. Hard work was rewarded with the most delectible crab meat.

Chilli Crab at Jumbo SingaporeFinally, we cleaned up and ordered the mango pudding for dessert. The dessert was simply wonderful. By now, every table was full in the restaurant. We were able to get a seat without a reservation only because we arrived very early. Keep that in mind if you want to eat here. Also, if you have already tried chilly crab, you may want to try the Black Pepper Crab, which is also a speciality here.

Mango Pudding at Jumbo SingaporeSingapore has the densest poplulation of restaurants I have seen anywhere. It seems everyone loves eating out and often. The shopping malls are filled with numerous choices and then there are the excellent food malls in addition to the speciality restaurants and the outlets in the hotels. And nowhere do you get the variety, all within a few minutes drive or in walking distance from wherever you are.

Previously in this series: Tasting Singapore


Chaitanya said...

Shantanu, I have always wondered how do you discover resturants in new cities? Personal suggestions? Food guides?

Anonymous said...

@Chaitanya: The true food lover spends time researching. :)

Which means asking local colleagues and friends, reading up on the www, etc.

permanent-traveler said...


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Unknown said...

Hi!I quiet dint like the chilly crab i tried when I was there last year.It was this sweet chilly taste which was making the dish taste very confused.And the quantity they serve one experiences the law of DMU:)
None the less the food in singapore is very different.And one has to find a liking towards it to even experiment it.

Unknown said...

Hi!I quiet dint like the chilly crab i tried when I was there last year.It was this sweet chilly taste which was making the dish taste very confused.And the quantity they serve one experiences the law of DMU:)
None the less the food in singapore is very different.And one has to find a liking towards it to even experiment it.

indicaspecies said...

Due to its diverse culture, and food being one of the national pastimes of Singaporeans, I can imagine how much of a variety the cuisine must be in Singapore.
Good to catch up on your blog Shantanu, and have a lovely day.

Unknown said...

Shantanu, HI my name is Debamitra Basu, based in calcutta but my work takes me all over india and heart of rural India where probably i would never know these places existed and they offer you a platter of cullinary delicacies which i will share with you.. i really liked your blog and would like to contribute to it to make it more meaningful.. i loved your appreciation for Dum Pukht..all the more cause i work for ITC and hotels divn always takes a soft corner in my heart... next time you are in Singapore, do research on the makansutra website.. all the places that feature there are the culinary best of that island.. u missed out on the pepper crab which is much better than her cousin, the chilly crab one. take care.. and may you visit newer places and inculcate the culinary fragrance of the same.. cheers.. all the best

Shantanu said...

@traveller: Thanks.

@Aarti: There are two kinds of crab-lovers in Singapore: One that likes the chilly-crab, the other that swears by pepper-crab. You may want to try the latter.

@indicaspecies: Thanks for coming by!

@debamitra: Thanks for the input!