Musings on Food
by See Foon Chan-Koppen
I had been hearing murmurings about a new restaurant in Ipoh Garden East with their fabulous crab dishes for a few months now and have been making mental notes to check out the place when the President of the Ipoh Wine and Food Society (IWFS), Leong Keng Yuen decided to call a committee meeting at Crab House, I was thrilled and made sure I was free to attend.
I was glad that I did, for little did I know that this is the location of a former favourite haunt of mine called Tai Sing and since its demise, has been taken over by an enterprising couple with husband W.S. Wang creatively manning the kitchen and his wife Fanny Chan amiably and efficiently supervising the service.
The night of the IWFS committee meeting, I was introduced to a sampling of the menu which left me hankering for more and I promptly, with my foodie friend Ginla Foo, organised a table for ten a few days later to really give full reign to the creativity of Chef Wang.
I shall mention the memorable dishes I sampled before coming to the crabs. For an appetiser while waiting for the main meal to be served, we were given a plate of fried cuttlefish served thin and crispy contrasting well with the crunchy Thai salad beneath.
For a first dish, a stainless steel pot with hot volcanic lava stones was set on the table, fresh large local prawns placed on the perforated tray inside, hissing and sizzling as beer followed by brandy were poured over the prawns and left for precisely 8 minutes with the lid on. The resulting prawns were baked to perfection, redolent with the fragrance of the liquor. No wonder they are aptly named ‘Sauna Prawns’. RM8 per 100 gms. Available any time.
The next was a most unusual presentation of Kampung Chicken I have ever tasted anywhere in my entire culinary journey. The concept is not unlike the Scottish Haggis where a whole sheep’s stomach is stuffed with delectables and cooked. In the Chinese version, a whole chicken is stuffed inside a whole pig’s stomach, with a generous amount of gingko nuts, delicately seasoned, braised and served whole. It required scissors to cut through the stomach, revealing the succulent chicken inside, the meat falling off the bone, tender and juicy with all the flavours of the chicken intact through the whole cooking process, cocooned by the stomach which was tender and a taste treat all on its own. The resulting sauce had a creamy mouth feel, delicately and subtly flavoured, with nuances that only the best homemade chicken stock offer. RM48. Must be ordered in advance.
Other Signature Dishes
The soup that followed was a delight, combining small fresh mushrooms with cabbage, wood ear fungus, bean vermicelli or Tung Fun with taro chunks acting as the slight thickening agent. Having been assured by Fanny that no MSG is used in the kitchen, I could revel in the ‘umami’ sweetness of the soup and all its ingredients. RM12 – small, RM20 – large.
Chef Wang likes his pumpkin, as the next two dishes had pumpkin as its main attraction. He was quick to point out that he only uses Japanese pumpkin which is not always available and is much more expensive than the local variety. However, judging by the sweetness and texture of the pumpkin which was served, well worth paying the extra money for.
The first pumpkin dish to be served was the homemade tofu smothered in a pumpkin sauce peppered with diced potatoes, carrots, water chestnuts, crunchy French beans, peas and diced prawns; the tofu, quiveringly smooth; the pumpkin lending its mellow sweetness to the sauce, embellished by the other ingredients. RM12 – small. RM24 – large. Check on availability when booking.
The next was an extravagance of fried rice served in a whole pumpkin with salted egg yolk, mushrooms, meat, Chinese sausage, each grain of rice fluffy without being over-oily and when scooped up with some of the soft sweet pumpkin flesh, a taste treat on its own. RM30 – to be ordered in advance.
Crabs from Indonesia
And then we came to the crabs, from which the restaurant take its name. All the crabs served in the Crab House are from Indonesia, big meaty morsels done a variety of ways. On the first occasion I was there I had the chilli crab which could beat anything offered in Singapore hands down…not too sweet, with the right amount of sauce which they serve with Man Tou (Chinese steamed breads) to sop up the gravy.
But the pièce de résistance has to be the special preparation which Chef Wang created, Roe Crab stuffed with glutinous rice. The crab was full of roe, utterly fresh and the rice stuffing infused with crab roe, the most unusual recipe I have ever come across. Kudos to the chef’s skill. Crabs are sold at RM88 per kilo and the style of preparation is per your choice. Of course Chef Wang is always ready to make some innovative suggestions.
To top it all off, a ‘must-have’ dessert is their coconut jelly served in a whole coconut. Not too sweet and the jelly made with santan (coconut milk) and coconut water; the perfect end to a great meal.
Crab House (air conditioned)
32 Laluan Perajurit 1, Taman Ipoh Timur
Tel: Fanny Chan, 012-565 7723; W.S. Wang, 014-940 8500
GPS co-ordinates: 4 616 733, 101 125117
Open 7 days a week, 11am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-11pm
Air conditioned private room available upstairs.