Call of the crab claws
Making the move from Metro into Sunday’s pages is Eating Spree, an adventurous foodie’s tales of tasty experiences. On the first of herfortnightly forays for us,she discovers that there’s more to Seremban thanbeef noodles and siew pau.
MINANGKABAU culture, Era Square, Seremban Animal Park, Keretapi Tanah Melayu, siew pau and beef noodles – all these things best describe Seremban, I believe.
Truth be told, I have no idea what there is to eat in Seremban besides the beef noodles and siew pau since I hardly go there for the food.
According to my fiance Rif’s parents, Seremban is also known for Hakka noodles, cendol, laksa and cheap seafood.
Unlike my parents who eat to live, Rif’s parents enjoy trying new food. Last weekend, we drove to Seremban just for dinner. There are a few seafood restaurants along Jalan Tuanku Munawir, but Choy Kee Food Stall was highly recommended by a local.
The place is a typical Chinese restaurant, with its wooden tables, plastic chairs, ceiling fans and bare cement floor.
We ordered the kung po mantis prawns, deep-fried siakap with bean sauce, buttermilk squid, sambal brinjal and two kilos of crabs cooked two different ways. The dishes took quite a while to arrive and they came one by one. I thought the mantis prawns (RM15) tasted mediocre. The prawns had a fishy taste, a sign that they had been kept too long in the freezer. Even the spicy kung po sauce couldn’t really mask their stale taste.
Initially, I planned to order the steamed fish, but the lady boss kept recommending the deep-fried siakap with bean sauce (RM26.30/RM35 per kilo).
It turned out quite good; Rif’s father liked it. The fish was deep-fried till crispy, and topped with a thick and slightly pungent bean sauce.
To spice things up, the chef added some chopped cili padi to the sauce.
The sambal brinjal (RM10) was nothing to shout about.
While the brinjal slices were soft and tender, I found the minced shrimp and sambal seasoning plain and under-seasoned. However, it could have just been me being fussy as the others found this all right. The squid portion (RM15) was a bit small and the “ample serving” was mostly fine egg yolk laces.
The squid was adequately fried but there’s not much to say in terms of taste.
The crabs (RM55 per kilo) were served shortly after we were done with the earlier dishes. I was impressed by the size of these crustaceans – a crab claw was as big as three fingers combined!
I liked the salted egg yolk crab more than the baked Marmite crab. The yolk coating was rich, creamy and aromatic from the addition of curry leaves.
I greedily took the largest claw, which took a good 15 minutes to finish. The flesh was sweet, meaty, succulent and flaky, including the legs.
The baked Marmite crab was a speciality dish, judging from how much there was on almost every table. It was served with a Thai-like spicy sauce. Rif enjoyed it, but I found it just all right. The crab had a sweet-smoky flavour from the caramelisation of the Marmite, and the chilli dip gave it a nice zing. Since the crabs were large, I had a hard time finishing my portion and ended up taking the last claw home.
While Seremban is developed, there is still an old-town charm about this place. Halfway through our meal, we heard a clinking sound outside the restaurant. A gula ting ting (also known as gula ketuk) uncle was peddling the candy and children were rushing to buy it. Gula ting ting is rare these days, and I don’t remember seeing anyone selling this in KL.
Dinner was RM182 for the five of us. For the amount of food we ordered, I thought it was pretty good value for money. On the whole, I enjoyed my dinner and would definitely want to see and eat more of Seremban. If any of you have recommendations on where to eat in this town, e-mail me at the address above.
Choy Kee Food Stall is located at Lot 3794-3795, Jalan Tuanku Munawir, Seremban, Negri Sembilan.